To my constituents,
I hope this message finds you all as well as can be, given the very difficult situation in which we find ourselves. It is a very challenging time and indeed a very sad one, my deepest sympathies to those who are dealing with the illness or loss of a loved one.
As the president of the European Parliament rightly said “Democracy shouldn't be stopped by a virus. We need the democratic process to help us overcome this emergency”, and so we continue to work, attending committees and plenary but doing so remotely.
At the moment most MEPs are working from home, that includes when we speak in committee and also when we vote. Parliament continues to do its core work – that of passing laws, approving the EU budget and overseeing the European Commission. And this week has been a busy one, with both of my committees sitting and a mini plenary yesterday and today. All of which have been focused on the work to tackle the corona virus crisis.
You can read more about how Parliament is adapting to the working conditions here.
It certainly has been a change to how we normally work, and as I’m sure many of you who are also working from home know, there are technical difficulties from time to time. But everyone is patient and understands the importance of persevering and working to represent the people that voted for us and all our constituents at this difficult time.
On Tuesday of this week I took part in the internal market and consumer protection committee (IMCO), of which I am a full member and we had an exchange of views with Commissioner Breton. This is the committee that is responsible for all different aspects of product safety and protecting your rights as consumers, especially during this crisis it is important to be wary of online scams and fraud and be aware of your rights when it comes to unfair trading practices, more information on this can be found here.
One of the issues that arose was the questions of passengers rights, in particular what happens with cancelled flights and holidays. I and my EPP colleagues wrote to the European Commission about the current situation regarding passenger rights. It is important that consumers are protected against potential losses when it comes to their holiday and travel, and so we have asked that airlines when giving vouchers do so at a value of 110% and also that validity be extended to two years, meaning that you have two years to use the voucher if you choose to do so, if not the money will be refunded.
On Wednesday, the committee for transport and tourism (TRAN) met and we had an exchange of views with Commissioner Reynders. We again discussed the question of passenger rights. As well as the use of mobile apps to help with the easing of confinement measures. Consumers need to know that these apps are safe and that their data is protected, the commission has announced guidelines to assist with this.
And finally yesterday and today the Parliament voted on a series of important measures to help tackle the Covid-19 crisis.
The Emergency Support Initiative (ESI) package, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak was approved. This will mobilise more than 3 Billion Euro to assist healthcare systems that have been badly hit by the pandemic. A further almost 600 Million Euro was also approved to help deal with the outbreak.
A number of other measures were agreed, including a greater degree of flexibility for the use of the European Structural and Investment Funds, which will allow the EU to give full funding without the national government needing to contribute (co-financing). For medical devices new legislation that was due to come into force has been delayed to avoid disruption in the industry. And measures to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak in the fishery and aquaculture sector.
A joint resolution was also agreed, setting out parliaments position, this was supported by a majority of groups across the parliament – showing the importance of having a united front at a time of crisis so we can focus our energy on approving the funding and assistance that member states need. The parliament called for a massive recovery package to support the European economy after the COVID-19 crisis. More about the resolution here.
A thanks to you
I am very glad to be back representing the people of Ireland South in the European Parliament. I want to thank you for the support you have shown me, I am here in to represent your interests in Europe, and I am happy to engage on any issue that is of interest to you.