La Treizième Étoile: 26/06/11 - 03/07/11 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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MEPs adopt text calling on the Commission to tackle corruption in sport

Saturday, 2 July 2011
Sepp Blatter (Photo: Telegraph)Corruption in sport benefits the few to the detriment of many, gives it a bad name and leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Examples are being more numerous and high-profile: in 2010 the cricket world was stunned when the News of the World exposed a £150,000 scam involving members of the Pakistani cricket team. Then just four weeks ago in Zurich, amongst widespread allegations of vast corruption within FIFA, Sepp Blatter, left, was again re-elected head of football’s global governing body - the sole candidate in an election widely branded as a total farce. The reputation of the governing body has been left tarnished and its credibility battered.

This week in Brussels, MEPs have succeeded in moving corruption in sport further up the agenda after a written declaration on combating corruption in sport was adopted.

The written declaration (0007/2011), which functions in a manner similar to an Early Day Motion in the British House of Commons, achieved the required 368 signatures which now forces the European Commission to investigate the proposals.

Calling for a large-scale study to be conducted looking at corruption in European sport, focusing especially on links between organised crime and illegal betting, sport agents, referees, club officials, sportsmen, MEPs also want the European Commission to regulate online betting in order to combat match fixing and ensure fairness in sport.

A supporter and signatory of the motion, the South West MEP Sir Graham Watson was pleased it was adopted and looked forward to the Commission taking action on the matter. In a statement he commented, “It is very depressing that doping, match fixing and illegal gambling still exist at the highest levels of sport.

As the majority of our sports are administered at a European level, we must find a European strategy. With the level of support shown in Parliament and the popular will of citizens, I trust the Commission will take this matter very seriously as we move towards effective legislation on the issue,” he said.

No doubt the embarrassment caused by the recent corruption scandals in FIFA has been discussed in pubs across the South West. It is a hot topic and I welcome the fact that the UK authorities are taking such a strong stance on the matter, even, at times, in the face of unpopularity as was the case during the recent unopposed re-election of Sepp Blatter.

Sport is now a field in which EU enjoys competency following the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty. This is the 19th written declaration to have been adopted by MEPs in this parliamentary term.


Poland assumes EU presidency as Hungary signs off by sealing Croatia accession deal

Friday, 1 July 2011
For the first time since joining the European Union in 2004, Poland have assumed the six-month rotating presidency which is likely to be a difficult one at a difficult time for the 27-member bloc.

Hungary's Victor Orban (left) officially hands over the EU presidency to Poland's Donald Tusk (right) in Warsaw (Photo: EUObserver/ Poles take over from the Hungarians, who rounded off their successful six month stint in typically dramatic fashion sealing a late political deal on Croatia’s eventual succession to full EU member in a last mini-summit yesterday evening. The task of translating that agreement into an accession treaty now begins before it then can be signed and ratified by the existing 27 EU members – as well as the Croats in a referendum – a process that should be completed in time for the target entry date of 1st July 2013.

After the official handover of the EU flag conducted in Warsaw this afternoon, Poland’s PM Donald Tusk delivered an encouragingly optimistic speech in which he passionately defended the EU, without mentioning names criticised the “egoistic national interests” and accused current European leaders of hypocrisy and myopia.

Then, rounding on the leaders of the big-four (Germany, France, Italy and Britain) over their handling of the crisis in Greece, immigration, EU spending and the budget, he charged them with posing as European champions while pandering to a new form of euroscepticism for personal political gain. These were strong words and an encouraging statement of intent.

Mr Tusk said he would use his country’s six-month presidency to try to restore some sense of common purpose and confidence to a 27-member bloc in what is very troubling times, but his presidency will fall victim to the summer vacation that falls at the start of their term. He will therefore be under pressure to get results in the final four months of the year, not least successfully negotiate his own challenges at home with national elections penned for October.

Powodzenia Polska!

Ashley Fox and Julie Girling reflect on their first two years in the European Parliament

Wednesday, 29 June 2011
South West MEPs Ashley Fox (l), Julie Girling (r) and Giles Chichester (standing) in Strasbourg (Photo: Fox and Julie Girling (left, both seated) joined "veteran" South West Conservative MEP Giles Chichester in the European Parliament following the elections in June 2009. In the first instalment of a feature on the ConservativeHome website, they have joined four fellow "newbie" Tory MEP to reflect on their first two years in Brussels and Strasbourg within the sidelined ECR group.

While their responses are somewhat expected, Mr Fox does make a few telling observations about how the Parliament’s become more prominent as an institution, how influential the two big groupings are within it, and how impressive the language skills are amongst its staff.

What follows is the first set of questions and answers as posted on ConservativeHome:

1. Have any of your views about the EU changed after seeing its institutions work at close quarters?

Ashey Fox: I was genuinely surprised at the amount of attention the Commission pays to the Parliament and MEPs. I had expected them to ignore us, but my experience is very positive. To give but one example, one Commissioner agreed to meet me regarding a constituent's problem and has helped in sorting it out.

