EU moves to protect
future mortgage holders

TO many Irish homeowners struggling to meet repayments on inflated mortgages they should never have acquired in the first place, the EU’s latest proposals for protecting borrowers may seem too late.

TO many Irish homeowners struggling to meet repayments on inflated mortgages they should never have acquired in the first place, the EU’s latest proposals for protecting borrowers may seem too late.

However the latest draft legislation put forward by the European Commission is an important first step towards ensuring that the type of irresponsible lending and borrowing that has landed this country in so much trouble cannot be repeated in the future.

The new rules, which have yet to be approved by MEPs and member states before they can take effect, would set strict criteria governing advertising, pre-contractual information, advice, credit worthiness assessment and early repayment. The directive would also require lenders to make general information available through a European Standardised Information Sheet, which would allow consumers to compare mortgage conditions from different providers at a glance.

Irish MEP Gay Mitchell, a member of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, said the legislation could play a vital role in restoring confidence in the banking sector across Europe.

“Ireland’s economy suffered greatly due to the reckless financial behaviour of a minority. This legislation represents the important first step towards preventing a reoccurrence of such bad practices,” said the Fine Gael MEP.

Leinster MEP backs genetically-modified animal feed

CONTROVERSIAL EU plans to allow genetically-modified animal feed to be imported into Europe have won the backing of the Irish Farmers Association and a number of Irish MEPs, it emerged this week.

IFA President John Bryan said he was confident that a proposal formulated in Brussels to allow entry into Europe of feed shipments containing 0.1 per cent of GM seeds would get the green light from MEPs and member states, thus helping to offset the cost of soaring feed prices in Ireland and across Europe.

Irish producers of meat and dairy foods are currently struggling to cope with unsustainably high feed prices caused by a worldwide reduction in cereal output. Pig producers for example, had to pay out almost €25 million for the monthly feed bill for the 150,000-strong Irish sow heard in January of this year. That’s up from €19 million in January 2010.

Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness said it was necessary to explore other options for animal feed before many of our profitable agri-industries become extinct.

“With the zero tolerance approach we have at the moment, whole consignments of animal feed are being sent back to their country of origin,” said the Fine Gael MEP. “Exporters are saying ‘we won’t deal with Europe’, while importers are saying ‘we can’t afford the costs involved’. Problems arise when you have a zero tolerance approach, but the technical solution that has arisen should assist the marketplace for the product,” said Ms McGuinness.

Ireland must be involved in Britain’s nuclear safety plans

IRISH MEPs have called for Ireland to have an equal say to that of Britain in deciding what safety measures are to be taken in the event of a nuclear emergency in the UK.

Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell initially made the call during a debate on nuclear safety at the European Parliament, with the support of his Fianna Fáil colleague MEP Liam Aylward.

Mr Mitchell asked that a draft resolution by MEPs asking the Commission to prepare a stronger international nuclear safety framework in light of the Japanese nuclear crisis be amended to include the following paragraph: “The European Parliament calls on member states with nuclear power facilities to involve neighbouring member states in safety oversight (including parliamentary oversight) and in emergency plan preparation.”

Speaking from Brussels, Mr Mitchell and Mr Aylward said Ireland was exposed to associated risks due to the proximity of five active and five inactive nuclear plants on the west coast of Britain.

“We have nuclear plants in the UK on our doorstep and given their nearness to us on the east coast, it is essential that our views and concerns are taken on board in terms of ongoing safety precautions and action plans in the event of an emergency,” said Mr Aylward.

Intercultural summer camp wins EU prize

A unique children’s summer camp organised by the Irish branch of the international charity “Show Racism the Red Card” has been short listed in a prestigious EU-wide competition aimed at promoting European integration.

Thirty-three children from Ireland and all over the world attended the intercultural camp in the Irish-speaking community of Glencolmcille in Donegal last summer.

The hugely-popular camp, which will be repeated this summer, was chosen by an Irish jury as the national winner of the Charlemagne Youth Prize 2011. The project will now compete alongside one entry from each other European member state at a ceremony in Germany next month. The winning entries, which will be chosen by an international panel, stand to gain top prize of €5,000, second prize of €3,000 or third prize of €2,000.

The “Show Racism the Red Card” summer camp fulfilled the criteria for the competition by bringing together children and volunteers from widely-different cultures, breaking down racial barriers and developing a shared sense of European identity.

18 Irish children, three Poles, and children from Asian, Middle Eastern and African backgrounds who participated in the camp took part in sports and adventure activities including Olympic games, Gaelic games, football, sandcastle competitions and “coasteering”, which involved jumping off cliffs in wetsuits. They also learned songs and dances from other countries and had the opportunity of learning Irish, French, Russian, Slovene, Spanish and Esperanto from the team of volunteers.