Toss out your junk food, dust off your running shoes and get ready to become faster, fitter and slimmer. January is traditionally the time when people hit the reset button and set out what they want to achieve this year.
The European Parliament is also limbering up for what promises to be an exciting but challenging year. The crisis continues to rumble on, but efforts to put Europe back on the path to growth will not be the only initiative to make a difference to your daily life. The European Commission is working on plans that could affect everything from what you eat to how you travel. The European Parliament, as the only directly-elected EU institution, is there to weigh up the proposals and, if necessary, improve or even reject them.
In terms of the economy, the Council's agreement on a banking union must be further negotiated with the Parliament as will changes to how the euro zone is governed. The reform of financial services will continue, including credit rating agencies, capital requirements for banks and bankers' bonuses as well as measures to improve the single market. MEPs believe the EP should play a significant role in overseeing these new structures in order to ensure they will be as democratically accountable as possible.
Closely related to economic issues is the EU's long-term budget for 2014-2020 as it will determine how the institutions and member states stimulate the economy over the coming years. MEPs are committed to safeguarding investment in growth-boosting research and vital transport infrastructure. Once the budget talks have been concluded, specific areas can be discussed further, such as the common agricultural policy, research, support for poor regions and the popular Erasmus programme that enables students to study in another member state.
Things will also be moving for transport. MEPs will discuss new CO2 rules for cars to help slow down climate change. They will also look into passenger rights once the Commission proposes an update of existing legislation. A key reform of the rail sector should help to revitalise the industry and MEPs will discuss Commission proposals to introduce more competition in the domestic passenger rail market as well as greater independence for operators and owners of infrastructure.
Among other important issues Parliament will consider new rules governing the marketing of tobacco products aimed at discouraging smoking and plans regarding cloning and genetically modified food. In addition there will be proposals concerning privacy and data protection, how to boost the presence of women on company boards and a European asylum policy.
Photo © European Union 2012 - European Parliament.
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