La Treizième Étoile: 15/01/12 - 22/01/12 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
My tweets (@SWUKinEU)
'Gibraltar, Español!' - new Spanish foreign minister’s jovial quip angers the Rock

Saturday, 21 January 2012
I think it's safe to say that Spain's new foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo Y Marfil has certainly got off to a rocky start. Video footage has emerged of an ill-advised quip he made after a press conference in the European Parliament that was televised, streamed live online, and immediately caused upset on the Rock.

Following the conclusion of the press conference held in Strasbourg on Wednesday morning, British Conservative MEP Charles Tannock (a long-standing member of the Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) in the Parliament) stepped up to the podium to congratulate the 67-year old Spaniard on his recent appointment.

However, in his reply, Mr Garcia-Margallo, smiling, quipped “Gibraltar, Español” - translated as "Gibraltar, Spanish!". Mr Tannock replied “We’ll have to talk [perhaps 'see'?] about that”.

Prior to his appointment as Foreign Minister, Mr Garcia-Margallo served for 17 years as an MEP making he and Mr Tannock long-term acquaintances. The comment was clearly made in jest and in a friendly manner, but nonetheless the video soon went viral on Twitter and local users were less than pleased to say the least.

While the Gibraltar Government has not commented officially on the Spanish minister’s choice of words, one source told the Gibraltar Chronicle: “He’s the head of Spanish diplomacy so you’d think he’d be, well, more diplomatic.

Interesting Economist debate concludes 'this house does not believe Britain should leave the EU'

The Economist have been hosting a debate this week on their website with the motion for debate: "This house believes that Britain should leave the EU". Throughout the week there have been guest contributions both for the motion (Tory MEP and Telegraph columnist Daniel Hannan) and against the motion (Labour MP Douglas Alexander) as well of course as comments submitted by users, with an ongoing daily vote. Despite the odd choices for guest contributors, it proved an interesting debating ground and the public have ultimately had their say and despite the best wishes of UKIP and Roger Helmer to sway the vote have rejected the motion ruling that the UK should remain part of the EU. The margin of victory a very respectable 57% vs 43%.

This house does not believe Britain should leave the EU. Final vote: Pro 43% | Con 57% 23 hours ago via HootSuite · powered by @socialditto

For me, this result just goes to show that when the "UK-EU debate" is not played out across the front pages of the right-wing UK tabloids and dictated by UKIP press releases, you can have a reasoned debate and ultimately vote the right way. Encouraging.

MEPs call for urgent and coordinated measures to halve food wastage in the EU

MEPs in Strasbourg have this week called for urgent and coordinated EU-wide measures to halve food waste by 2025 and to improve access to food for needy EU citizens in a resolution adopted on Thursday. It is estimated that almost 50% of edible and healthy food gets wasted along the entire food supply chain each year.

To drastically reduce food wastage by 2025, the resolution says new awareness campaigns should be run at both EU and national levels to inform the public how to avoid wasting food, Member States should introduce school and college courses explaining how to store, cook and dispose of food and also exchange best practices to this end. It also calls for the year 2014 to be designated as "European year against food waste".

Commenting ahead of the vote on Thursday, Sir Graham Watson, Lib Dem MEP for the South West said: "It is outrageous that almost £50 worth of food a month is thrown away by the average household in Britain. This amounts to almost 6.7 million tonnes. And let’s not forget the amount of water, animal feed, packaging and labour that would have gone into producing it. With an estimated 100,000 of the South West's children living in poverty it's barmy to even contemplate throwing away so much of our resources at great expense.

"To improve resource-efficiency at all stages of the supply chain we need both a coordinated European strategy as well as sharing of best practices across Member States,” he said. “Most importantly, however, all players in the food supply chain need to be brought on board and help devise guidelines to improve efficiency and minimize waste."

The report also asks the Commission to undertake a detailed analysis of the causes and economic, social and environmental effects of the disposal, wastage and land-filling targets by 2014.

The report’s rapporteur Salvatore Caronna (S&D, IT) described this as “an ethical but also an economic and social problem, with huge implications for the environment […] the ball is now in the Commission's court. We expect nothing less than a convincing EU strategy that will steer all 27 Member States to systematically tackle the issue."

(Quotes from audio produced by Quadrant for UK radio stations used with kind permission.)


MEP Girling posts her January vlog update and talks about her constituency at last!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012
Conservative MEP Julie Girling has this evening released her January video blog from Strasbourg. In this edition she discusses the elections in Parliament of a new President and Vice-Presidents ("staged and stage managed; not exciting and not many surprises"), the launch of her new healthy living campaign (some of her ECR colleagues have signed up to the initiative with WeightWatchers!), the current state of play in the Eurozone, and - most far importantly - gives an update of some of the work she has been doing in the South West!

