Protecting citizens against discrimination, defending their social and civil rights, especially at a time of economic crisis, free movement and safeguarding the environment are key concerns for the Parliament's Petitions Committee, says its 2012 activity report, approved on Thursday. Parliament received 1,986 petitions in 2012, mostly from German, Spanish, Italian, Romanian and British citizens.
The 2012 report, adopted by 446 votes to 35 with 43 abstentions, provides an overview of the Petitions Committee's work. Last year fundamental rights, the environment and the economic and social crisis were the topics most often raised by petitioners, MEPs say, highlighting the committee's role in identifying non-judicial remedies for citizens.
Basic rights, social issues and the environment
Protecting EU citizens' fundamental rights continues to be a key concern for Parliament. The rights of children and persons with disabilities, freedom of expression and privacy, the right to property, access to justice and free movement (i.e. fair access to the labour market and social security schemes in other EU countries) accounted for a large share of the committee's work last year.
The economic crisis also prompted many petitions about social problems, such as housing, unemployment and how banks treat savers.
Many of the complaints Parliament received from citizens in 2012 were about environmental issues (e.g. a national authority failing to protect special conservation areas). Problems to do with failure to enforce EU directives on waste management, possible dangers of nuclear energy, birds, habitats and environmental impact assessment came up frequently, which proves that "public authorities repeatedly fail to ensure the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems", the report says.
Any EU citizen or resident may, individually or in association with others, submit a petition to the European Parliament on a subject which comes within the EU's fields of activity and which affects them directly.
Parliament received 1,986 petitions in 2012, up from 1,414 in 2011. 1,406 petitions were declared "admissible" (i.e. falling within the EU's sphere of competence). The largest number of petitions focused on the EU as a whole, with Spain in second place followed by Germany, Italy and Romania. Germans remained the most active petitioners by nationality, followed by Spaniards, Italians, Romanians and the British.
Procedure: Non-legislative resolution