"The European Parliament (EP), formerly called Common Assembly, was originally a mere consultative body. Its powers, however, have been substantially increased over the years with successive changes to the treaties. While the right of legislative initiative remains with the European Commission, the Lisbon Treaty has placed the EP on an equal footing with the Council of Ministers in deciding on the vast majority of EU laws."
"The two co-legislators - the EP and the Council of Ministers - adopt legislation jointly, having equal rights and obligations. The procedure consists of up to three readings with the possibility of the two co-legislators to conclude at any reading if they succeed to reach an overall agreement on a joint text. During the first reading, the EP can reject the Commission's proposals as a whole; approve it without amendments; or approve it subject to amendments. The text of the proposal as approved by the EP is then forwarded to the Council and the Commission as the EP's position. In turn, the Council can: accept the EP's position, in which case the legislative act is adopted; or adopt changes to the EP's position, leading to a Council's first reading position, which is sent to the EP for a second reading. Just a glimpse at the procedure shows how utterly inaccurate is Mr Colman's claim that the EP cannot change legislation."
Referring to Mr Colman's poor record of involvement since being elected to the European Parliament, they conclude: "His limited involvement in the EP might explain why he knows so little about how legislation is made in the European Union. A well-deserved 'Insane whopper'!"...
Debate between South West European election candidates to take place on 28 April in Bristol
Saturday, 8 February 2014
The University of Bristol is to host the first political debate between the head of the list candidates from each of the five most voted parties in the 2009 European Parliamentary elections: the Conservatives, Green, Labour, Liberal and UKIP parties.
The discussion, to take place at the Wills Memorial Building on Queen’s Road, pictured, from 6pm on Monday April 28th, will touch upon key issues of interest to the UK as part of the EU such as its future role in the EU, the free movement of citizens and the environment.
Mr Colman is one of the ‘laziest’ MEPs in the European Parliament and has only taken part in half of all votes (52.59%) during his five years in office (ranked 751st out of 766).
He has made a total of 19 contributions (17 speeches and just two questions to the European Commission) since being elected in 2009. The average for the South West's five other MEPs is 345…
The UKIP MEP, who costs taxpayers in the South West in the region of £156,415 a year, said that "if I don't come and put my card in the slot to vote, I don't get my money".
"I wouldn’t say getting the allowances is one of the main motivations, I’m trying to be fair about it, it is a factor, of course it is.”
He defended his small contribution, saying that just because he did not stand up and say anything in debates, did not mean he was not doing anything.
"Why make a speech when you know that it is totally ineffective? That you are there talking to a gallery of about six people, I don’t quite see the point of me doing that. It's not that I'm not doing anything, I'm trying to get us out of this mess," he said.
He refused to reveal how he spends the estimated £200,000 in allowances he's received, but some of it is spent on employing staff to run an anti-EU website, www.th-eu-nit.com (which can’t have much of a larger audience…)
Before being elected, he served in Devon & Cornwall Police, rising to the rank of superintendent. He left the force in 1995, and then spent four years advising the ITV detective series Wycliffe.
Commenting on the disclosure, South West Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson said he wondered why Trevor Colman stood for election in the first place: "There is a massive amount that goes on in the European Parliament and that's why most of the members are there full time, doing their jobs. I'm sorry if Trevor Colman finds it so boring, but I would have to ask the question why did he stand in the first place."
European Commission Vice President @SiimKallasEU visits Bristol Airport, Bristol Port and Airbus
Sunday, 26 January 2014
The Vice President of the European Commission responsible for transport policy Siim Kallas today paid a visit to Bristol Airport and Airbus today at the invitation of South West Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson.
After landing from Brussels, Mr Kallas met with Robert Sinclair, the chief executive officer of Bristol Airport to discuss issues affecting the European aviation industry, including passenger rights, security regulations and competition. He also visited Bristol Port and Airbus during his visit, as well as sustainable transport groups in Bristol ahead of the city’s year as European Green Capital in 2015.
