42 infringement cases open against Ireland
Brian Hayes MEP today said that Ireland needs to improve how it transposes EU law into national legislation given that we have 42 infringement cases open by the European Commission for either bad application of EU law or for late transposition of EU law.
“Every EU Directive that gets adopted by the European Parliament has to be transposed by Ireland into national legislation. This has been happening for over 40 years of our membership yet there are still problems in the way that EU law is transposed into our national legislation.
“As of 2015, there were 42 infringement cases open against Ireland by the European Commission, 32 of these were for bad application of EU law and 10 were for late transposition of Directives. This is costly, time consuming and seriously affects the workings of our legislative system. Worryingly, 21 new infringement cases were opened in 2014, six of which relate to transport.
“On top of that, Ireland was one of only three countries brought to the Court of Justice in 2014 for two cases – incorrectly transposing the Electricity Directive and the Renewable Energy Directive (the case involving the Electricity Directive was ultimately withdrawn).
“In the first instance, this is for the Minister and their Department to get it right. And secondly, it is for the Dail to properly scrutinise the legislation. Given the current political dilemma, it is an appropriate time to examine how we apply EU law. This could be part of the overall Dail reform package being discussed.
“I believe there should be a cross-party working group set up between Oireachtas Members and civil servants to see how we can improve our application of EU law. It tarnishes Ireland’s reputation when we are brought to the EU Court of Justice. We need to ensure that our legislative system is modernised and can work smoothly alongside the EU law-making process.
“The European Parliament is currently doing a piece of work on this issue which is calling for the Commission to come forward with a legislative proposal on a European law of administrative procedure. This report is going through Committee procedure at the moment and will come before the whole Parliament for a vote later this year.”
Fine Gael MEP, Brian Hayes, has today (Sunday) called on Irish mobile phone providers to abolish roaming charges by Summer 2016. The Dublin MEP made his comments as mobile provider EIR (formerly Eircom) confirmed they were abolishing their roaming charges in time for this Summer.
“Under EU law the abolition of roaming charges will become a reality from Summer 2017. From next month the cost of roaming will be reduced again, as part of the phasing out agreement. Irish people who use their mobile phones abroad after 30th April will now pay the domestic price plus a maximum of .05C a minute to make a call, 0.2C to send a text and .05 per megabyte of data.
“While any reduction is welcome I am calling on providers to bring forward the abolition of these rip-off charges.
“Despite our best efforts to limit our usage, Irish customers will still face charges higher than normal. These rip-off charges have existed long enough and there is now an opportunity for mobile providers in Ireland to get ahead of the rest of Europe by agreeing to abolish roaming charges in time for this Summer,” concluded MEP Hayes.
On Wednesday 16th March the Palestrina Choir from St Mary’s Pro Cathedral, Dublin performed in the European Parliament.
The choir were in Belgium performing at a number of venues as part of the St Patrick’s Day Festival.
Dublin MEP, Brian Hayes has today (Tuesday) welcomed the publication of revised proposals for posted workers in the EU. The revised Directive, which affects workers temporarily transferred from one EU country to another will for the first time ensure fair wage and working conditions.
“We all remember the scandal some years ago of the GAMA construction worker case. This case highlighted the way in which EU citizens from poorer member states could be exploited. Irish construction workers have for many years highlighted an abuse whereby their work was been undercut by cheap labour from other EU Member States. This abuse needs to be tackled and the revised Directive from the EU Commission will help in this regard.”
“In 2014 close to 2 million European workers were posted to other EU Member States. As things stand, these workers such as Latvians working in Ireland do not have the same protections as their Irish colleagues. For example, the employer is not obliged to pay the posted worker more than the minimum wage in Ireland.”
“This has led to serious problems in some countries where workers were hired from another EU member state and paid substantially less than their colleagues doing the same job. In some cases employers only hired posted workers in order to avoid paying higher wages.”
“The revised Directive proposed will eliminate these situations occurring. Posted workers from other EU countries will now be obliged to receive the same pay as well as any other benefits applicable to their colleagues such as bonuses and allowances.”
“I believe the proposed changes are an important step in facilitating respect for the rights of workers. It is unfair on workers from one country to be treated differently for doing the same job as other workers. It is equally unfair for employers to abuse the system in order to obtain cheaper labour” concluded MEP Hayes.
