European Parliament takes last decisions before European Elections and shows that the EU can deliver

In its last session before the European Elections (22 May - 25 May), Members of the European Parliament made some important decisions in areas of banking and finance which will have a direct impact on the daily life of its citizens.

Banking Union

On Tuesday (15 April 2014) the European Parliament voted to adopt a series of legislative files as part of the decision to create a European banking union that aims to efficiently deal with issues within the banking sector that takes the lessons learnt during the recent financial crisis into account. European taxpayers and ordinary savers must not longer pay for future failures of the banking sector. The voted files lay the foundation for a mutualised resolution fund. A major step that is still missing in this process is the introduction of a comprehensive EU-wide Financial Transaction Tax which SOLIDAR has been advocating for a long time.

Access to bank accounts

Another financial dossier has been voted on Tuesday, the Payment Accounts Directive. More than 58 million EU citizens above the age of 15 do not have a bank account and therefore cannot fully participate in society. While banks can operate freely throughout the EU, citizens are often unable to open an account in another Member State or are unable to easily switch from one bank to another. For example, if you move to another member state banks usually ask for a registered address to open a bank account but you cannot rent an apartment if you do not have a bank account. Furthermore, customers often pay high fees for banking services and have difficulties accessing an overview of the fees they pay. The voted rules make it easier for consumers to compare fees of different banks by introducing an EU-wide standardised information sheet. They also establish an easier procedure for consumers who wish to change their bank. A basic right to a payment account has been granted to all EU citizens, as well as to asylum seekers, stateless, foreign students and holders of Green cards enabling them to participate in society. SOLIDAR welcomes these new rules as an important step towards a more inclusive and consumer-friendly Europe.

End to food speculation

And more good news: MEPs enforced rules which will put an end to excessive trading in food and commodity markets. This will help rein in speculation on these sensitive markets. Speculation on foodstuff markets has had devastating consequences in the developing world, compounding food insecurity for the worlds’ poorest. The situation is similar for other crucial commodities, such as energy. It was high time for the EU to take action on tackling this matter.

Transparency register

On Tuesday, the plenary also voted to confirm an inter-institutional agreement updating rules on the transparency and the register of lobbyists to the EU institutions. Despite some progress, the main problem persists: The transparency register for the European Parliament and Commission which has been introduced in 2011 is still not mandatory. So far 75% of Brussels-based lobbyists have registered, but some of the most important players (like the finance industry) are still missing in the register. A recent report by the Corporate Europe Observatory and Arbeiterkammer Österreich has revealed that the financial industry spends more than €120 million per year on lobbying in Brussels and employs more than 1.700 lobbyists to influence EU policy-making. As long as this big part of the Brussels lobby corps is not registered, the lobby register remains a ‘toothless tiger'.