Speaking afterwards to the Bristol Post, Mr Sinclair said: “We were delighted to welcome the Transport Commissioner to Bristol Airport, and took this opportunity to share with him our experiences as a successful European regional airport.”
“Aviation is an international business so developments at European level have a direct effect on UK airports and the passengers who use them. Liberalisation of the airline sector has changed the face of air travel in Europe for the better. The Commission can help us improve connectivity and drive improvements to the passenger experience by developing a supportive regulatory environment and ensuring that aviation remains an open and competitive market that is not distorted by public subsidies.”
Sir Graham Watson MEP said: “It was useful for the commissioner to see first-hand the important role air travel plays in connecting the South West with the rest of Europe. He was also able to hear how changes to regulations in the aviation sector could impact on airports like Bristol who act as a key economic driver in the region.”
After eight year campaign, beef and lamb from Devon and Cornwall awarded EU protected status
Saturday, 18 January 2014
Following an eight year campaign, West Country beef and lamb has this week finally been awarded EU Protected Status by the European Commission.
The Implementing Regulation for West Country Beef (pdf) and West Country Lamb (pdf) were recorded in the Official Journal of the European Union on 15 January. As a result, this means that meat from the West Country joins the ranks of Cornish pasties, Cornish clotted cream, Somerset Cider brandy and more than 60 other UK foods as having protected EU status.
To qualify for the status the meat has to come from animals born and reared and slaughtered in the West Country which comprises of the six counties in the south west Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), Devon, Cornwall, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset or Gloucestershire. The beef or lamb must also have at least a 70% forage-based diet.
The West Country Protected Food Name scheme gives products protection from unauthorised imitation and helps consumers know they are buying the “genuine article”.
South West Conservative MEP Julie Girling was delighted with the news. In a statement she said: “I am delighted to hear the European Commission has awarded animals born and reared in six counties in the south west Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status. The PGI status is so important for our farmers in the West Country and as the UK Spokesperson for Agriculture in the European Parliament I see this as a massive victory for our local farmers and is testament to the work that goes into rearing such high quality livestock.”
“This is a good day for South West Consumers and a great day for South West Farmers.”
Similarly, the regions’ Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watsoncommented: “Such status gives consumers peace of mind, knowing that what they are eating or drinking is the genuine article and is good quality.”
“Consumers can now be 100% sure that when they purchase beef and lamb sourced from the south west, it will be a product that has been reared and sourced where farmers know best, where the grass is greener and where the sun shines on our countryside.”
Peter Baber, chairman of Meat South West, told the Western Morning News: “We are delighted to be awarded PGI status for West Country beef and lamb. We look forward to working with farmers and processors in the south west region to market top quality beef and lamb under the West Country PGI banner.”
Lib Dem MEP accuses Environment Agency of 'ganderflanking' over flooding response
Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Sir Graham Watson, the South West Liberal Democrat MEP, has continued his battle to secure EU solidarity funding for the recent floods to the European Parliament chamber and in the process introduced an old English word originating from Wiltshire into the European lexicon.
Speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Monday evening, Sir Graham accused the Environment Agency of ‘Ganderflanking’ over the response to persistent flooding over the past few years with a lack of action taken to dredge rivers, particularly on the Somerset levels. He also reiterated his calls for flood management powers to be devolved from the Environment Agency down to local drainage boards, made up of local farmers, businesses and experts.
Ganderflanking is an old English word for ‘moving around aimlessly’ that originates from Wiltshire, but is rarely used these days. There is currently a campaign for the word to be inserted into the Oxford English Dictionary and this was the first ever recorded use of the word in the European Parliament [I’d love to know how the live interpreters managed to translate this!]
In his speech, the Somerset-based MEP said: “I am working with my constituents to secure help from the Solidarity fund for the costs of the clean-up and urgent investment in water management schemes.”
After the speech, he commented further: “This is a 'once in a hundred year event' that has happened two years running. It’s time to show the people most affected that their government - be it at local, national or European level - will listen and not stand idly by.”
“The growing unpredictability of the weather patterns is an early sign that with the onset of man-made climate change, such weather will become harder, not easier to predict and more, not less severe in its impact.”
