La Treizième Étoile: 21/11/10 - 28/11/10 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
My tweets (@SWUKinEU)
South West MEP calls for increased EU cooperation on flood preparation know-how as Cornwall is struck again

Saturday, 27 November 2010
The South Western county of Cornwall has had more than its fair share of flooding in recent years. In August 2004 the village of Boscastle was nearly washed away, and then just last week the county was hit again by sudden heavy rainfall with rural towns such as Mevagissey very badly hit and many businesses fearing the damage will serious affect Christmas trade.

With the COP 16, United Nations Climate Change Conference meeting in Cancun, Mexico, this week it was somewhat timely that one of the South West region’s MEPs spoke in a debate on 'natural disasters in the EU' during the latest plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg to call for increased cooperation amongst EU member states in order to learn how to best prepare for extreme weather conditions.

Conservative MEP Julie Girling, who before called to Brussels served as a Councillor in Gloucestershire (which itself was exceptionally badly hit by flooding in the summer of 2007), speaking on behalf of her political grouping, said: “I think that early warnings are important, but we all know how quickly the weather moves and how quickly the weather changes. I wonder if it is really a good use of money to put a lot into early warnings on weather, which are already really there”.

It is about what you do when you get the warnings. As Mr [Dirk] Sterckx (ALDE, BE) has said, Europe could certainly add a great deal of value by having a situation in which we could learn from each other," she told the Chamber (watch video).

I know in the case of Gloucestershire, where I came from, we were greatly helped after the floods by connections most particularly with Austrian regions, where they had major experience of flooding in highly elevated areas. We did not have that.

I think it would be a very good idea for the Commission to focus on setting up some regional connections so that we can learn from each other about how we cope with this, because it clearly is not going to go away,” she said.


Martin Callanan voted new Tory leader in Europe amidst further turmoil within ECR group

Friday, 26 November 2010
Martin Callanan MEPBritish Conservative MEP Martin Callanan was this week elected as the new leader of the party in the European Parliament and immediately came under pressure to reaffirm the party’s commitment to the sidelined European Conservative and Reformist (ECR) grouping after its controversial Polish leader Michał Kaminski quit his native 'far-right' party saying it is "becoming too extreme".

Mr Callanan, 49, pictured left, was elected in the annual leadership ballot in Strasbourg and replaces the outgoing leader Timothy Kirkhope who announced last month he would not seek re-election.

First elected to Brussels in June 1999, Mr Callanan represents the North East constituency and became the first ever Tory MEP for the region normally regarded as a traditional Labour stronghold. He is now in his 11th year of service having been re-elected again in 2004 and 2009.

A current member of Parliament's Environment, Public Health and Food Safety committee (ENVI), he said he was “delighted and honoured” to have won and thanked Mr Kirkhope for his work in what he described as a “challenging and exciting time for Conservative MEPs”.

The EU currently stands at a crossroads, winded by the financial crisis and increasingly removed from the people it claims to represent,” he continued. “Conservative MEPs stand at the forefront in defending Britain's interests in the EU. We will continue to do so.

But within hours of his election he faced questions about the future of his party’s involvement in the troubled ECR grouping once labelled by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg as “a bunch of nutters, anti-Semites, people who deny climate change exists and homophobes”. The group’s controversial leader Kaminski and two MEP colleagues this week resigned from the Law and Justice party in Poland following a disagreement over policy in a move that has fuelled speculation of a split within the ECR and damaged its credibility.

But Mr Callanan rubbished the rumours, and told that “there are, clearly, divisions in the Law and Justice party but it is still an internal matter. Contrary to what has been reported in the last few days, we are committed totally to the ECR.” He revealed that he had spoken to the Prime Minister David Cameron about this and “he too said he was perfectly happy with the ECR and the way the group is progressing”.

Meanwhile, the South West's MEPs all got new jobs:
Ashley Fox was appointed to the Party's Bureau, Julie Girling was appointed new Chief Whip for the delegation and Giles Chichester was elected as deputy leader of the group.

