26/09/2011 Europe and You: Fighting oil spills, Alzheimer’s and homelessness

Every week, gives the highlights of what Europe has been doing for you, for your rights, your health and your daily life. This week, Europe is in fighting form: fighting new oil spills, fighting Alzheimer’s disease and fighting for a European strategy to aid the homeless.

MEPs against oil spills

The oil slick that was caused by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 led to greater awareness of these issues in the European Union. MEPs therefore adopted a resolution during last week’s plenary session on making offshore oil and gas activities safer.

MEPs had already adopted a resolution on European Union action in the areas of oil exploration and extraction in Europe in April 2010. On September 13th last, they confirmed their wish to prevent oil-related disasters. To do this, the resolution includes an authorisation procedure that is equivalent to a preventive mechanism.

The text requires operators of a new field to submit an emergency plan and to prove that they have the financial wherewithal to repair any environmental damage in the event of an accident. The ‘polluter pays principle’ was extended by MEPs to cover all damage caused to seawater and biodiversity. Also, clauses that relate to protecting whistleblowers are included. Company staff can therefore blow the whistle about any breaches of security while maintaining their anonymity.

MEPs believe that the coordination role for response in the event of an accident should fall to the European Maritime Safety Agency. The European Commission stated its intention to present a text proposal in autumn.

The EU ramps up its fight against Alzheimer’s disease

On the occasion of World Alzheimer’s Day, the EU is ramping up its fight against this degenerative disease. The European strategy (which was started in 2008 following an initiative by the French Presidency of the Council of the EU) has led to the establishment of several programmes bringing together a number of Member States.

The Joint Programme on Neurodegenerative Diseases (JPND) is coordinated by France and brings together 23 European countries. It brings together financing from the different countries involved to make research more efficient. It also initiates cooperation between researchers in the human sciences and clinical researchers.

Le projet Alcove (Alzheimer's Cooperative Valuation in Europe) regroupe 19 The Alcove Project (Alzheimer’s Cooperative Valuation in Europe) brings together 19 Member States and receives financial support from the Commission. It is also coordinated by France. Its goal is to facilitate exchanges of positive experiences in the area of patients’ quality of life and independence.

Finally, the Innovative Medicines Initiative is the EU’s most ambitious project in this field. It enables the development of new drug trial procedures. The project is supported to the tune of €9.7 million by the European Commission.

European strategy for homelessness

In the current context of economic crisis, the resolution concerning homelessness adopted by Parliament on September 14th highlights the direct consequences of the crisis. As a result of austerity measures, the number of people affected by homelessness has significantly increased in certain EU Member States (Portugal, Greece, Italy, United Kingdom, and Spain).

Even though this issue is still a Member State competency, European MEPs called on the Commission to take measures to combat the problem. The European Parliament envisages these measures to be primarily funding-related such as using the already existing European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). This funding would enable government bodies and associations to find housing for people who find themselves destitute.

This important move must now be validated by the Commission. The proposal will, according to MEP Karima Delli (Greens/EFA), provide an opportunity for governments to take responsibility for the situation

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