Last week in Europe: 11-14 March

European Union flags - Some rights reserved by tristam sparksLiberal Democrats want better deal for UK in EU’s long term budget

Liberal Democrat MEPs today voted to approve the size of the EU’s multi-annual financial framework deal reached by Member States last month. They also supported moves to renegotiate the shape of the budget by making it more flexible and focused on areas that will bring jobs and growth to the UK, such as investments in R&D, innovation and infrastructure.

Senior Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon, Vice-President of the EU Budget Committee, commented:

At a time when people all over Europe have to tighten their belts we need to ensure that the EU is working to create jobs and build the stronger economy that we need. Our priority needs to be supporting projects that have real economic benefits in the UK and across the continent, not signing off on massive increases in administration budgets.

Research institutes in the UK are vital to our economy and the funding they receive from the EU is invaluable. Investment in research and development is key to ensuring that we remain competitive on the world stage and the final EU budget will need to reflect this fact.

All across the EU, national governments are sharing in the efforts to support the creation of jobs and growth by shifting back store resources and services to the front line, and the EU should be no different.

We need an EU budget which puts funding in the right areas and is flexible enough to ensure that we can spend money as effectively as possible.

The European Parliament will now enter into negotiations with Member States with a view to agreeing the final Multi-Annual Financial Framework under the Irish Presidency by June.

Phil Bennion welcomes EU proposal to strengthen air passenger rights

The European Commission today unveiled new proposals to strengthen air passenger rights. West Midlands MEP Phil Bennion, who sits on the European Parliament Transport Committee, commented:

This is a very welcome proposal which will close some of the glaring loopholes in the existing legislation. A significant change is the clarification of the “exceptional circumstances” under which airlines do not have to pay compensation, something I have long called for as a member of the Transport Committee. This means airlines will no longer be able to avoid paying out by pointing to issues like mechanical problems, and will prevent customers being dragged through long and expensive court cases. Airlines will also have to explain to passengers why they are being delayed no more than half an hour after the scheduled departure time, putting an end to uncertain and frustrating waits sitting on the runway or in the departure lounge.

I’d now like to see some of our other recommendations taken up, especially on price transparency and ensuring that consumers aren’t mislead by hidden costs when booking tickets online. The EU has already achieved a lot in improving air passengers’ rights, but there is still more work to do to make sure that all passengers are treated fairly, kept properly informed and offered adequate compensation.

The full proposal can be found here. The ALDE resolution on the budget, passed in Palermo in November 2011, can be found here.

* Mark Valladares is a member of the ALDE Financial Advisory Committee

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