Back to Brussels

The sun tan lotion is packed away for another year, the kids are back to school, the nights are drawing in, and MEPs head back to Brussels next week for the start of our own “autumn term.”

And there’s a lot we’re going back to.   Further attempts to deal with the economic crisis will continue to be a hot topic at the Parliament in the second part of 2012, but it’s not the only important issue that will be tackled by MEPs and the EU budget and reform of the Common Agricultural Policy will also take centre stage.

Meanwhile every one of the twenty or so committees in the Parliament has its own issues to deal with.    It’s this Committee work where we have the most impact on new legislation, and where we can most usefully represent our constituents.

It isn’t the place for political posturing – which is why certain MEPs and certain parties aren’t very highly regarded here – but it is where the serious work is actually done.

And such is the amount of work to be covered, even within these committees, most MEPs focus on specific areas.

So within my own committee (called ENVI, but more precisely the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee), I concentrate on health & food matters.

Here too, there are important issues coming up in the next few weeks.

We will be continuing to work on “Health for Growth” the EU’s public health programme for 2014-2020, where I am leading for the Socialist & Democrat Group.   The programme will set out which projects can receive EU funding, and I want to make sure we focus on preventing disease.  I have already been successful in adding in nutrition and physical activity alongside obesity to make sure that cross-border projects to improve nutrition or promote exercise are eligible for funding.

One area of legislation which is already attracting considerable attention is the Tobacco Products Directive.  We know the damage and cost of tobacco, and we need tough measures to stop young people smoking in the first place.  This will be a huge battle with the tobacco industry, which has already been successful in delaying the Commission’s proposals.  I’m pushing for work to begin as soon as possible on tough new measures to stop the industry targeting young people.

The Clinical Trials Directive will perhaps be less contentious.  We need to make it easier and more affordable to carry out life-saving research, cross border research with our European partners when there just aren’t enough patients in the UK alone, as well as to allow the UK to continue as a world-leader in clinical research.

Another Directive up for review will be the Medical Devices Directive, which is especially pertinent given the recent breast implant scandal.

So all in all, a fascinating and challenging few months ahead, and I’ll do my best to keep people up to date with developments on my blog, and via twitter and Facebook, or why not sign up to receive my regular e-bulletin.


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