It marks a return to frontline role in the group for Mr Chichester following his resignation in June 2008 after confessing he broke European Parliament rules by channelling some of his allowances through a family company. Back then his position was seen as untenable partly because he had been given the job of a ‘sleazebuster’ by Mr Cameron to ensure the integrity of Tory MEP expenses.

Fellow Tory MEP Emma McClarkin also joined Bureau while Syed Kamall was elected unopposed as Treasurer in what has been viewed as a “lurch to the right” by the Conservatives in Brussels.

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'The EU - What's In It For Me?' - a nice shiny new website for Brits from the European Commission

Thursday, 25 November 2010
The European Commission has this week launched a shiny new website for British citizens - - that promises a "no-nonsense guide to what the EU delivers" and hopes to go some way to addressing the many many many myths peddled to the people through the UK media.

On the last count, only 36% of Brits said the UK had benefited from EU membership – the lowest in the EU – and this hardly comes as a surprise when you recall just a few of the many EU myths that gained maximum exposure in the media: whether it be the EU banning the sale of eggs by the dozen (Daily Mail), banning moth balls (Telegraph), renaming the English Channel the ‘Anglo-French pond’ (Daily Mail), removing the Queen’s image from UK passports (Telegraph) or banning the sale of straight bananas or even renaming sausagesemulsified high-fat offal tubes” which of course was originally from ‘Yes, Minister’.

The site, entitled "The EU: what's in it for me?", also includes information on travelling and working in Europe and illustrates projects the EU funds in each region of the country – all of which is easily accessible and very informative. For example, in just a few clicks I can see where EU money has been spent in my region of the South West:

£22.5 million was spent on Newquay Airport which has greatly improved access to Northern Cornwall and bought investment through increased tourism, £100,000 was spent enhancing the City Academy in Bristol and £50 million was invested in the Eden Project near St Austell, Cornwall, which is a phenomenally interesting and fascinating attraction and a huge asset to the Westcountry.

Of course, some critics (eurosceptics naturally) have already branded it as "bordering on propaganda" and “a waste of money”, but don’t they say that about anything the EU does to provide information for citizens?

South West Liberal MEP Graham Watson says it will no doubt agitate Eurosceptics, but it is important people learn more about the EU: "there are so many false stories flying around about the EU, and the benefits of our membership are often less visible than work done at local or national level."

"It is important that people know more about the EU so they can truly recognise what it does well and what it does not," he said.

"After all, if we took as gospel all of the claims made by parties like UKIP, we would probably believe this cold weather was caused by someone in Brussels turning down the 'EU-thermostat'!"

I think this is a great website with lots of useful information and a great resource, so forget about the criticism and log on to find out what’s in EU membership for you.


Daily Express becomes first UK paper to overtly declare itself anti-Europe - but we've known that for years...

Daily Express front cover, Thursday 25 November 2010The Daily Express has never shied away from adorning its front page with massive headlines and a single accompanying and dominating image.

But tomorrow (Thursday 25th) the rag, also known as the Daily Ex-Princess or the Diana Express due to its habitual tendency to devote editorial space to conspiracy stories about the late Princess Diana, will hit the news-stands with "Get Britain Out of Europe" emphatically displayed across its front - overtly declaring its eurosceptic editorial stance and in the process becoming the first British newspaper to do so.

Despite the fact the papers' readers (and non-readers alike) have long recognised the anti-Europe editorial stance the daily newspaper, how long will it be before those nutters calling for the UK to leave the EU to proclaim it a victory for their campaign?

Let us not forget that it was the only paper to vehemently oppose UK entry into what became the European Economic Community and ever since its creation has featured a 'Crusader' unashamedly facing out from the right in the colours of St George on its masthead...

(Image: PoliticsHome).

Croatian to become EU's 24th official language once Croatia joins the bloc

Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Croatian will become an official language of the European Union when the country joins the EU, it has been revealed today.

AS reported over at, officials made the decision during talks on Croatia's accession when the negotiating chapter on institutions was closed two weeks ago.

The article reports that there had been concerns that some member states would demand that only a single language be admitted - a 'hybrid' of Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian known as BCS that is used at the UN's International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague.