Article by Brian Hayes MEP, published in the Irish Indpendent on Tuesday 15th March 2016
It is clear from the general election result that the issue of Dáil reform is now back firmly on the political agenda. While the previous government made some differences in trying to modernise parliament, it certainly wasn’t a political revolution.
So will the new Dáil take up the challenge? I certainly hope so. Speak to TDs from all sides and they will express their frustration at simply being there as voting fodder.
But there are two prerequisites.
First, we need more TDs who actually take an interest in doing the hard work of policy formation. Too often it is the minister and front bench spokespersons on the other side of the house who do the majority of the work. Except for the PAC or select committees set up to investigate specific matters of public concern, Dáil Committees are not central in our system.
The second condition for reform is that the media must start to take the Dáil much more seriously. The most depressing thing of all is the over-egged performances played out every day in the Dáil. It is utterly depressing to watch the daily Punch and Judy offering where fake indignation is the order of the day. Those performances are designed to get attention in the media. But there is frequently very little substance in them. The media have a key role to play in this brave new era of Dáil reform.
When Ireland achieved its independence, it followed very closely – even slavishly – the British model of parliament. We copied their standing orders. We copied their whip system. It’s time we started to adapt.
Despite more than 40 years’ membership of the EU, there has been very little willingness in Ireland to learn from or incorporate new ways of doing business. The EU parliament is a good starting point.
Two things struck me on being elected to the European Parliament. One was the need to maximise support for a proposal across the political divide. Trying to get on board the biggest majority possible, not just a simple majority, was a new concept for me coming from Leinster House.
Secondly, making sure that a significant minority, which opposes something, simply cannot be cast aside or ignored. That you have to take account of the views of significant minorities. That was a million miles away from the ‘winner-takes-all’ system that I learnt from Irish politics.
The European Parliament has much to teach us in how political reform might happen. Since the passing of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the European Parliament has become a significant player in co-decision making in Europe.
The parliament now gets to sit down with the European Council and negotiate a final outcome on a piece of legislation; only when both sides come to an agreement can the legislation go through. This is not simply a rubber-stamping exercise.
For parliament to effectively negotiate with the council, it needs to build cross-party consensus at committee stage. This cross-party consensus has to be achieved in committee before negotiations with the council. It can often be difficult and messy. And it takes a lot of time. But MEPs have an ownership of the legislation, in a way that has never happened in the Dáil.
For the past year I have been acting as lead negotiator for parliament on an EU pensions directive. For this file, we managed to secure cross-party consensus between five political groups. Having a consensus between these five groups gives parliament a strong bargaining position with the council. It is by no means perfect, but the important thing is that MEPs have a direct role in deciding legislation. If you take it seriously, you can make a difference.
I believe there are five areas where the Dáil could learn from the European Parliament.
1) In the EU Parliament, a lead negotiator or ‘rapporteur’ is appointed for every piece of legislation that comes on its agenda. This allows one member to act on a committee’s behalf and take ownership of a file.
2) Committees in the EU Parliament are very well resourced. When a rapporteur is appointed to a file, usually one or two expert staff are assigned to assist that member. In our system, the experts exist primarily in the government departments.
3) The EU Parliament has a strong negotiating mandate and is on an equal footing with council in deciding most EU legislation. Parliament and council have structured meetings where they can hammer out a final agreement on legislation.
4) Parliament has introduced its own Impact Assessment Unit which is a resource constantly available to all committees. Any committee can request an independent impact assessment. This allows for proper stress testing of all proposals.
5) In EU law-making, all delegated or secondary legislation needs approval from the European Parliament. This is important because any delegated act can mean significant changes to legislation. It is also important from a scrutiny and oversight perspective. This does not happen in our system in any meaningful way.
No parliamentary system is perfect. But we can modernise by learning from what we see. In nearly two years working in the EU Parliament, I have had found that as an ordinary MEP you can make a difference on big areas of policy, and that your views are taken seriously. Giving more power to the Dáil to counter the excessive power of the executive must happen. And the sooner the better. Maybe we can learn from Europe?
Scare tactics on TTIP is no substitute for real debate
Brian Hayes MEP today said that Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy’s assertion that a referendum in Ireland would be needed on TTIP is just another incorrect claim in their ongoing scaremongering of a possible TTIP agreement. It’s the politics of the lowest common denominator and it needs to be challenged by those of us who are ambitious for Ireland.
“Speaking on RTE’s This Week programme on Sunday 6th March, Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy claimed that a referendum will be needed in Ireland on TTIP due to the inclusion of a proposed Investment Court which would safeguard Government’s right to regulate on certain sectors.
