La Treizième Étoile: 03/04/11 - 10/04/11 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
My tweets (@SWUKinEU)
Which MEP best represents your political views? My intriguing results.

Saturday, 9 April 2011
VoteWatch.eu (a fantastic website which provides easy to understand coverage and analysis of political decisions taken and activities of the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers) has launched a new interactive tool that claims it can calculate which MEPs currently best represent your personals interests in Brussels and Strasbourg.

So I thought I’d give EP VoteMatch a try, and after indicating which way I would vote on 11 reports of widespread interest that have divided MEPs during this session and then ranking how important the issue was to me (low, average, high), I hesitantly clicked submit. Which MEP it would reveal votes closest to how I would have?

The result was indeed very interesting: The UK MEP who voted closest to my views was Jill EVANS, a Plaid Cymru member who sits with the Greens/EFA group (pictured below, top). In fact, the closest three MEPs are all Greens, before then a clutch of Liberal Democrat MEPs including the South West’s Graham Watson. (Unsurprisingly, the UK’s Conservative and UK’s members of the European Parliament do not vote along the same lines as me.)

Across the whole Parliament, the MEP who most matched my views was Angelika WERTHMANN, an Austrian independent who sits amongst the Non-Attached members, is a member of the EP delegation for relations with the countries of South Asia, and first arrived in Brussels following the June 2009 elections (pictured below, bottom).

Print screen of Votewatch.eu results for UK MEPs. Images top: Jill EVANS MEP, bottom: Angelika WERTHMANN MEPYou don’t have to know everything about EU politics to use this tool since you can get more information on the resolution in question and exactly how MEPs voted with a simple click of the mouse as you enter your responses. So why not have a go yourself: which MEP represents your views the most? You might also get an interesting result.



Parliament moves quickly to approve new rules on Bluetongue vaccinations

Thursday, 7 April 2011
The European Parliament has this week moved quickly to back plans to reduce red tape and allow for farmers to voluntarily vaccinate their animals against the bluetongue disease before the summer, when an outbreak is likeliest.

The decision still has to be ratified by the European Council in May, but it paves the way for the UK to move out of the low-risk zone category, qualifying it for disease-free status while retaining permission to vaccinate livestock.

Bluetongue, a non-contagious virus spread by midges, was first discovered in South Africa but since 2006 has been found in Europe the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, northern France and in the UK. In August 2008 two cases of bluetongue were discovered in rams near Lewes in East Sussex and Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, and the disease was later also found in eight imported cattle on premises near Tiverton in Devon and a month later in cattle near Yeovil, Somerset. The affected animals in these instances had all been imported into Britain from the Continent, and the outbreaks killed many animals and caused heavy losses to farmers.

Despite no further cases being reported in the UK since then, Britain cannot be given bluetongue-free status under current rules because farmers have used the existing live attenuated vaccines that carry the risk of virus transmission.

Vaccination is currently only allowed in designated zones where there is an outbreak and the animals are subjected to movement restrictions, but under the resolution approved today by MEPs with 587 votes in favour, 1 vote against and 19 abstentions, current restrictions could be lifted and newly-available "inactivated vaccines" with no transmission risk can be used by farmers at anytime.

Speaking in the debate held before the Parliament’s vote, South West Conservative MEP Julie Girling urged common sense to prevail and MEPs allow the existing restrictions be lifted to ensure farmers can vaccinate their livestock before the summer.

For too long, our vaccination strategy has been held back by the fact that we have not developed sophisticated enough products to allow vaccination of animals outside exclusion zones,” she said.

Being in an exclusion zone can be disastrous for a farmer’s livelihood. It can also be disastrous not to protect your animals from disease, especially one as damaging and virulent as bluetongue.


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Damanaki sets a date for unveiling Commission’s proposals for radical reform of the CFP

Tuesday, 5 April 2011
Maria Damanaki, as seen by Marco Villard (Image: European Voice)The Commission aims to have its proposals for a new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) ready for scrutiny on Wednesday 13th July, Maria Damanaki, the European Commissioner for Fisheries told the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee in a special session in Strasbourg last night.

Convened to discuss the Commission’s political and legislative priorities for 2012, Ms Damanaki said the CFP reform package will go to inter-service consultation within the Commission next week, with the intention to have it ready for a decision when the college meets in mid-July.

Only then will the proposal go to the Council and the Parliament for its first reading, with MEPs set to receive the proposals just days before the Parliament’s rises for its summer recess.

