The European parliament used its penultimate session before June elections to wrap up a slew of issues including mobile phones, fisheries, timber and tyre standards.
There was little suspense surrounding many of the items on the agenda. On matters such as a package to liberalise Europe’s energy market, for example, MEPs reached agreement with representatives from member states weeks ago.
A similar compromise was done last month over sweeping reform of the way Europe’s insurers calculate how much capital they need to cover their risks.
Nonetheless, failure to win approval for these measures from the full parliament could have set them back for months, or even years, because of the disruption of a new parliament taking office in July.
MEPs were eager for an opportunity to remind voters of their importance.
The issue with the greatest immediacy and popular appeal may have been a plan to reduce roaming charges for mobile phone users. The parliament on Wednesday gave its overwhelming support to the package, which comes into effect in July and is expected to help travellers.
Under the new rules, the cost of surfing the internet will be capped at 1 euro per megabyte at the wholesale level, gradually falling to 0.50 euro. That compares with current rates of 1.70 euro. The price of text messages will fall by more than half from 28c to a maximum of 11c.
“Today’s vote marks the definite end of the roaming rip-off in Europe,” said Viviane Reding, the telecommunications commissioner, who initiated the plan last year.
While that initiative sailed through parliament, the approval of the energy package marked the culmination of a far more tortuous legislative journey. It began in the 1990s, when policymakers proposed integrating the European energy market in the hope of increasing competition and lowering prices for consumers.
Wednesday’s compromise bill fell short of the full separation between companies that generate and distribute electricity demanded by Brussels. Still, Eluned Morgan, the Labour party MEP who served as the bill’s rapporteur, pointed to other concessions for consumers, including greater flexibility to change electricity suppliers and reduced rates for poor customers. “It’s taken us years to get to this point,” Ms Morgan said.
Meanwhile, on the same day that the commission called for a “sea change” reform of European Union fisheries policy, MEPs approved tougher penalties against those who violate it, and closer monitoring to ensure compliance.
Parliament also voted to toughen a commission proposal aimed at cracking down on illegal logging by requiring importers to ensure the legality of wood products sold in the EU. The package must still win approval from member states before coming into law.
Additional reporting by Nikki Tait in Brussels
Get alerts on News when a new story is published