South West MEP calls on UK government to apply for emergency EU funding after more flood misery in the region
Friday, 10 January 2014
South West Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson is calling on the UK government to urgently act and unlock emergency funds available from the European Union to help support those struck by the recent flooding across the South West.
Persistent rain over the past month has left thousands of acres of countryside flooded across Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire. With major local rivers bursting their banks villages are cut off and many local roads have been impassable at one point or another.
Sir Graham has now called on the government to apply for aid from the European Union's Solidarity Fund to help rebuild communities devastated by the flooding. The funds have been used extensively to help communities across Europe and in particular for the devastating floods along the Danube river in 2010.
The fund, which has a budget of up to £414 million for 2014, was set up to provide financial assistance to EU countries struck by major disasters. To benefit from the EU Solidarity Fund, governments must submit an application no more than 10 weeks after the first damage caused by the disaster.
Together with other British Liberal Democrats MEPs, he has penned a letter to Environment Minister Owen Paterson and Flooding Minister Brandan Lewis calling for urgent action to ensure the UK benefits from the fund.
The Somerset-based MEP commented: "We were told last year that the floods around the Somerset Levels in particular were a once in a hundred year event. Yet twelve months later we have even worse flooding. Thousands and thousands of acres of farmland under water across the west has caused chaos and misery for residents and businesses. These increasingly frequent extreme weather events are a sign we are beginning to feel the impacts of a changing climate.”
"It's time this ended once and for all. We must return to annual dredging of the rivers and banks for the sake of people's livelihoods and safety. Pressure is being brought to bear by local government, MPs and myself across Somerset to get this done. But let's make sure that once the waters recede, once the clear up has taken place, we see a real, long term solution to end what is now becoming an annual tragedy.”
"We must also look into potential sources of EU funding for long-term infrastructure to help combat the problem at source – like dredging and flood management schemes – and structural funds and rural development funding are both possible sources of money for this. We also need to get our three Local Enterprise Partnerships together to apply for low-interest loans from the European Investment Bank."
Gibraltar, in cooperation with the UK Government, published the letter they received almost immediately (read here, PDF).
Spain however refused to do so. Repeated requests for the letter to be made public to both the Government of Spain and the European Commission were declined.
However on 27 November the Liberal Democrat MEP for Gibraltar Sir Graham Watson made an official 'access for documents' request under Regulation 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.
The European Commission were duly forced to make the letter public, and Sir Graham has published it in full on his website (click here to read, PDF).
"The letter states that the intensity of the border checks were unjustifiable. Perhaps that is why Madrid and the European Commission did not want us to see the letter," Sir Graham said in a statement. "Thanks to EU freedom of information law we now know word-for-word what the Commission has asked Spain to do about the border - let us use it to hold Madrid to account."
Conservative MEP welcomes European Commission state-aid investigation into Hinkley Point C
Thursday, 19 December 2013
Somerset Conservative MEP Julie Girling has welcomed the news that the European Commission is to open an in-depth investigation to examine whether UK plans to subsidise the construction and operation of a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, Somerset are in line with EU state aid rules which aim to preserve competition in the Single Market.
In a statement today, the European Commission said: “The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether UK plans to subsidise the construction and operation of a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset are in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the Commission has doubts that the project suffers from a genuine market failure. The opening of an in-depth inquiry gives interested third parties an opportunity to comment on the measure. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.”
“Member States are free to determine their energy mix but when public money is spent to support companies, the Commission has the duty to verify that this is done in line with the EU state aid rules which aim to preserve competition in the Single Market. The Commission will assess whether the construction of a nuclear power station could not be achieved by market forces alone, without state intervention.”
European Commission Vice-President Joaquín Almunia, who is in charge of competition policy, said: "The UK has notified a mechanism which is explicitly aimed at attracting investment in nuclear energy. It is a complex measure of an unprecedented nature and scale. The Commission therefore needs to investigate thoroughly its impact on the UK and the EU internal energy markets, and is requesting all interested parties to submit their observations."
