This week brought some relief to the measures we have been living with to tackle Covid 19. There is still a long way to go but I hope this has helped ease the situation for you a little and that you have been able to get some fresh air this week. I want to again extend my condolences to those who are dealing with the death or illness of a loved one.
Many of you have contacted me and have been enquiring about your rights as passengers. As an island we rely heavily on airlines and other forms of non-land transport for travel abroad. In recent years travel has increased and we have become accustomed to travelling abroad far more frequently and at a far lower cost. As consumers we have had greater choice and better value.
As we all know the situation we find ourselves in is unprecedented. This is also true for operators in the travel industry, airlines and agencies are facing tough financial situations and decisions. This week alone has seen the announcement of thousands of job losses. It is for this reason that I encourage consumers where they can to avail of vouchers being offered by airlines. We must protect consumer rights but we also must help protect jobs, so choosing a voucher is one way of lessening the pressure these companies will face and helping to ensure a that there are airlines to compete on the market when we begin to fly again.
Brexit negotiations continue virtually, unfortunately it seems that there has not been enough progress on many key issues. The last round of negations was in April and the next round takes place next week, with one final round before June, when both sides are due to take stock of what the negotiations have yielded so far. There are many issues that still need to be decided and the UK has said that it will not look for an extension pas December 31st. This will a key moment to see if enough progress has been made to realistically avoid a no-deal scenario in December, which still poses a risk to both the UK and the EU but in particular Ireland, this is further compounded by the economic crisis we are facing as a result of Covid 19.
Contact tracing apps
As we look towards further easing the restrictions imposed by Covid 19, the use of contact tracing apps is coming to the fore of discussions. These apps have the potential to be very useful in isolating the virus, which in turn will allow people to move more freely. We have to be careful that they are designed and managed correctly, protecting our data from misuse and ensuring our privacy. I intend to write to the data protection authorities to ask what steps are being taken to monitor the development of these apps so that we can feel safe when we use them. This will be a huge step towards getting people back to work and a return to normal life.
As some of you may know tomorrow is Europe day, a day when we celebrate how far the European project has come, and we remember it is above all a project of peace. Today is the 75th anniversary of the end of World War 2, a reminder of how far we really have come in maintaining peace in Europe, something that we should never take for granted.
Earlier today I also the opportunity to speaks to students from a number of schools in Ireland South as part of the European Parliament Ambassador School programme. We spoke about topics from Brexit to the European Green deal and climate and politics as a career. I wanted to thank their teachers for helping to organise the event but also to thank the students for getting involved and participating in the call. I am always happy to speak to students and young people who are interested in the work of the European Union and its future.
This week in the fight against Covid-19 the EU held a Global Coronavirus Response event, in which European and world leaders collectively pledged €7.4 billion euros for vaccines, diagnostics and treatments. The Irish government made a pledge of €18 million, this brings the total that Ireland has already committed to combat Covid-19 to €78 million.
Next week the European Parliament will hold another plenary session, which normally takes place in Strasbourg but which we have been doing remotely for the last two months. We will vote on a number of issues and discuss the economic recovery and the European Budget. We will also have an announcement on Wednesday from the European Commission about travel and tourism this summer and autumn, so hopefully we will be begin to plan some holidays and local travel.
I am busy each week with attending committees, both to speak and to vote on issues, and having meetings on different topics ranging from tracing apps to passenger rights. If you have something you would like to contact me about, please get in touch as I am always happy to engage with my constituents.
All the best,