Of particular interest will be how Ms Damanaki’s intends to radically reform the EU’s policy on fish discards which she recently described as a ‘nightmare’ and has been dubbed by campaigners as ‘no longer fit for purpose’.



After the Cornish Pasty, could South West beef and lamb be next to gain PGI status?

Monday, 4 April 2011
After a long, nine-year wait, the distinctive and delicious Cornish Pasty finally received Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status last month after receiving final approval from the European Commission. Now, after a similarly long wait, confidence is growing that beef and lamb produced in the South West could shortly receive the same protected status.

Meat South West, which acts as an industry focal point with knowledge of most of the red meat activity in the region, first applied for the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status eight years ago, and hopes the wait will soon be over and red meat produce from the Westcountry will receive the same protected status already granted to beef and lamb produced in Scotland and in Wales.

Farmers in Devon and Cornwall claim beef and lamb reared in the South West tastes better because of a grass fed diet, and should the European Commission grant their produce PGI, it will surely help them by resulting in higher export prices and better sales.

As a condition for carrying the PGI symbol on the meat’s packaging, shown left, farmers will have to meet some set criteria and while the source animal doesn't have to be a native Westcountry breed - it does has to be born, bred, reared and grass-fed within the greater South West.

The application for PGI status will be considered by the European Commission later in the year, but the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said it was optimistic a positive conclusion will be made by the end of 2011.

SEE ALSO:
European Voice
- How arbiters of taste decide on quality (31/03)


EU approaches FIA over setting-up of electric car Formula 1 championships

Europe - part of the 2011 Formula 1 poster series by PJ Tierney (Photo: pjtierney.net)Europeans have always been leading figures in the motor sport, and as the new Formula 1 calendar kicks off at the weekend, the Financial Times this morning carries a story ('EU seeks F1 buzz for electric Grand Prix') that the European Commission has asked the Formula One's governing body to set up a championship racing series for electric cars held at the major circuits used for current Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The idea, which the report reveals has been discussed by the European Industry and Entrepreneurship Commissioner Antonio Tajani and the President of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) Jean Todt, is an attempt to increase "public awareness and excitement about new technology vehicles".

According to the paper, Mr Tajani, who is pushing member states to increase the adoption of electric cars said "one of the priorities of my mandate is to give a concrete start to the ultimate conversion of the European car industry".

We want as soon as possible to have new categories with new energy,” Mr Todt said, adding that the first season for electric car racing could take place as soon as 2013.

The European Union is keen to promote greater usage of electric vehicles - the Green Car Initiative has been included in the European Economic Recovery Plan, around €50m has been set aside by the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport for electric vehicles and related infrastructure, and the 27 EU leaders have agreed to develop a unified system for recharging electric cars for implementation this year.

With safety in the forefront of their minds, the Commission is expected to shortly make it compulsory that electric cars produce artificial noises when running as many models to date are very silent when in motion and so can be dangerous to pedestrians and other road users.

That said, don’t expect to see hybrid engines in Formula 1 cars in the near future, Mr Todt is reportedly already meeting fierce resistance from Bernie Ecclestone, F1’s chief, over such plans from the 2013 F1 season.



Watson leads liberal calls for 'consistent EU policy towards authoritarian regimes'

Sunday, 3 April 2011
Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya: as the EU scrambles to react and formulate a common position to the latest developments in the Middle East, South West liberal MEP Graham Watson has tabled a European Parliament recommendation to the European Council calling for the development of a consistent policy towards authoritarian regimes.

Tabled soon after NATO agreed to assume control of the military operation in the North African country, Mr Watson’s recommendation on behalf of the ALDE group (B7-0235/2011) calls for the expanding and strengthening the range of restrictive measures imposed on recognised authoritarian regimes by also targeting their personal and commercial actions within the EU.

It calls for a consistent European policy that will deny authoritarian leaders and their prime associates the right to own property or hold money in EU countries, from travelling within the EU, from operating business interests within the EU and from educating their families in EU countries.

Furthermore, it calls on the European Council, composed of the leaders of the 27 EU Member States, to actively involve third party countries in enforcing this policy.

The EU has already imposed sanctions on the Gaddafi regime and individual member states have pushed for military action at the UN and secured a mandate for action under a UN Security Council Resolution 1973 which authorises ‘all necessary measures’ to protect civilians in Libya, but Germany was a key absentee from those in favour.


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