Friday 6 Oct 2017
Nessa Childers, MEP for Dublin, explains her opposition to the incorporation of the Fiscal Compact into the EU’s treaties, which was debated with the EU executive, in Strasbourg, at this week’s plenary session of the European Parliament:
“At the height of the economic crisis, in 2012, almost all EU countries signed up to the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union, also known for short as the Fiscal Compact.
“It further tightened the fiscal constraints imposed on Member States’ budgets as a condition for access to the loans facilities provided by the European Stability Mechanism, which replaces the temporary mechanisms created to manage the bailouts to Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
“This further tightening of the debt brakes foreseen in the Stability and Growth Pact, (which had been created especially with coordination of the Eurozone countries’ finances in mind) was seen as a necessary step when other Euro countries might yet need emergency support, but a conservative majority among the EU leaders would only unblock it under strict fiscal consolidation conditions.
“Because two EU Member States did not sign up to the Fiscal Compact treaty, it was signed as a conventional international agreement, outside the aegis of the EU’s treaties and institutions.
“Now, those who remain attached to the narrative that profligacy in public expenditure was at the heart of the crisis want to see this treaty fully integrated into the EU treaties.
“This would be a further step in a worrisome trend towards the elevation of “golden rules” for balanced budgets to the status of constitutional or quasi-constitutional norms.
“What we saw at the start of the Eurozone crisis was essentially a scramble to save the financial sector from its own misdeeds, which dangerously depleted our public coffers.
“Because the Eurozone was designed, at Germany’s behest, to prevent fiscal transfers from the fiscally responsible to the spendthrift, as it feared, while the currency’s governance remained incomplete and oblivious to the dynamics of economic integration that created bubbles in the periphery, the system ground to a halt.
“Instead of obsessing over public debt, which was a symptom rather than a cause, and tying our hands-on counter-cyclical policy, we should be focussing our attention on other matters to stimulate growth, a necessary green transition and employing our young.
“The European Central Bank, after the mistaken involvement in the troikas, has been single-handedly bearing the weight of financial stability and recovery through quantitative easing, whilst the Member States have refused to pull their weight on the fiscal front, which is sorely missing.
“This comes with its risks and highlights other failings, such as the lack of accountability and transparency in the goings on of the Eurogroup of finance ministers.
“Such matters are much more important than the ideological war on fiscal leeway, which has been very much missing over the lost decade we’ve been through.
Wednesday 4 Oct 2017
Nessa Childers, MEP for Dublin, hailed today’s blocking, in the European Parliament, of an EU executive proposal to exempt certain pesticides from the EU’s evaluation of whether chemicals can be harmful to hormonal health.
Speaking from Strasbourg, where the vote was held at Parliament’s plenary session this afternoon, Ms. Childers said:
“Everyday, we come into contact with endocrine disrupting chemicals which interfere with our hormonal systems by breathing, eating drinking or skin absorption. They are present a vast range of items ranging from food and drink and the respective packaging, cosmetics to toys.
“Pregnant women, babies and children are particularly vulnerable to their effects.
“Parliament legislated, years back, with the governments of Member States to ban such substances, and gave the EU executive a mandate to set scientific criteria to determine whether chemicals disrupt the normal functioning of hormonal systems, so as to safeguard human health and the environment.
“There was nothing in the legislation allowing the EU executive to propose an exemption for pesticides that attack insects’ endocrine systems by design, which will affect non-target species as well.
“So we proposed a rejection to the full house from the Environment and Public Health Committee, in the face of a lobby onslaught by chemical industry and the opposition of conservative members, so this outcome was not guaranteed.
“Moreover, the criteria which the Commission is belatedly presenting us with have been criticised by the endocrinology community as exceedingly narrow, which can let many chemicals slip through the net.
“I’m happy to see a majority of colleagues came to agree with them and with us, in the Environment and Public Health Committee. The Commission has dragged its feet over the years, was even taken to the EU court over their failure to act on endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and they still fail to properly implement the legislation we’ve approved here.
“We need the EU executive to get back to work and propose scientific criteria which will effectively contribute to protect us, the environment and future generations from the harm these chemicals cause.”
Friday 15 Sep 2017
Nessa Childers, MEP for Dublin, welcomed the approval of a set of improved transparency demands in EU decision making, while criticising Fine Gael’s EPP grouping for refusing to endorse them.
Ms. Childers was in charge of steering input into this EU Parliament position from an environment and public health angle, in the respective committee.
Her focus was on safeguarding the public interest against regulatory capture by large corporations.