In response, Mrs Girling said: "I welcome the Commission's investigation into Hinkley, they have a duty to ensure that the public are getting a good deal and aren't being sold a dead duck.”
“The investigation from the Commission does nothing to take away from the simple fact this is a much needed £16 billion worth of investment which will create 25,000 jobs, bring in billions in corporation tax and could see £100 million injected into the local economy every year during peak construction.”
“Whilst you will hear lots of anti EU rhetoric from the sidelines, I believe this is an issue where Europe can add value by ensuring that British taxpayers are getting the best deal possible. Hinkley will provide a clean source of home-grown energy; powering nearly 6 million homes and help the country keep the lights on."
The UK has notified its plans to establish a feed-in tariff ensuring that the operator of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, the French state-owned company EDF, will receive a stable revenue for a period of 35 years despite the volatility of the wholesale electricity price. When the market price at which the electricity is sold is lower than the strike price, the Government will pay the difference between the strike price and the market price. Conversely, when the market price is higher than the strike price, the operator will be obliged to pay the difference to the Government (under the so-called "contract for difference"). In either case, the nuclear plant operator will ultimately receive a fixed level of revenue and will therefore not be exposed to market risks for the duration of the scheme. The operator will also benefit from a State guarantee covering any debt which the operator will seek to obtain on financial markets to fund the construction of the plant.
A legally binding commitment to fishing at sustainable levels
Decentralised decision making, allowing Member States to locally agree the measures appropriate to their fisheries
Mrs Girling, who sits on the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, said; "The vote today is hugely significant for the future of our seas and for the livelihoods of our fishermen. For too long the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has adopted a one size fits all approach and, when the reformed law comes into force on Jan 1st 2014, this will change for good.”
“Over the last four years I have spoken with fishermen from across the South West and one of their key concerns was ineffective micro management from Brussels. I have taken this message back and can proudly say that centralised control is out and regional control is in. The new laws will also allow member states to work together regionally to implement measures appropriate to their shared fisheries,” she said.
“MEPs in the European Parliament have been instrumental in making these changes happen. It is thanks to the Parliament that strong targets on maximum sustainable yield and the discard ban were maintained, as the Council had sought to water these down. Today is a proud day."
An independent company established by the council will be run by Mr Donaldson and chaired by Kevin McCloud. It will be responsible for all aspects of achieving a successful, memorable year as European Green Capital.
Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson said: “European Green Capital is one of Bristol’s greatest opportunities and I wanted to find the best person in the world to run it. I’m confident that Kris is that person. We must raise millions for Bristol and the result of this work, led by Kris, should be thousands of local jobs further down the line. In appointing this role I am making an absolute investment in Bristol’s future.”
Mr Donaldson, Bristol’s Programme Director of European Green Capital 2015 said: “Bristol’s year as European Green Capital is a huge opportunity to attract investment, business and tourism to the city, the region and indeed the country. I’m incredibly pleased to accept the role and I’m looking forward to making the absolute most of 2015. We’ll approach the year with a sense of fun, but behind that will be a rock solid commitment to use it as a chance to create new jobs and improve people’s lives.”
The appointment has been welcomed by the Bristol Green Capital Partnership, whose Chair was involved in the recruitment and selection process. Professor Martin Bigg said: “We in the Bristol Green Capital Partnership warmly welcome the appointment of Kris Donaldson as Programme Director for European Green Capital 2015. We very much look forward to working with Kris in the development and delivery of an exciting programme for Bristol in 2015 which will embed Bristol as the leading global green city.”
Highlights of the 2015 programme will be announced in mid-2014, with the full programme being revealed in autumn 2014.
The incident, which took place on Friday according to the Gibraltar Chronicle, has been described by a Foreign Office spokesman as a “serious infringement” of international diplomatic protocols. It is understood the bag was leaving Gibraltar but no other details have been released.
Diplomatic bags, which are used to carry documents and other items, between governments and their diplomatic missions abroad are protected by Article 27 of the 1961 Vienna Convention which asserts that diplomatic bags have immunity from search or seizure.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “As far as we are concerned there is no justification for this infringement of the UK’s rights under the Vienna Convention. Official correspondence and diplomatic bags are inviolable.”
