Thursday, 14th December 2017
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J1 visa threat "unfair and unworkable"

Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly has vowed to lobby strongly against a US Senate proposal which he warns would effectively "wipe out" the popular J1 visa.

The Fine Gael MEP was responding to a clause in the immigration reform bill currently going through the US Senate, calling for a €500 charge to be imposed on the popular J1 visa. The restriction would mean that Irish and European students would not be granted the visa unless a potential employer in the States agreed to pay the sponsorship fee.

Mr Kelly described the proposal as "unfair and unworkable" and pledged to raise the issue at the Transatlantic Legislators' Dialogue, which takes place in Dublin at the end of May. The annual meeting of US and EU parliamentarians aims to improve the political discourse between legislators in both continents.

"I would hope to build up enough momentum to torpedo this before it gets too far. I will be very firm; this is not a significant amount of money in terms of promoting good relations between the US and the EU," said Mr Kelly.

"We had over 7,000 Irish students who went out to the States last year. The J1 visa is very important to students; it gives them the chance to make a few bob and pay off their fees. Most of them only get jobs when they're out there. What employer is going to fork out €500 to get a student for the summer who they've never even met?" he added.

If the new bill is passed, it will come into force next year, thwarting the hopes of many Irish students planning to work in the States in the summer of 2014.

Breakthrough on EU "discrimination"

against Irish language

The President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz has agreed to give the go-ahead for an Irish language version of the parliament's official website, following intensive lobbying by Irish MEPs.

The website, http://www.europarl.europa.eu , is currently available in 22 out of the 23 official EU languages, excluding Irish.

Fianna Fáil MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher, who has been pushing for years for the site to be accessible as Gaeilge, said the decision will reverse what has been "a matter of discrimination" against the Irish language.

"I raised the issue publicly in March and charged the parliament of discriminating against Ireland and the Irish language. President Schulz offered me a meeting, and told us that he will now give the necessary instructions to the governing body of the parliament to establish an Irish language version. Hopefully it will be up and running by the end of the year," said Mr Gallagher.

"There were suggestions from some EU quarters that it could be quite expensive to translate the site and that there was no need to do so, as everyone in Ireland understands English. But everybody in Malta also understands English, yet they have their own website. This is a major breakthrough, and it's important that it came during the course of Ireland's EU presidency," he added.

Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell, who also attended the meeting with President Schulz, pointed out that the other institutions of the European Commission and European Council already have Irish language websites available. "The European Parliament is the only directly-elected institution of the EU and therefore has a duty to effectively communicate to all its citizens," said Mr Mitchell.

Domestic violence victims get EU-wide

protection

Victims of domestic violence, stalking or gender-based harassment who have protection orders in Ireland are to be given the same protection in all EU member states, following a decision by MEPs this week.

The European Parliament voted in favour of new civil laws to ensure that victims of abuse can move freely throughout Europe with the same level of protection that they have in their home country. The cross-border regulation will take effect from January 2015, once it has been approved by the European Council of Ministers.

Labour MEP Emer Costello, who supported the measure, said it will give great reassurance to the 1,000 or so women in Ireland who benefit from protection orders. "I've spoken to women who have barring orders or protection orders against someone who has abused them, and they feel nervous about travelling abroad because they're not offered the same protection. This will give them the freedom to travel abroad for holidays, work or for longer periods without fear," said Ms Costello.

Under the legislation, any victim of gender-based violence who has been granted protection in one member state will just need to complete a standard multilingual form to have their right to protection enforced in every other EU country. The only exception is Denmark, which has not opted in to the new law.

MEPs back EU-wide banking supervision

EU-wide banking supervision moved a step closer this week when MEPs in Strasbourg approved draft laws setting up a single supervisory system. The European Central Bank is to supervise the eurozone's largest banks directly, and will have a say in supervising other banks.

However, the European Parliament will only give its final seal of approval when it is satisfied with the ECB's internal accountability arrangements. MEPs insisted that extensive accountability rules within the ECB must match its new supervisory powers, and that the displacing of authority from national level must go hand in hand with creating transparency at EU level. Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell said the establishment of an EU-wide banking supervisor is aimed at preventing the kind of reckless banking practices that have fuelled the current economic crisis.

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