La Treizième Étoile: 19/12/10 - 26/12/10 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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Expelled MEP wins discrimination case against UKIP

Wednesday, 22 December 2010
Former UKIP MEP Nikki SinclaireA former UKIP MEP, who back in January was expelled from the party after refusing to be part of the multi-national group it joined in the European Parliament, has won her legal claim that the party discriminated against her because she was a lesbian.

West Midlands MEP Nikki Sinclaire had the party whip removed from her after she refused to sit with her own party members in parliamentary meetings after stating some of UKIP's allies in the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) grouping had "extreme views". She has sat as a Non-Attached member ever since.

After being prevented from standing for UKIP as a parliamentary candidate in the May General Election, in November she was moved to lodged a lawsuit against the party claiming it discriminated against her, and she learnt the verdict at an employment tribunal held earlier today in Exeter, near where the Party’s head office is registered.

Since UKIP offered no defence in the matter, a default judgment was made in Ms Sinclaire’s favour and a hearing to decide whether to award compensation is now set to take place on Wednesday 29th December.

According to a dispatch tonight from the Press Association, the judgment, in which both UKIP leader Nigel Farage and fellow MEP Godfrey Bloom were both listed as respondents, found that “the claim of sexual orientation discrimination is well founded”.

Ms Sinclaire alleges she was "abused and intimidated" by Mr Bloom in the hallways of the European Parliament – an allegation Mr Bloom denies and remains under investigation for.

The AP reports that the party failed to lodge a defence in the case because of “an administrative error” and that an application for the judgment to be set aside “had been filed”, but reacting to the verdict Ms Sinclaire is quoted as saying "I'm very saddened by how this has all turned out. I feel betrayed by the party.

When I joined UKIP in 1994 it certainly wasn't a career move,” she said. “I did my bit in building UKIP up to second in a national election and they have repaid me with discrimination.

In 2004, Ms Sinclaire surprised fellow party members when she outed herself in a letter to the gay newspaper The Pink Paper, and in the same piece revealed that UKIP had a sizeable, but secret, homosexual membership.

MEPs give green light to European ‘blue plaque’ Heritage scheme

Monday, 20 December 2010
One of the developments from the recent European Parliament plenary session that has received less press coverage across the media is that MEPs have thrown their weight behind an initiative to brand monuments and sites across the bloc with a ‘European Heritage Label’.

Modelled on the United Nations’ World Heritage program, it is hoped the label will foster a common identity and strengthen European citizens' sense of belonging to the European Union as it will be awarded to historical sites across Europe that "symbolise European integration, ideals and history".

It replaces an existing intergovernmental arrangement that has been in place since 2006, but MEPs convening in Strasbourg were keen to ensure that the new label was not merely a transformation of the existing scheme and so adopted an amendment that means each member state must to pre-select up to two sites every two years and each site that currently carries the label must re-apply.

One site per EU country would then be chosen by the European Commission, with the help of a geographically balanced panel of 13 independent experts nominated by Parliament, the Council, the Commission and the Committee of the Regions.

The European Heritage Label had already been awarded to 64 places, although interestingly not to a single site in the UK.

A relic of ancient Greece and a symbol of democracy, the Acropolis in Athens (Greece) was one of the first recipients of the label alongside the shipyards of Gdansk (Poland) where the Solidarity movement that helped bring an end to communism evolved. The French home of Robert Schuman, a founding father of the European Union was also one of the original sites, as too the birthplaces of Italian composers Rossini, Puccini and Verdi.

Costing less than €1 million a year to administer, Androulla Vassiliou, the European commissioner of Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said the initiative had a price that was "small compared to the potential educational and tourist benefits".

One of the potential sites already being touted as the first in the UK is Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, the site of the British efforts to break the Nazi codes during the Second World War and thus played a pivotal role in the creation of Europe as we know it today.

But where else in the UK could merit the European Heritage Label? Back in March, when the Commission proposal first appeared before MEPs, the Independent drew up a list of possible places “both serious and less so, which is broadly similar to the sites already accepted for 17 other EU nations”.

Top of the tongue-firmly-in-cheek shortlist is the Channel Tunnel linking Britain to the European continent which “made an enormous contribution to European unity” since “the European continent, previously isolated from the rest of the world, was finally connected to Britain”.

The small town of Sandwich in Kent “to symbolise Britain's principal contribution to European cuisine” was also touted, as too is Grantham, the Lincolnshire hometown of Iron Lady Baroness Margaret Thatcher who signed the Single European Act to create a properly unified European single market for the first time (and also demanded Britain’s money back), and Upholland, the Lancashire hometown of the current and first ever EU High Representative of Foreign Affairs, Baroness Catherine Ashton...

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