“This was a serious infringement of the principles of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. There are long-established and internationally-accepted articles concerning official correspondence and the diplomatic bag to which the FCO adheres. We expect other parties to the Convention, including EU and Nato allies, to do the same.”
Spain has denied that its officers had opened any diplomatic bag. Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, the country’s foreign minister has played down the incident and insisted the bags, which had been dispatched by the Office of the Governor of Gibraltar, “were not technically diplomatic bags”. Quoted by the Daily Telegraph, he said: “As such there is neither a diplomatic bag nor an incident. If it is not a diplomatic bag, there is no diplomatic incident. A mailbag was opened, which is not a diplomatic bag in accordance with article 27 of the Vienna Convention.”
“The British Government need to act, and act fast with all diplomatic means at their disposal to ensure that such appalling behaviour is not repeated. The last time a British diplomatic bag was opened in this way was by Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, is that really the company Madrid wishes to keep?”
Former MEP to stand again as independent 'Stop Hinkley Point' candidate in #EP2014 election
Friday, 22 November 2013
Richard Cottrell, an author, former HTV West reporter and Member of the European Parliament for Bristol between 1979 and 1989 (before the seats became regional), has announced he will stand in the elections to the European Parliament in May 2014.
He will stand as an independent 'Stop Hinkley Point' candidate, in protest at the building of a new nuclear power station at Hinkley in Somerset, which he says “beckons Fukushima to our doorstep”.
"The insanity of placing another reactor at Hinkley Point must be stopped, for the safety of present and future generations," he told the Western Daily Press.
"To that end, I propose to raise my personal standard at the European elections next June. I intend to dramatise the dangers and madness, by standing as a Stop Hinkley Point independent candidate with the stated aim of projecting this madness into the arena of European politics."
BIG NEWS: In landmark vote, MEPs back call for single seat by massive majority; propose to initiate future treaty change
Wednesday, 20 November 2013
In a landmark vote, the European Parliament today took a major step towards scrapping the notorious Strasbourg ‘Travelling Circus’. Today MEPs (in Strasbourg) adopted a report co-authored by South West Conservative MEP Ashley Fox setting out a roadmap for reform and argues that the EU Treaty should be revised in accordance with their will.
"This vote is an overwhelming endorsement of our campaign to scrap the parliament's dual seat system,” Mr Fox said after the vote. “So long as such outrageous wastefulness continues, I do not think MEPs can look voters in the eye. Today's vote is not the end of the travelling circus, but it may be the beginning of the end."
The report, which is not legally-binding, was passed with 483 votes in favour to 141 against.
The Earl later dismissed this move as “not worth the paper it is written on. It is an empty PR exercise.” Whereas Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watsonsaid: “Travelling to Strasbourg every month is bonkers when most of the EU’s work gets done in Brussels. It is not only wasting public money, but the environmental costs are also astronomical. When MPs at Westminster criticise the waste of money involved I remind them that the House of Commons, along with other national parliaments, voted to ratify the treaty negotiated under the chairmanship of then UK Prime Minister John Major.”
SUCCESS. MEPs vote for #FoxHafner report to have a single seat for the EP by 483 to 141. Now we initiate a treaty change. @SingleSeatEU
The report, drafted jointly with German Green MEP Gerald Hafner, focuses on the economic and environmental costs of the dual-seat system, as well as the weight of public sentiment which is deeply opposed. It was voted through the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the European Parliament on 14th October by 22 votes to four.
It does NOT specifically ask for the single seat to be in Brussels, leaving room for the French to still make a convincing case for Strasbourg. It would be “more effective, cost-efficient and respectful of the environment if it were located in a single place,” the resolution states.
In his speech during the Parliamentary debate on the report on Tuesday, Mr Fox said: “We all understand why Strasbourg was chosen as the seat of the Council of Europe after the Second World War. And we understand why the first European parliamentary assembly chose to sit here as well. It was a symbol of reconciliation between France and Germany. It was a good choice. But times change and what was a symbol of reconciliation in 1950 is now a symbol of waste: a waste of time, a waste of energy and a waste of taxpayers’ money."