Horrah! Now let's have constituency issues at the top of the February vlog please...


Martin Schulz elected new Parliament President - some reactions from our MEPs

Tuesday, 17 January 2012
The result was as expected, but it was not the walkover that many (myself included) had expected. German MEP Martin Schulz (S&D) was indeed elected by the members of the European Parliament today in Strasbourg to serve as its new president with 387 votes in favour out of 670 cast (58%). Replacing Polish Jerzy Buzek (EPP), he will hold the post for two and half years until the beginning of the next legislature in July 2014.

The two other candidates - both British - did remarkably well with Nirj Deva (ECR) recording 142 votes and Diana Wallis (ALDE) 141.

Here are some reactions to the result posted by our MEPs:

Shortly after the vote was announced Sir Graham Watson (ALDE) tweeted:

Schulz elected as new #EP President. #LibDem @dianawallismep put up a brave fight but could not break Left-Right stitch up. Pity.12 hours ago via web | powered by @socialditto

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As MEPs meet to elect their new President, Giles Chichester is certain to lose his Vice Presidency position

Monday, 16 January 2012
MEPs are in Strasbourg this week where they will meet and elect the new President of the European Parliament as well as its 14 vice chairs. While the German MEP Martin Schulz is widely expected to be coronated in the final vote on Tuesday, one result is already certain: South West Conservative MEP Giles Chichester will lose his position as Vice President.

This is a direct result of the British Conservative delegation finally assuming the leadership of the ECR group they formed, when Martin Callanan was elected leader in December 2011.

Mr Callanan replaced Jan Zahradil (Czech Republic), who opted not seek re-election, and according to the D’Hondt method used to distribute the seats of EP president and vice-presidents as well as committee chairmanships and vice-chair seats, the UK Conservatives will be forced to cede at least one top post to the next largest delegation. (The general idea is to divide up these strategic positions based on the size of the groups and the nationalities represented in each.)

Therefore, it immediately became a question of which Brit will cede their place. Malcolm Harbour currently serves as the chair of the Committee for the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) – the ECR’s only chairmanship – so it is Chichester who will ultimately lose out. The position is expected to be passed on to his Czech colleague Oldřich Vlasák.

Mr Chichester only took up the Vice-President role in July 2011 and so has only presided over a few debates in the Chamber, but nonetheless still showed promise.

Shortly after his election by acclamation in July, Mr Chichester said he was very proud to be elected to such significant Office and his election ‘brings prestige and status to the South West’. He will continue to serve the region as an MEP.

As for the election of the next President of the European Parliament, it seems like a done deal: S&D group leader Martin Schulz is bound to become Parliament’s next president. Speaking to journalists, on 11 January, current President Jerzy Buzek even gave substance to this fait accompli, wishing ‘all the best to President Schulz in the future’.

However, since the vote is a secret ballot, a considerable number of MEPs are expected to back the bid of Diana Wallis, a British Liberal MEP standing as an independent, whose candidacy – if nothing else – has at least made this election look like a contest.

The vote to elect the next president of Parliament is scheduled for Tuesday January 17th. Once that matter is settled, the plenary will then elect its 14 vice-presidents. Then, during the following week (commencing 23rd January), Committee members will elect their chairs and vice-chairs.


Dartmouth: David Cameron must stop supporting Turkey's EU membership

Sunday, 15 January 2012
UKIP MEP William Dartmouth has today called for David Cameron to stop supporting Turkey’s aspirations for eventual membership of the European Union in direct response to Turkish threats to jail the Duchess of York over a secret film on children abandoned in a Turkish orphanage.

In a statement, the Earl said: “the Duchess of York has done trojan work exposing the inhuman conditions of Turkish orphanages for which we should all be thankful. In response to her exposé the Turkish state has disgracefully threatened her with jail.

"Given Turkey's disgraceful human rights record, its continued occupation of Cyprus with 40,000 troops and its current threat to the Duchess of York it is now time for Mr Cameron as well as leaders of the Labour and LibDem parties to halt their fervent support for Turkish membership of the EU", he said.

"It has been suggested that the Duchess is unlikely to be extradited as the offense is not a crime under British law (…) If the three party leaders do not want a rerun of the 1978 film Midnight Express about a person's treatment in a Turkish prison they must, like UKIP, say no to Turkish accession to the European Union."

Turkey has been an EU candidate country ever since the Helsinki European Council of December 1999 but progress has been very slow. 13 accession chapters are currently open and under negotiation and only one has so far been closed, but the country also faces opposition to its candidacy amongst current members, particularly France.


Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.