La Treizième Étoile: 07/03/10 - 14/03/10 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
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Double blow for the Tories in Europe courtesy of McMillan-Scott & Sarkozy

Friday, 12 March 2010
It was the turn of the British Conservative Party to be left with egg on their faces at the end of another exciting week of drama at the European Parliament with expelled former MEP and current vice-president of the Parliament revealing he has joined the Liberal Democrats and Conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressing regret at leader David Cameron’s decision to remove his MEPs from the majority EPP party.

Edward McMillan-Scott, below, a former leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, was expelled from the party after he broke party orders and stood last July agains Michał Kamiński, the Polish MEP and leader of the new alliance of which the UK Conservatives are a part of because of, because of what he called his "anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist links".

When he won re-election to the post, the party whip was removed from him and Mr McMillan-Scott was expelled without apparent notice or reason in September 2009. He had announced his intentions to sue on the grounds of unfair dismissal but after his lawyers said he could not expect a fair hearing, he withdrew and resigned from the party.

Speaking after he confirmed he had joined the rival Liberal Democrat Party, the MEP said: "I have been around the higher circles of the Conservative party for long enough to fear that on Europe Cameron says one thing in opposition and will do another in government.

"I have long fought against totalitarianism and the extremism and religious persecution it brings. It was wrong of Cameron to associate with MEPs who have extremist pasts in his new European alliance."

Mr McMillan-Scott added that "my reasons for joining the Liberal Democrats are that in Nick Clegg they have a leader whom I like, admire and respect. They are internationalists, not nationalists. They are committed to politics based [on] the values of fairness and change."

"People are controlled within the Conservative party, as I was. Cameron distancing the Conservatives from Europe is a serious problem for UK industry if they form the next government,” he later told Sky News adding that his new party was "rational and reformist".
"The Liberal Democrats are pro-Europeans like me. They’re also concerned about human rights and international diplomacy – these are things close to my heart."
Back in England, the Lib Dem leader Mr Clegg revelled in this success and paid tribute to his new MEP, saying “for many years he has fought for human rights and democracy worldwide and he is rightly a respected politician across Europe. As someone of principle he has refused to cosy up to rightwing extremists, despite pressure from the Tory machine.

"This flies in the face of David Cameron's claims of change. It shows that people of principle, who believe in fairness and want real change for Britain, are at home in the Liberal Democrats."

The Conservative Party have yet to issued any comment, not even one attempting to blemish Mr McMillan-Scott’s record.

Nicolas Sarkozy (left) and Gordon Brown (Photo: Guardian)But they also received another kick in the teeth today as Nicolas Sarkozy, far left, the right-leaning French President who was in London today visiting Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street, said he "regretted" Cameron's decision to pull the Tories out of the European People's party.

"If you want to me to say that I regret his (Cameron's) decision on the EPP, my answer is yes," Mr Sarkozy said in the same press conference in which he confessed that although PM Gordon Brown was from the other side of the fence politically they were always able to discuss issues frankly "even if we don't always agree".

Since he was expelled Mr McMillan-Scott has been sat as a NI independent MEP in the Chamber, despite joining the ALDE grouping via the Lib Dems, he will remain as an NI while serving as EP Vice-President.

Another UKIP MEP in trouble following anti-Ashton rant and childish hissy fit

Wednesday, 10 March 2010
Less than two weeks after Nigel Farage, the UKIP party leader in the European Parliament, was fined €3,000 for his outburst before Herman van Rompuy, another of his political party members has made a scene, launching a tirade against the EU Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton before ripping up his papers, throwing a hissy-fit and storming out of a debate in the latest plenary session in Strasbourg.

William Dartmouth mid rant, 10/03/10, Strasbourg (Photo: screengrab)William (the Earl of) Dartmouth, a British citizen and (unfortunately) one of the MEPs representing my constituency of South West England, was removed from the Chamber this afternoon after turning his scheduled one-minute intervention into a personal and premeditated rant against Baroness Ashton, who sat nearby deflated and bemused that yet again she was on the receiving end of a UKIP anti-Ashton rant.

