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Plenary highlights: new president, workers' rights, emergency aid for refugees

Added 1/21/2017
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Europarliament - 20. 1. 2017

Antonio Tajani was elected as the president for the second half of the parliamentary term during this week's plenary session while MEPs also chose 14 new vice-presidents. In addition they called for emergency aid to help refugees cope with freezing temperatures and told the European Commission to redraw its lists of countries at risk of money laundering as it was too limited. Read about this and more in our article.

Tajani, an Italian member of the EPP group, was elected on Tuesday  to replace Martin Schulz as president of the European Parliament. In the fourth and final round he received 351 votes compared to 282 for Gianni Pittella, the Italian leader of the S&D group. MEPs also elected on Wednesday new vice-presidents and quaestors, who deal with administrative matters affecting members, and approved on Thursday the appointment of members to Parliament's standing committees.
On Thursday MEPs rejected a blacklist of countries considered to be at risk of money laundering and terrorist financing, saying it should be expanded to include for example territories that facilitate tax crimes.

All workers should have their basic rights guaranteed of their contract or form of employment, MEPs said in a resolution adopted on Thursday in reaction to Commission plans to better protect European workers.

In a debate with humanitarian aid commissioner Christos Stylianides on Wednesday evening, members called attention to the situation of refugees in Greece and the Balkans, who struggle to cope with the recent freezing winter. They also strongly criticised the improper use of EU funds on the ground as well as the slow pace of refugee resettlement to other EU countries.

Also on Wednesday MEPs debates the priorities of the Maltese Council presidency for the coming six months with the country's prime minister Joseph Muscat and Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, highlighting the need for the EU to successfully tackle the migration crisis and the terrorists threat and find ways to boost the economy. 

They also debated with Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and Council President Donald Tusk the biggest issues facing the EU this year: Brexit, relations with the US and Russia, migration, the economy and the defence union.

In three resolutions adopted on Thursday, MEPs expressed deep concern about growing intolerance towards ethnic, religious and sexual minorities in Indonesia. They also condemned attacks against peacekeepers in the Central African Republic and breaches of human rights in Burundi.