La Treizième Étoile: 18/09/11 - 25/09/11 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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South West MEPs clash over Commission proposals to scrutinise energy deals

Thursday, 22 September 2011
South West MEP Giles Chichester has vowed to fight the latest proposal from the European Commission to inspect and vet all major energy deals between EU Member States and other countries such as Russia, labelling them as the “worst kind of meddling”. But fellow MEP Sir Graham Watson has said it was no surprise “blue-in-the-face eurosceptics” such as Mr Chichester were “jumping up anddown decrying the move” and accused him of “fiddling while the planet burns”.

Günther Oettinger, the current European Commissioner for Energy, wants EU governments negotiating agreements with non-EU states to submit details of the arrangements to Brussels before giving them the greenlight.

Mr Chichester, the Conservative party’s spokesman on energy in Europe has lambasted these suggestions and in a statement saidour energy arrangements are Britain’s own business, not the Commission’s. This is an attempt to control and interfere with our individual trading interests on a new and deeply worrying scale […] These proposals pose all sorts of worrying questions about business confidentiality, commercial sensitivity and the fairness of any bidding process.

But Mr Oettinger insists that these new powers are needed to ensure that all future energy deals made with non-EU states comply withexisting EU law. Since taking up his Commissioner post, he has sought to givethe EU a more unified external energy policy and greater leverage innegotiations with the likes of Russia by speaking as one bloc. “This does not mean that the EU is going to be at the table of all negotiations,he told the Financial Times.“If we speak with one voice, I think we have a completely different weight.

This opinion is shared by fellow South West MEP Sir Graham Watson who in a recent article wrote that “when considered together, Europe's energy and electricity market is huge and if we stand together - we have serious clout, both in terms of influencing theworld's future energy direction and protecting ourselves from political crisesand price volatility.

"Of course, when this was announced - the blue-in-the-face eurosceptics in the UK, including my Conservative fellow MEP for the South West of England Giles Chichester, immediately started jumping up and down decrying the move as ‘meddling’. Commissioner Oettinger was accused of ‘fiddling while the Euro burns’. I would accuse Chichester of ‘fiddling while the planet burns’.

"Up until now, the EU's energy policy beyond its borders has often been a matter of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. I welcome this new proposal that will make sure that EU authorities and countries are fully aware of each other's energy deals with foreign countries," he said.

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Future of favourite West Country tipple saved thanks to four-year campaign from region’s MEP

Tuesday, 20 September 2011
The future of Cider Brandy, a favourite regional tipple, looks rosier today after a four-year campaign championed by one of the regions MEPs to correct an “gross oversight and ineptitude on the part of the previous British Government” that would have seen it excluded from products granted EU protected status ended in success.

Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson joined forces with local Cider Brandy producer Julian Temperley to secure protected geographical indication (PGI) status for the local speciality whose recipe will now be protected from “lesser imitations”. Other West Country products such as the Cornish Pasty, Exmoor Blue Cheese and Gloucestershire Perry already enjoy this protected status.

Commenting after the confirmation of PGI status, Sir Graham said: “This is excellent news. Today we learn that all 27 member states are supporting PGI status for Cider Brandy.”

“European PGI status protects a fine West Country tipple from lesser imitations,” he said. “It ensures that a centuries-old recipe can rightly be sold as cider brandy, both here and across the world. It is fantastic that it will now have the same legal protection as other drinks such as Champagne”.

The situation arose when despite written records of Somerset Cider Brandy dating back to 1678, the tipple was removed from a European Commission order in 2007 that defined which products could be described as brandy. After much lobbying, the European Commission reversed its decision and proposed that Cider Brandy be a recognised name. However, national government ministers in a meeting of the Council of Ministers disagreed and dropped this proposal meaning the use of the name by West Country producers was placed under threat.

Brandy is typically made by distilling wine which has grapes as its raw ingredient; but cider brandy is made by distilling cider which obviously instead has apples as its raw ingredient.

Another of our regions culinary treasures protected – that’s certainly good news we can all raise a glass to.


MEP Chichester supports call for obligatory spending and debt advice in school curriculums

Teaching student finance (Photo: Guardian)Giles Chichester, the Conservative MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, has backed a petition calling on the Government to introduce a compulsory element of spending and debt advice to the curriculum taught to secondary school students across the UK.

The petition, started by financial journalist Martin Lewis of Moneysupermarket and Moneysavingexpert fame, has so far collected over 65,000 signatures, some 35,000 shy of the 100,000 target required that once reached would trigger a House of Commons debate on the issue.

We're a financially illiterate nation, with millions caught by misselling, overborrowing and being ripped off. Is it any surprise we’ve just had a debt imbued financial crisis? This must change,” the petition blurb states. “Companies spend billions on marketing and teaching their staff to sell – it's time we got buyers' training. The most cost effective way to start is to ensure every child in the country gets a basic understanding of personal finance & consumer rights before leaving school.

Mr Chichester, an MEP since 1994 and current member of the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee, said: “Children need to be taught how to balance their personal income with their spending and be aware of the dangers of getting into debt which can result in marriage breakdown, loss of home and unemployment.

Many schools in the South West do teach pupils a basic course on personal finance but the majority do not. This situation must end. The Government needs to make the teaching of personal finance a priority within the school syllabus to help our children survive our complex consumer led society,” he said.

For more information, or to sign the petition, visit:

UPDATE (12/12/11):
The e-petition has reached the 100,000 signature mark and so the Government has notified the Backbench Business Committee in the House of Commons has and published the this official response.


Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.