Taking the floor in the debate on EU Policy on Arctic Issues, Mr Dartmouth said that for hot countries such as Greece and Cyprus to have an "Arctic policy" was "as bizarre as the appointment of Baroness Ashton as the EU's high representative" before launching into his explanations even dubbing her “the Sarah Palin of the ex-Student Left”.

Such an outburst prompted fellow UK MEP, Diana Wallis, chairing this debate, to turn off his microphone and explain she was not prepared to hear such disrespectful comments in the Chamber.

Undeterred however, Mr Dartmouth continued and with voice raised projected further abuse upon Baroness Ashton who sat in the Commission seats uncomfortably close to that side of the Chamber.

Refusing to pay him any more attention, Mr Dartmouth then thrusted his blue card into the air to request more time under Parliamentary procedures, but his request was refused as his speaking time "was up".

His tirade then became something entirely comical as while Mrs Wallis off-microphone asks an usher to remove him from the Chamber, Mr Dartmouth angrily rips up his papers and somewhat childishly throws them across his desk and storms out stopping at the next microphone (also off) to vent further.

At the moment it remains unclear whether the Parliament’s President Jerzy Buzek will impose similar sanctions upon Mr Dartmouth as he did his political party leader less than a fortnight ago but the MEP said he would be writing to the president to complain about his treatment.

He said: "UKIP has always said that this is not a proper parliament, as it is wholly intolerant of dissent. Today's events have proved that."
Nonetheless, the Parliament’s Code of Conduct does read “Members' conduct shall be characterised by mutual respect ... [and] respect the dignity of parliament” which I’m sure you will agree does not reflect Mr Dartmouth’s behaviour...
It really does makes you wonder what stunt UKIP will pull off next at the Parliament – stay tuned for that!


Long-stay visa holders to gain freer movement in Schengen area after European Parliament vote

Tuesday, 9 March 2010
Good news for non-European nationals wanting to travel around Europe while holding a long-term visa in one member state – you will be allowed to travel to most other member states for three months in any six-month period under the same conditions as the holder of a residence permit, under a new regulation approved today by the European Parliament.

Passport Stamps (Photo: it currently stands, long-stay visa holders - for example international students, family members of third-country nationals, and even some EU citizens - are not allowed to travel to other Member States during their stay, nor pass through the other states when returning to their country of origin.

So, say you are Chinese student studying at a university in France, as it stands you cannot travel into Germany, not even for the weekend, nor Italy, Spain or Switzerland, not even to enter any of these in order to fly back home at the end of your study period.

But the regulation, which MEPs in Strasbourg today approved with 562 votes in favour, 29 against and 51 abstentions, is set to change all of this when it enters into force in less than a month’s time (5th April 2010).

The increased freedom of movement should not pose any extra security risk, thanks to a system of controls and alerts that already exist as part of the Schengen Convention, but will in any case not apply to the UK, Ireland or Denmark – because they are not part of this area.

The fact that a student who is granted a visa to attend a course in Belgium cannot travel to a specialised library in the Netherlands to obtain information for the purposes of writing his thesis or to Barcelona for a weekend visit is simply unacceptable”, argued Carlos Coelho (EPP, PT) the author of the report by the Civil Liberties Committee. "This is an example of how absurd situations can arise.

Members of the Schengen Area (click to enlarge)Under the new legislation, a long-stay visa (for stays exceeding three months) will - as regards the Schengen area (see left) - have the same effect as a residence permit.

A non-EU national holding a "long-stay D visa" issued by one member state could travel to any other member states for a maximum period of three months in any half year, under the same conditions as the holder of a residence permit.

To reflect this increased freedom, long-stay visas will become valid for no more than one year. If a third-country national has been awarded a visa for a period greater than 12 months, the long-stay visa will need to be replaced before it expires by a residence permit allowing permanent free-travel.

The 25-member Schengen area includes most EU countries, plus Switzerland, Norway and Ireland. Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus are excluded but are expected to join in the future, while Britain and Ireland enjoy a permanent exclusion from the area. Denmark is also out, but has the choice of taking part in Schengen rules on a case-by-case basis.

