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How the sausage is made

This is an article on sausage making or more precisely on how EU laws and reports are made. The Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck noted many years ago that making sausages is very similar to making laws - while the end product is pretty good and sometimes even excellent, you are better off not knowing how it is made. To put it another way, there is plenty of offal in the former and a fair bit of waffle in the latter.

This week I am working on a resolution on how the EU’s development policies can address the consequences of Covid.

The resolution passed in the Development Committee in April with support from the EPP (where Fine Gael sit), my group, Renew Europe, and the Socialists (no Irish MEPs). The Greens and GUE (McManus, Wallace, Daly and Flanagan’s group) abstained.

The next stage will be to vote on it in a plenary session of the Parliament in June. Ahead of that I will road test the report with the rest of my colleagues in Renew Europe at a group meeting this week.

The report is 23 pages long and, like all such reports, has three sections. The first section is made up of sentences that all begin with the words ‘having regard to’ and refers to a list of previous reports. The second section is made up of sentences that begin with the word ‘whereas’ that sets the overall context including how Covid has impacted life in developing countries. The third and most important section includes the action points.

The language in the third section is analysed carefully. There is fairly mild language like ‘notes this’ or ‘emphasises that’ and then there is more emphatic language like ‘insists on’ or ‘deplores’. The different political groups will seek to dial up the language or dial it down depending on what we are talking about.

Because it is a compromise with three different political groups, there are parts that I would rather were not in it.

However, this Covid resolution is just a resolution and not a legislative file where the real fireworks happen, insofar as ‘legislative file’ and ‘fireworks’ can be mentioned in the same sentence.

One example of a legislative file is the Digital Covid Certificate which we are hoping will save many businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector in the weeks and months ahead.

The European Parliament decided to fast track this proposal and it should become law by the end of June. The negotiation phase was not productive from the European Parliament’s point of view.

Another slower moving file is the hugely important Digital Services Package (DSP). This is currently at Committee stage and might not move too quickly as the incoming Presidency of the EU Council is Slovenia (from July 1st). The Prime Minister of Slovenia is a Mr Jansa who would be a Trump sympathiser and so will not be too anxious to move things along.

The DSP is aimed at cleaning up the digital space making it safer and fairer. For most people, the real impact will be in strengthening consumer rights when buying online. In the old days, you could go back to the retailer with a faulty product and claim a refund based on the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act.

It will replace the E-commerce directive which became operational in 2002 - from a digital point of view, 2002 is positively jurassic. The astonishing part is that it has taken this long for public policy to react to all that has happened in the intervening two decades. Don’t forget, the first iphone went on sale in 2007!

However, I am confident that this slow-cooked euro-sausage will make the online space a much safer place for our children.

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