29/11/2011 Mini session in the European Parliament
The ‘mini’ plenary session that will take place in Brussels on November 30th and December 1st next will be an opportunity for MEPs to look into ways of improving school dropout rates, fighting AIDS on a global level and highlighting the importance of the Single European Market.
Combatting early school leaving
Education is essential in the European Union evidenced by the fact that it is among the five main objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy.
MEP Mary Honeyball’s (S&D, UK) report notes the main features of early school leaving and the solutions that could be implemented:
- It is particularly common among children from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds and the children of migrants. Also, it is often linked to poverty and social exclusion.
- Combatting early school leaving must be done using a personalised approach that stresses the importance of school education as one of the best ways to give everyone an equal chance of success and the opportunity to acquire the skills and know-how necessary for integrating into the workplace. This could involve setting up advisory services for parents, counselors that are separate from the school’s teaching staff, improving career guidance and having quality internship programmes.
- Diversity of teaching methods is another way to fight early school leaving: sport, cultural activities, volunteering and active citizenship serve as a framework for non-formal education and lifelong learning.
The objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy include bringing the rate of early school leaving under 10% and ensuring that at least 40% of the younger generation gains a higher level qualification. The 10% target has only been achieved by seven Member States of the European Union.
The fight against HIV/AIDS on a global scale
According to the 2010 report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), 25,917 cases of HIV infection were diagnosed in 2009 in the European Union and the countries of the European Economic Area bringing the number of people living with HIV to 161,000. Furthermore, 30% of people who have it do not know that they are infected by the virus which has been increasing at a worrying pace, particularly in Eastern Europe.
The European Parliament is therefore calling on the European Commission and Council to implement the communication on “Combatting HIV/AIDS in the European Union and neighbouring countries 2009-2013” that is part of its action plan.
According to the report by MEP Françoise Grossetête (EPP, France), it is necessary to improve implementation of prevention strategies at local and regional level and to work on universal access to prevention, detection, advice, treatment and care.
She also recommends developing ways of reaching and supporting those sections of the population that are more at risk of getting HIV/AIDS across Europe.
In addition, she reminded Member States of the importance of continuing to invest in research and to fight against discrimination regarding access to care.
Twenty years of the single market
The year 2012 will mark the twentieth anniversary of the single market which involves 500 million Europeans and gives a considerable advantage to more than 21 million European enterprises.
To create a unified market, hundreds of technical, legal and bureaucratic obstacles that were hindering free trade and free movement between EU Member States had to be removed through a wave of reforms that finished in 1993. These reforms generated 2.75 million extra jobs and a 1.85% increase in growth between 1992 and 2009 according to the Commission’s figures.
To improve the single market, the European Union is focusing on certain points such as:
- Completing the digital single market;
- Creating an effective system and implement it to protect copyright in the EU;
- Extending the automatic recognition procedure on recognising professional qualifications to other professions;
- Creating a forum for the online single market.
At the November 30th plenary session, MEPs will also agree on a draft resolution on the results of the single market forum. This forum enables enterprises, social partners, NGOs, think tanks, journalists, national parliaments, representatives of European institutions, public authorities at different levels of government and European citizens to express themselves and influence the single market.
The association agreement with the Ukraine
For MEPs, the EU-Ukraine association agreement is ready for signing during the next summit which should take place on December 19th in Kiev. This agreement will eventually lead to creation of a free-trade zone. Whether or not the summit will be held remains to be seen however due to the government’s persistent repression of opposition leaders, Yullia Tymoshenko in particular.