Julie Girling: Yes my views have changed... I was expecting a bureaucratic nightmare at the Commission, Parliament and Council and this has proved to be the case, but I have been appalled by the way that these institutions have only one direction of travel. Once a report is written at the Commission and proposed to parliament it takes on a life and momentum of its own. There are no effective mechanisms for pulling back or abandoning proposals. Any mechanisms that do exist are rarely, if ever, used. The lesson is "never start a ball rolling or suggest anything unless you are absolutely sure that you want it".

2. Has anything surprised you?

AF: The amount of power wielded by the leaders of the two largest Groups (EPP and S&D) and the extent to which they work very closely together. The Daul & Schultz show really does run this place - at the expense of not only the other political Groups but also individual MEPs in those Groups.

JG: I have been surprised at the sheer volume of work; keeping an eye on this, the goings-on in Brussels, is a mammoth task.

3. What has most impressed or depressed you?

AF: I have been impressed by the language skills of so many foreign MEPs. Several things have depressed me: firstly, the failure to deal with the EU´s accounts after so many years, and secondly, the constant talk of the need for the EU to have more money. I just don't understand how the Commission and so many MEPs cannot see the gross hypocrisy in demanding more money for the EU, whilst almost all the nation states are imposing austerity.

JG: I've been most impressed by the dedication of a lot of my colleagues and unimpressed by the contempt the institutions show for the people of Europe: for example. They tell us all to cut CO2 emissions, but insist on making us all travel to Strasbourg once a month; they call for European taxes but make sure that Eurocrats have dispensation to pay the lower EU income tax if they work in Brussels... I could go on.
Click here to read the responses of the other four “newbie” Tory MEPs.

UPDATE - 01/07:

The second and final set of questions and answers has been posted on ConservativeHome this morning. Here follows the remaining comments from the region's MEPs, including Ms Girling's admission she's become even more eurosceptic (playing to the gallery?), and Mr Fox revealing he's proud he's the subject of fierce criticism from the French government:

4. What is you proudest achievement thus far?

Ashley Fox: Passing the "Fox amendment" to the European Parliament´s calendar for 2012. This reduced the number of times the EP has to travel to Strasbourg - saving time, money and CO2). This enraged the French government who have now taken the Parliament to the Court of Justice. I have also been named in the French Senate as the author of this pernicious amendment!

Julie Girling: My proudest achievement on a personal level was becoming Chief Whip of the Conservative Delegation, but, on behalf of my constituents, it would have to be launching a successful campaign to protect bees and pollinators which has included being Rapporteur on an opinion. We have secured funding for Europe-wide research and development, much of it being spent in the UK.

5. Has your experience made you more or less sceptical of the 'European project'?

AF: I was opposed to "ever closer political union" before I was elected and I remain so.
JG: I am now more Eurosceptic!

6. Have you any other thoughts or reflections you'd like to share after your first two years as an MEP?

AF: I wish our Government, Civil service and MPs would pay closer attention to how EU directives are implemented in the UK. "Gold Plating" is a real problem for the UK. Unfortunately, detailed scrutiny of European legislation by the House of Commons is very rare. I guess it isn't very sexy work, but if it isn´t done then it is the UK that suffers.

Click here to read the responses of the other four “newbie” Tory MEPs (part ii).

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Girling cancels billed appearance with controversial Polish priest at last minute owing to 'toothache'

Sunday, 26 June 2011
Polish priest Father Rydzyk at the European Parliament on Tuesday, where he attended a conference on climate change. (Photograph: to an article published in the Guardian this week, a controversial Polish priest known for running a radio station that regularly broadcasts anti-semitic and homophobic views attended the European Parliament on Tuesday at the express invitation of MEPs from the group home to the British Conservative members.

Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, above left, whose Radio Maryja station has been criticised by the Vatician, former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and Jewish organisations for its extreme views, reportedly appeared at a four-hour conference to discuss climate change and renewable energy.

Organised by Marek Grobarczyk and Tomasz Poreba, two Polish MEPs who are members of the ECR, the event also had a certain British MEP, the South West’s own Julie Girling, on the bill to speak at the meeting, but she mysteriously pulled out at the last minute – citing “toothache” as her excuse.

The Guardian reports that Father Rydzyk’s attendance provoked a “surprising outburst from British MEP TImothy Kirkhope, the deputy chairman of the ECR group, who said that he was disappointed not to have been told in advance that such a controversial figure had been invited to attend by fellow MEPs

But the questions remains – and rightly so – why was Mrs Girling on the bill in the first place? This query was echoed by South West Liberal Democrat MEP Graham Watson who tweeted:

Good to see Tory MEP Julie Girling pull out of a talk with an anti-semitic Polish broadcaster,why on earth are they allied with these people?214 days ago via web | powered by @socialditto

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