La Treizième Étoile: 05/06/11 - 12/06/11 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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Arise Sir Graham! South West MEP honoured with knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours List

Saturday, 11 June 2011
Graham Watson, the long-serving liberal Democrat MEP for the South West England and Gibraltar, has been awarded a Knighthood “for public and political services” by her Majesty the Queen in her annual Birthday Honours List released this morning.

Mr Watson, now residing in Langport (Somerset), was born in Rothesay (Scotland) and was first elected to serve the residents of the South West in the European Parliament in the 1994 elections.

He was the first ever British Liberal Democrat to be elected to the European Parliament.

From 1994 to 1999, Mr Watson served a member of the Committee for Economic & Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy as well as the Budgets Committee, and later from July 1999 to 2002 he served as Chairman of the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs.

He served as leader of the Liberal Democrat party for three years between 1999 and 2002 when he was elected leader of the Liberal ALDE group within the European Parliament. Under his leadership, the Liberal group grew to become the 3rd largest party in the assembly and are today often kingmakers whose support is vital in order to pass motions that shape the European Union.

After seven and a half years at the helm, Mr Watson relinquished the leader role for former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt in July 2009, but still plays a big role on the backbenches and as Chair of the delegation to India, a member of the delegation to China, and a member of the hallowed Committee of Foreign Affairs.

He becomes the second in the current batch of UK MEPs to have received a knighthood. Conservative MEP for the North West Sir Robert Atkins was knighted in 1997 for services to the country.

Congratulations Sir Graham!


UPDATE (11/06: 20.02):
It would appear that the knighthood bestowed on the Lib Dem MEP has not been received kindly within the UKIP ranks. In fact, it has "appalled" William Dartmouth, one of UKIP's South West MEPs. In a statement posted on the group's website, he says: "The award of a knighthood to Graham Watson [...] serves to underline all that is wrong with the honours system, in respect of establishment politics. I find it hypocritical that Sir Graham, as he now is, an avowed anti-monarchist, and leading light in the campaign pressure group Republic, should accept this award in, what is, afterall, Her Majesty's Birthday Honours list." Perhaps a congratulatory card is in the post...

UPDATE (13/06: 17.45):
Sir Graham Watson has responded to his award of a knighthood and expressed his belief the honour was in recognition of his services to the Liberal Democrats in Europe and his work introducing the European Arrest Warrant. Speaking on BBC Radio Devon, he said: "I take it as an honour, not for myself but for all those Liberal Democrats who have worked for the kind of things I am working for.

"I think my republican sympathies are well known. I have long been of the opinion that, while Her Majesty should remain on the throne for as long as she sees fit, we should be preparing now for the election of a president to succeed her. I'm not the only person to hold these views and not the only person to be honoured in this way.

"There is an irony of course", he continued, "I would certainly not wish, in any way, to offend Her Majesty, who must be aware of my republican sympathies."


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SW MEP says 'Save the Fish!' and calls on UKIP to get their act together and do so too

Thursday, 9 June 2011
Graham Watson MEP with a big fish (Photo: grahamwatsonmep.org)The fishing industry is of great importance to many citizens in the South West, and one of its longest-serving MEPs, Graham Watson, has joined those backing plans for changes to Europe's fisheries policy, and has called for his two UKIP MEP colleagues to follow suit.

Maria Damanaki, the European Union’s Fisheries Commissioner, has already said she wants to install a science-led approach to fishing quotas and ban the wasteful practice of discarding fish into the sea, dead, when quotas have been exceeded. To do this fisheries management is expected to be transferred from Brussels to regional organisations involving local fishermen, food companies and environmentalists.

Mr Watson believes that Europe's seas are capable of supporting many more fish than now exist, but overfishing is a major threat. "Changes are needed urgently to ensure that people still have fish on the table in 30 years' time," he said. "In many European waters there are too many boats chasing too few fish. If we fail to take action we risk emptying the seas and betraying future generations."

Drawing attention to the lack of support expressed by his two fellow UKIP South West MEPs, Mr Watson also called on the UKIP-pers to get their act together: "All mainstream parties in the UK are supporting this campaign in Brussels, but not UKIP."

"I call on Trevor Colman and the Earl of Dartmouth to support this campaign for a sustainable future for our huge fishing community in the South West."


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A worst-kept secret no more: Martin Schulz to run for the Parliament's presidency

Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Martin Schulz (Photo: Flickr/S i Europaparlamentet)It’s been one of the worst-kept secrets in and around the corridors of the European Parliament but now it is finally official and confirmed: the German leader of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Martin Schulz will "certainly be a candidate for President of the European Parliament”.

He made this declaration during his regular press conference as the Parliament met for its monthly plenary in Strasbourg, and he will hope that in January 2012 all ‘goes to plan’ and he takes over from incumbent President Jerzy Buzek (from the EPP group) without opposition.

At the beginning of the current legislature in the summer of 2009, the two largest groups in Parliament – the centre-right EPP and the socialist S&D - struck a deal for the current legislative period that would see an EPP candidate head up the Assembly for the first half the five-year mandate and an S&D candidate assume this position for the second half. As a result, the S&D put forward no candidate in the Presidential election held during the July 2009 plenary session leaving Jerzy Buzek with sole opposition in the form of Swedish MEP Eva-Britt Svensson from the Nordic Green Left group who was overwhelmingly defeated by 555 votes to 89.

As such, Mr Schulz’s candidacy has, and has always had, the support of EPP group leader Joseph Daul, who commented: “We concluded a technical agreement and the EPP will respect it.

But according to the EU Observer this week, Mr Schulz’s coronation may not be the smooth ride he expects with the article referring to sources in the parliament's corridors that suggest “some members of the centre-right EPP group [are] potentially reluctant to give their backing to Schulz”.

At the same time, the Parliament's third largest group, the liberal ALDE group headed by former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, are “quietly assessing whether a candidate from their political family could secure the votes of enough dissatisfied centre-right deputies to come out on top in January's vote”.

Since Mr Schulz is not the most liked MEP in the chamber, any movement by MEPs to oppose his succession will be greatly helped by the fact that the presidential vote is a secret ballot, and requires only a simple majority.



MEPs and the Commission back Christine Lagarde's candidacy for IMF head

Tuesday, 7 June 2011
MEPs have today voiced their support for French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde’s candidature for the recently vacated position as head of the International Monetary Fund.

The position has traditionally been awarded to a European, with an American given the head of the World Bank position, but this year developing and emerging economies are pushing for the position to be awarded to a candidate from outside of Europe’s borders.

However, Ms Lagarde, who speaks near-perfect English, remains the leading candidate and favourite for the job, and has also received the support of the European Commission. In a statement delivered before MEPs meeting in Strasbourg for their June plenary session, the Economic Commissioner Olli Rehn told MEPs that the Commission would back her bid, saying she had "demonstrated global leadership" during France's presidency of the G20 and possessed “strong knowledge" of the EU's economies and decision-making bodies.

MEPs from all sides of the house then rose to speak in the short debate held last night and affirm her candidature and Europe’s influence in the global finance body. That is all except UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who instead spoke out against Ms Lararde's candidacy, describing her as a "Eurofanatic" and a "highly unsuitable candidate". [Footage of the debate below from BBC Democracy Live].


But she can count on the support of South West Conservative MEP Julie Girling. Appearing on Sky New’s Press Review two weeks previously, she said: “In Brussels [she is] certainly very well regarded, a great polyglot, and I admire her.

Forget the politics, she is a strong, powerful, and influential woman and I’d like, from that point of view, to see Christine get a good shot at this.[…] I think she’d be really good for this.


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