The Dublin MEP pushed for stricter rules to prevent conflicts of interest in expert advisory boards that support the Commission’s legislative and policy work as well as scientific panels in specialised agencies, such as the European Food Safety Authority or the European Medicines Agency.
The dealings between public authorities and the tobacco industry are another issue of continued concern for Ms. Childers, who wants all EU institutions, including the European Parliament, to abide by the best international standards, so as to shield public health policy from the commercial interests of the tobacco lobby.
Speaking after this week’s vote in the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg, Ms. Childers said:
“We have made some significant progress on a file that was stalled by the conservative side of our house and eventually rejected by them, even if they failed to muster a majority to block it.
“Parliament has committed to a legislative footprint system, which allows the public to see which interests lobbied the decision maker on each piece of draft legislation.
“Sadly, the bulk of conservatives, led by Fine Gael’s EPP, managed to amend our proposals to keep former MEPs off the hook when it comes to cooling off and disclosure of the corporate jobs they land through the revolving door after their mandates expire.
“We keep throwing stones at the Commission on this front but refuse to replace the glass ceiling over our house. This robs us of much needed moral authority to keep on pressing for accountability and integrity in the EU institutions.
“Worst of all was the unedifying hijacking of this file by Fine Gael’s EPP grouping with amendments proposing that NGOs be denied EU funding when they oppose the EU institutions line, which was thankfully quashed.
“I wonder whether this was just a cynical excuse for them to vote against the whole set of proposals, or whether the world view of their Hungarian sister party, Orban’s Fidesz, is rubbing off on Fine Gael’s EPP group.”
Thursday 14 Sep 2017
Nessa Childers, MEP for Dublin, reacted to the State of the Union address from EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker with concern over the growing chasm between the winners and losers of today’s economy.
Speaking from Strasbourg after President Juncker addressed MEPs in the European Parliament, Ms. Childers said:
“I believe there is more to Mr. Juncker’s vision for Europe’s future than markets and fiscal rules, and that did shine through his speech.
“However, he has remained too beholden to the mess he inherited from the Barroso era, when markets and finance ruled our Continent, and their champions were put in charge of a mess of their own making.
“We were told we would face a lost decade if we did not put our taxpayers on the line to save the financial sector.
“Yet a lost decade we had, but with a hemorrhage of our public coffers and of our youth.
“The glimpses of optimism that shone through Mr. Juncker’s speech, his last one with a full political year ahead of him at the Commission’s helm, are overcast with dark clouds from far right populist quarters.
“We may have got some reprieve from the recent electoral cycle, but they are still lurking, ready to exploit the deterioration of basic social conditions for many, and to stoke fear and hatred against easy, vulnerable targets.
“We are yet to see proper compunction for the damage inflicted from the Troika’s mistakes in substance and process, and commensurate resources to redress them.
“Big business keeps on dodging tax, and the fiscal constraints imposed on very different economies, without sizeable investment resources, keep on tearing our social fabric and the sense of common purpose among the peoples of the EU.
“At a time when the implications of Brexit threaten the peace and prosperity of our communities at home, we must refocus our priorities on the most vulnerable.
“They have borne the brunt of this past decade, and will keep bearing it if we stick to a boom and bust model for property and finance.
“Mr. Juncker showed a fondness for sailing imagery in his speech, but the wind on the sails of our Union better bring more resources than hot air.”
Friday 8 Sep 2017
Yesterday, I spoke on the implementation of the European Disability Strategy from a health perspective.
Back in 2010, the European Commission committed to ensure that products and services would become more accessible; building on the obligations established by the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
It saddens me to say that there is still a long way to go before we can claim any success in this field.
A year ago, I worked on feeding some critical feedback on the concluding observations of the CRPD and I am afraid to say that the concerns I expressed then, have to be reiterated today.
Disability remains closely associated with both ill-health and inadequate healthcare responses.
Most of us agree that access to affordable, quality healthcare is a matter of human rights, and so is protection from discrimination. Yet, examples of inadequate and underfunded health care services lead to poor outcomes for patients as well as deteriorating conditions. Furthermore, very few citizens avail of cross-border health care rights due to lack of information.
Therefore, as it is a matter of human rights, we cannot see these examples as anything else other than a gross breach human rights.
In the European Union, many tens of millions of citizens continue to face difficulties and barriers to the full enjoyment of their rights.
In particular, women with disabilities report seriously high levels of ill-health, and the female population suffers from mental illnesses at a rate above the average, which becomes all the more critical amongst migrant groups.
Ill-health may be an inherent challenge for some, but it need not stem from a lacking provision of quality services, which is not a fact of life but is only determined by our choice of priorities as a society.
This is where the change needs to happen.