The notable advantages to using such a 'hybrid' language understood across the whole region would be that no further action would be needed nor would additional translating and interpreting costs be incurred should the other countries eventually join the EU.

But it does make sense for the EU to adopt the tongue spoken in a member country as an official language even if quite similar to another as it does in most cases. For example, Czech and Slovakian are two languages that are as similar to one another as Croatian is to Serbian, yet both are official EU languages.

This news is likely to be welcomed in Croatia with the aforementioned article noting that some Croatian officials have said in the past that it would be almost impossible to get the of Croatian citizens in a referendum to join the EU if they failed to accept Croatian as an official language.

Currently the EU has 23 official languages of which include Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish. The minority Irish language, Gaelic, was added to this list in 2007 while ‘semiofficial’ status was also awarded to Basque, Catalan and Galician.

Croatia is furthest advanced in the process and could join as early as 2012.

UKIP MEP Bloom ejected over Nazi jibe but should face greater punishment

What is it about UKIP courting controversy? You could almost maintain a whole blog with the weekly/monthly outbursts from its leader Nigel Farage but now it seems the other members are stealing his thunder – albeit today in disgusting circumstances for which ‘shameful’ does not come close to describing.

During this morning’s European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg, UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom interrupted a speech...

Click here to continue reading...

Former Tory urges Cameron to extend coalition spirit to Europe by quitting the ECR and joining the Liberals

Monday, 22 November 2010
Edward McMillan-Scott MEPAs the British contingent of Conservative MEPs arrive in Strasbourg where they will vote for their new leader in the European Parliament, a former member of the party has proposed a radical move that would continue the spirit of coalition that the party endures back home in the UK.

Edward McMillan-Scott, a vice-president of the European Parliament who was expelled from the Conservative group and subsequently crossed the floor to join the Liberal ALDE group, has in a speech suggested David Cameron should abandon the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group - once described by Nick Clegg as “a bunch of nutters, anti-Semites, people who deny climate change exists and homophobes” – and follow his lead.

Mr McMillan-Scott, pictured left, believes the Liberal ALDE group is now “far closer to his sensibilities” since Mr Cameron’s eurosceptism has (mercifully) weakened since taking office, and that such a move would be in the country’s best interest because the ECR’s standing on the sideline has dented UK influence in the assembly.

Here follows some extracts from Mr McMillan-Scott’s speech to the AGM of the Liberal Democrat West Midlands group on Saturday 20th as reproduced on

"As prime minister he cannot afford to let his snappy nature get in the way of the national interest. He will have to accept that the ECR was a political disaster. During a welter of media criticism of his new group last October, the Economist described the ECR as 'a shoddy and shaming alliance'. By early November, Cameron's Euroscepticism was wilting. He declared that there would be no referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

In the European Parliament, the ECR is sidelined, impotent and fragile. For survival it relies on several individual MEPs to comply with the European Parliament's rules. It has no commissioners and Cameron's only ally in power is Petr Necas, the Czech prime minister. So while all the other EU leaders gather in pre-summit 'family' meetings to prepare the agenda - the EPP, Socialists, Liberals - Cameron has a twosome with Mr Necas.

As it is highly unlikely that the EPP would welcome him back, some form of link with the continental liberal family is the way forward for Cameron. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, which I joined earlier this year, is on the winning side in 90% of votes in the European Parliament. The LSE described the group as the 'king-makers', a phenomenon I witness when chairing the votes.

As Nick Clegg said during another leaders' debate about the EU, "size does matter". While the EPP governs 14 EU countries and deploys 13 Commissioners, the liberal family is also in government in 13 countries, has five prime ministers and no less than eight Commissioners.

Even if Cameron as prime minister enjoys good bilateral relations with Angela Merkel or Nicolas Sarkozy, it is his ministers, diplomats, civil servants and MEPs who need the throw-weight of a serious European political family in order to deliver for Britain in an increasingly powerful post-Lisbon European Union.

It is in the national interest that Cameron swallows hard and admits that he made a mistake. It would also show true character."

Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.