La Treizième Étoile: 23/05/10 - 30/05/10 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
My tweets (@SWUKinEU)
Comment: Eurovision Song Contest 2010 - why the UK entry will bomb again and political voting will be rife...

Saturday, 29 May 2010
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Another robbery at the European Parliament - how is it possible?

Friday, 28 May 2010
According to sources in Brussels there has been another robbery inside the European Parliament building in the heart of the EU in the Belgian capital – the second such incident in just 15 months.

European Parliament by ajburgess, on FlickrIn a message posted on Twitter by Jaume Duch, the Parliament’s Director of Media, an employee of Sodexo was robbed as she was transporting money from the Parliament’s canteen.

Reportedly the proceeds of the day’s trading in the canteen, the robber made off with around €2,500 (£1,800). As a consequence, nobody was allowed in or out to the Parliament building without a bag search.

This naturally raises very big questions over security in and around the building. The canteen is located in the lower ground floor of the main building and can only be accessed by passing through metal detectors and pass checks. However, while all members of the public are able to participate in tours of the building, they are only subject to these same measures – clearly this has been proved to be insufficient.

The ING branch in the European Parliament buildingBack in February 2009, in what came as a shock to all staff who work in the Parliament building, an armed robber managed to hold up an ING bank branch located also in the lower ground floor of the Paul-Henri Spaak building inside the Parliament building in Brussels after evading the institution's security system.

While many are still unsure whether it was a real weapon or a fake one, it was enough to make staff hand over €60,000 (£54,000) cash that was in their drawer and place the security services on high alert.

If the robber's weapon was indeed real then it poses big questions about security at the EU complex, notably to know what badge he used to get in.

But it is widely acknowledged that the European Parliament has a low profile security presence compared to the European Commission and European Council complexes, mainly because of its capacity for hosting daily tour groups.

The Parliament’s buildings in Brussels are visited by an average 15,000 people a day, which naturally makes it difficult to maintain foolproof security at all times.

"We can never guarantee 100 percent security," Mr Duch explained to the media after the February 2009 incident, “but this is the European Parliament and as such must remain a public building open and accessible to European citizens.

Another enquiry is thus required to again investigate the efficiency of the security measures in light of this latest incident.

MEPs support Estonia's Euro currency ambitions

Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Estonian Kroons by Mayu ;P, on FlickrIt would appear the Estonian Kroon’s days as the national currency are numbered as MEPs today voiced their approval at Estonia’s progress towards adopting the single currency.

In a meeting of the Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee in Strasbourg today, MEPs from all sides voiced their support for Estonia's imminent adoption.

Gay Mitchell (EPP, IRE) also welcomed the fact "that such a small country becomes part of the Euro at such a time of wild speculation" and praising the country's "impressive performance", he said that Estonia could be a "flagship for the region", serving as an example to other Baltic countries that if "you do meet the criteria, you can join".

Edward Scicluna (S&D, MA), the author of the draft the report on Tallinn's Euro ambitions said that "it is very significant that such a small country knocks at the Eurozone's door at the time of the worst financial, economic and social crisis".

For some MEPs, the knock-on effect for Estonia's neighbours Latvia and Lithuania was the most striking aspect. Latvian EPP MEP Artūrs Krišjānis Kariņš expressed his belief that this will be "an important signal for the region".

As for the Liberal grouping, Swedish MEP Olle Schmidt said "congratulations to Estonia - if it only could have been my own country".

Mr Scicluna’s report is due to be put to the vote in the June plenary session of the Parliament.

If adopted, another barrier is overcome towards the Kroon being replaced by the Euro in the Baltic state.

SEE ALSO: Estonia gets Commission green light to adopt Euro in 2011

Queen's Speech confirms ruling UK Tory party's Eurosceptic intentions

Tuesday, 25 May 2010
HM The Queen Elizabeth II delivers her traditional Queen's Speech (Photo: The Times)As expected and as previously revealed by both Prime Minister David Cameron and his Foreign Secretary William Hague, the Conservative Party’s eurosceptic plans to make any future transfer of powers to the European Union subject to a full referendum of the British public was outlined by Her Majesty the Queen this morning in her traditional Queen's Speech to open the latest session of the British Parliament.

Big in name, big in potential political impact, the European Communities (Amendment) Referendum Lock Bill will undoubtedly fuel huge tensions within the ranks of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, since the Liberals are pro-European and in Nick Clegg have a former MEP as its leader.

The new bill will please eurosceptics with its plans to legislate to put in place a 'referendum lock' whereby any future transfer of powers to the European Union requires a referendum vote.

The same 'referendum lock' rules are set to be applied in the scenario if and when Britain decides it wants to join the Euro single currency, while primary legislation will be required for every passerelle clause which modifies the European treaties.

The moves are supposed to provide "real protection for our democracy" according to the Conservatives but many of the Liberal Democrat MPs who find themselves in coalition government will indeed find many of these measures difficult to accept.

The Conservatives are evidently very keen to drop anchor regarding the European Union’s progression, whereas the Liberal Democrats will be clinching to every single link in the chain.

There will be more to this potential scrap you can bet on that.

'There is a crisis – of course there is a crisis' - William Hague on the Euro

Monday, 24 May 2010
William Hague MP on the BBC Politics ShowFor those in mainland Europe unable to tune in, new eurosceptic British Foreign Secretary William Hague was on the Politics Show yesterday morning via videolink from Afghanistan and spoke about the situation there and also the current state of the Eurozone.

Predictably the message was 'although the Eurozone is in crisis, it is in Britain's interests that it does not collapse', here is what Mr Hague had to say:

“Well, there is a crisis – of course there is a crisis. The German chancellor said the Euro is in danger. So the language of crisis is there out on the airwaves.

"We don’t want the Euro to be in crisis, I’m a long-standing opponent of Britain joining the Euro but we don’t want the Euro to collapse or countries to pull out of it, because of course that kind of crisis is very bad for Britain and affects financial confidence across the board.

"So yes I’d say there’s something of the atmosphere of a crisis but this just reinforces the point that countries have to bring their deficits under control, give the world confidence that countries with great debts will bring them under control. That is the best answer to this situation."

So is there any chance of the UK contributing financially to ensuring the Eurozone does not collapse? (Something which the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling emphatically ruled out...)

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