“Mr. Carthy said that based on one legal opinion he has commissioned that an Investment Court would ‘certainly infringe articles 34.1 and 34.3(1) of the Constitution’ which vest power in the Irish courts and that a referendum would be required.
“TTIP is not about setting up a new court to rival our court system. It’s about having a dispute resolution system between the US and the EU, where differences emerge to protect free trade across the Atlantic.
“The fact of the matter is that the government, through the Attorney General’s office, have already got legal advice on this and the proposed system of arbitration does not give rise to any constitutional implications. The arbitration system as proposed by the Commission will effectively be a tribunal system which would arbitrate claims of damages or unfair treatment of, for example, an Irish business against the US government. There is absolutely no question of Irish or other courts being overruled by such an Investment Court or any Irish legislation being overturned.”
“This is a scare tactic employed by Sinn Fein over many years on EU related issues.
“We already have in place the EU Energy Charter Treaty which provides for dispute settlement through arbitration rules and to which Ireland has been a signatory since 1999. This was ratified without any requirements for a referendum on constitutional grounds. Can Sinn Fein explain why they did not oppose the Energy Charter Treaty?
“Sinn Fein also claims that the biggest concern regarding TTIP is the inclusion of an Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). I’m not sure if they are aware that out of the roughly 1400 Trade Agreements that the EU has negotiated, almost all of them included an ISDS mechanism. Can Sinn Fein explain why they did not campaign against all previous EU trade agreements that included ISDS?
“The reality is that a dispute resolution mechanism is needed in TTIP as this gives Irish businesses a chance to challenge any unfair treatment by the US government, such as discrimination or unlawful expropriation. Irish exporters would not always have access to local courts or may not be able depend on them to give an adequate independent assessment, therefore a dispute resolution mechanism could act as an arbitrator if that company feels that legal principles have been breached. That’s especially important in the US as frequently local state courts do not recognise international treaties.
“I do agree with Matt Carthy that there has been a lack of debate on TTIP. But that debate is not helped by the political scaremongering. We need a rational debate on TTIP. If we want to see the potential of the all island economy of Ireland – opening up to trade rather than erecting barriers is the way to go.”
Brian Hayes MEP today (Monday) said that a decision by the Parliament to delay one of the first building blocks of the Commission’s flagship Capital Markets Union plan is doing the whole plan a great disservice. Mr. Hayes was referring to a decision to put on hold the fast-tracking of legislation to boost the EU’s Securitisation market.
“Both the European Commission and the European Council have put in a massive effort to fast-track legislation to revive the EU’s Securitisation market, the first major building block of the Capital Markets Union plan. The Commission released their proposal at the end of September and the Council responded in quick fashion by concluding its position in November.
“It has now emerged that Parliament’s negotiators have put the brakes on the proposal and will not finalise their position until late 2016. This setback could prolong the uncertainty for capital markets in Europe. A new standardised Securitisation regime in the EU has great potential to attract investors and get the EU economy working again. The EU’s Securitisation market has been hit badly by the financial crash and it continues to suffer from a lack of investment.
“At a time when banks’ balance sheets are being squeezed due to new financial regulation, EU legislators should not be dragging their heels on delivering alternative forms of financing to businesses. We need to do all we can to ensure that companies, especially SMEs, have proper access to lending and alternative methods of financing. The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association’s (ISME) latest quarterly survey, released today, showed that 43% of the organisation’s members which approached banks for credit between December and February were refused.
“Dublin is well-poised to reap the benefits from the Securitisation proposal. The IFSC has been working in this market for many years. We have almost 800 Irish domiciled securitisation vehicles, valued at about €415 billion, according to Central Bank figures. The quicker this proposal goes through, the better for Dublin’s securitisation industry.
“Parliament’s lead negotiator, Paul Tang MEP, says that the reason for the delay is because he wants the Securitisation proposal to run in parallel with the proposal for a European Deposit Insurance Scheme (EDIS) for bank deposits. This does not make sense as the proposals have very little interaction with each other. The objective of the Securitisation proposal is to channel new forms of financing to businesses while the objective of EDIS is to provide security to bank depositors. We in the EPP are determined to push through Securitisation and other aspects of the Capital Markets Union promptly.
“It is intended that Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short, a book which explains the role of securitisation in the US subprime mortgage crash, will be invited to speak at a public hearing before the Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee.”