Icesave 'a bilateral issue which should not delay EU negotiations' - Füle

Monday, 8 March 2010
Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle (Photo: European ParliamentWhether Iceland should reimburse the UK and the Netherlands money lost by British and Dutch savers in the Icesave crash is “a bilateral one and should not affect the country's EU accession prospects” Štefan Füle, the Enlargement Commissioner, left, told the European Parliament this evening.

Addressing members of the Foreign Affairs Committee in a specially-convened session in Strasbourg this evening, Mr Füle said that while the Commission had "taken note" of the result of the referendum which saw Icelanders resoundingly reject a deal to reimburse the British and Dutch governments, the Commission did not expect the referendum result to prevent EU leaders from giving their go-ahead at the end of March to start EU-Iceland accession negotiations.

"This is a matter for the people of Iceland to decide,” he said. “As such, the results of the referendum are quite distinct from Iceland's accession process. Icesave is a bilateral issue between Iceland and two member states."

Mr Füle then reaffirmed that “there will be no fast-track procedure, no shortcut to EU membership. The criteria that need to be fulfilled are the same for all applicant countries based on the 'own merits' principle,” before outlining some of the many advantages for the Union in admitting the Nordic country.

"Icelandic membership would contribute to strengthening the Union's role in advocating human rights and democratic values globally,” he said.

Thanks to its strategic geographic location Iceland would, as an EU member, strengthen the Union's strategic positioning in the North Atlantic area. Iceland also has considerable experience in the fields of renewable energy technologies, the protection of the environment and combating climate change," he stated.

Mr Füle’s statement was echoed by the Parliament's leading MEP on relations with Iceland, Cristian Dan Preda (EPP, RO) who said “Icesave is a bilateral file which should not have repercussions on accession".

In the November 2009 Albertini report, MEPs also stated clearly their view that ‘bilateral disputes should not constitute an obstacle to progress towards accession.’ However, Elmar Brok (EPP, DE) noted that Iceland is ideally located for energy supplies and yet only 33% of Icelanders would support joining the EU. "Can we negotiate with a population who is likely to say no in the end? The Norwegians told us no twice in the past!” he asked.

Icelanders resoundingly reject Icesave bill

Sunday, 7 March 2010
Voters in Iceland have resoundingly rejected a law to compensate the United Kingdom and the Netherlands for savings lost in the collapse of the country’s largest bank, Landsbanki, in the midst of the financial crisis in 2008.

An Icelander reads a referendum pamphlet in Reykjavik (Source: AP)Although only provisional results, 93% who voted in the referendum, the first held since 1944 when Iceland voted for its independence from Denmark, rejected the deal whereas less than 2% supported it.

When the bank collapsed, the British and Dutch paid out some £3.4 billion in compensation to those 400,000 savers who had lost money in the events, but they now want it back.

A referendum was called when Icelandic President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson refused to sign the deal into law and yet while polls consistently showed that Icelandic people believed the debts should be repaid, they bitterly resented being stuck with a bill for the mistakes of a handful of bankers under the watch of foreign governments.

One voter explained to journalists why he voted no as a means to express his opinion that his neighbours should not cover the debts. “I feel that citizens should not pay for the financial mistakes of companies,” he said. Another described the result as a “token of the people's unhappiness with a flawed system.

With a timid population of only 320,000 people on the island, each household has become effectively liable to pay Britain and the Netherlands something in the region of £8,500

Speaking to the BBC this morning Chancellor Alistair Darling told the Politics Show that the UK would get its money back, but not for many years.

"It's not a matter of whether the sum should be paid. There is no question we will get the money back but what I am prepared to do is to talk to Iceland about the terms and conditions of the repayment," he said.

You couldn't just go to a small country like Iceland with a population the size of Wolverhampton and say: 'Look, repay all that money immediately.’

Icelandic Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson said talks with the UK and the Netherlands would continue after the referendum, adding that the result was good for his government's position.

"It certainly doesn't weaken our hand," he said. Although with EU candidacy in the pipeline, finding a quick solution would prevent two of its members throwing a few less spanners in the accession process…

Last election:

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