"If Members approve this tomorrow, we will have started an important process of reform. We will save hours of time and make this Parliament more effective. We will save thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide every year and, most important of all, we will save hundreds of millions of euros of taxpayers’ money.”
Speaking in the debate, fellow South West Conservative MEP Giles Chichester, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Petitions, said: “The monthly migration between Brussels and Strasbourg has become a symbolic negative issue for most EU citizens. We asked the administration to make a comprehensive analysis of the potential savings for our budget if Parliament had only one place of work. We called on Parliament to debate the matter and, if an appropriate vote is recorded on this report, on which I congratulate my colleague and his fellow rapporteur, we recommend that Parliament initiate a Treaty revision procedure under Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union.”
Concluding the debate, Mr Fox noted: “We have had a lot of contributions tonight, but interestingly, only four Members have spoken against the report – and all four of them are French! I think it is quite amusing when French colleagues say that to attack Strasbourg is to attack Europe. Nonsense! Nonsense on stilts. It is pro-European to be pro-reform because the issue of this travelling circus – which is a bad joke with European taxpayers – brings the EU into disrepute, and French Members here should confess what they are doing.”
As expected, French national delegations voted against a key paragraph that would commit the European Parliament itself to initiate an ordinary treaty revision procedure, to propose the necessary changes that would allow the Parliament to decide on its location.
The response by Paris was immediate and categorical: “Our position remains the same: that we are attached to the EU seat in Strasbourg,” Romain Nadal, the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in France, told the New York Times by telephone. “It is a matter involving not only France but all Europeans. Strasbourg is a symbolic city, one of Europe’s capitals.”
In spite of the strong calls for a single seat of the European Parliament, the monthly meetings in Strasbourg are set in the European Treaties and can be changed only if national governments reach unanimous decision in the Council.
The fight continues.
Strasbourg EP seat ‘lies dormant for 89 per cent of the year’ (Policy Review)
The 'Fal Oyster', fished using dredges designed back in 1750, has been awarded the Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) label as requested in the application.
The PDO label covers agricultural products and foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how. Following historic and traditional methods the dredges are towed by sailing or rowing boats with no motor power used to harvest the oysters.
South West Conservative MEP Julie Girling, who sits on the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, said: "This is good news for Cornwall and for the Oyster industry in our region. For a product to gain the PDO label is really testament to its heritage and the work that goes into bringing it to consumers. The importance of the label cannot be underestimated; a PDO supports the 'Fal Oyster' as a premium product and I can't wait to try one next time I'm in Cornwall!"
Since 1996 the Fal Oyster Festival has been held to celebrate the start of the oyster dredging season, the diversity and quality of Cornish Seafood and in particular, one of the last remaining traditional oyster fisheries, dredging by sail and hand punt.
The EU quality scheme identifies products and foodstuffs farmed and produced to exacting specifications. The scheme encourages diverse agricultural production, protects product names from misuse and imitation and provides consumers with information concerning the specific character of the products.
There are three categories:
Protected Designation of Origin - PDO: covers agricultural products and foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how.
Protected Geographical Indication - PGI: covers agricultural products and foodstuffs closely linked to the geographical area. At least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation takes place in the area.
Traditional Speciality Guaranteed - TSG: highlights traditional character, either in the composition or means of production
Close to 1,200 EU products are now registered under the scheme.
Andrew is a UK passport holder, European citizen, and a twice former stagiaire at the European Parliament.
Hailing from the truly beautiful South West region of the UK, he finds himself represented in Europe by three eurosceptic Tory MEPs, two UKIPs, and one Liberal.
While the EU in its current form is far from perfect, he is nonetheless firmly of the belief that the UK's prosperity and place in the world is best served as a member state and not as an isolated bystander.
This blog seeks to document the work that our region's MEPs do for us in Brussels. As such, predictably, it rarely features UKIP.