La Treizième Étoile: 12/02/12 - 19/02/12 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 Parliament 'closer to the people' as records of proceedings now put online

Saturday, 18 February 2012
In a bid to bring the Parliament of Gibraltar and its work closer to the electorate, full audio and written recordings of parliamentary proceedings are to be made publicly available online from today.

The Gibraltar Parliament in session (Photo: GibNews.net)In line with the policy of the Rock's new GSLP/Liberal government, it will now possible to listen to what has taken place in Parliament via the Government website at www.gibraltar.gov.gi/the-gibraltar-parliament/proceedings-of-parliament-audio as well as read a written transcript of proceedings via a new HANSARD.

The proceedings of this week will be immediately available and the website will be updated after each meeting of Parliament.

This is a very welcome move in the name of transparency, but how long before sessions are streamed live online?


MEPs again vote in favour of a single seat for the European Parliament

This week in Strasbourg a majority of MEPs have again voted in favour of creating a single seat of the European Parliament in order to cut operating costs.

In a report giving the Parliament's views on the Guidelines of the 2013 EU budget, a majority of MEPs (329) voted in favour of Amendment 2, which stated that “[the European Parliament] Believes that the real and biggest saving could be made by having a single seat for the European Parliament; encourages therefore that the situation be evaluated without further delay”.

South West MEPs Giles Chichester, Ashley Fox, Julie Girling (all Conservative) and Sir Graham Watson (Liberal Democrat) voted in favour of this amendment.

Both the Earl of Dartmouth and Trevor Colman (UKIP) were absent and so did not vote.

While the vote will not make a decisive difference in the battle, it is yet another sign the battle is gradually being won and there is momentum behind the Single Seat campaign now that both its co-chairmen MEPs Edward McMillan-Scott and Alexander Alvaro now sit as ALDE Vice Presidents of the European Parliament.

In March 2011, MEPs made their first call for the second seat to be abolished by voting through an amendment by South West Conservative MEP Ashley Fox that will see one of the monthly plenary sessions in the French city removed from the 2012 parliamentary calendar in favour of a “double session”. Unhappy with this move, France took the amendment before judges at the European Court of Justice and a verdict is expected later this year.

Speaking in the plenary chamber afterwards in the regular 'Explanations of Vote' slot, Mrs Girling said: "I particularly welcome the carrying of Amendment 2 for the ending of this ridiculous travelling circus that results in our monthly flog here to Strasbourg: something which I would very much like to do without".

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Ashley Fox hopes to mount pressure on Commission over electronic IDs for sheep

More than 140 MEPs have signed a written declaration calling on the European Commission to review its regulation on the electronic identification (EID) for sheep, but it remains more than 200 signatures short with just a month left before it lapses.

The Whiteface Dartmoor sheep - one of Britain’s most ancient of breeds (Photo: whitefacedartmoorsheep.org.uk)South West MEP Ashley Fox is leading a campaign to gather support amongst MEPs to ensure that the sheep regulations are more tolerant of current working conditions, animal behaviour and the state of existing technology and co-authored Written Declaration (0051/2011).

This declaration calls on the Commission to revisit its set rules on electronic sheep identification to allow some level of tolerance to aid farmers already struggling to keep on top of inappropriate requirements. He and his co-authors want the regulations to reflect the unreliability of the technology currently available for reading sheep movements, and also call for derogation until 2016 for the recording of individual movements for entire sheep flocks.

The written declaration was lodged on 30th November 2011 and under parliamentary procedure will lapse on 15th March 2012 unless it achieves the signature of a majority of MEPs - at least 375.

Speaking in Strasbourg last week, Mr Fox said: "
The main success has been drawing attention to this issue. The Commission have already moved on the issue of flock movements; that was part of our campaign, that succeeded and we’re very grateful, but now what we need is some movement on the technology issue."

"This works fine if you have four sheep in a pen behind your house - not if you have four hundred roaming all over Dartmoor in the wind and the rain," he said.



Back in December, the Commission's Standing Committee on animal health approved a UK proposal to delay the requirement for the individual movement recording of the 'historic flock' for three years. Mr Fox was delighted with this development which means that farmers will not have to report the individual movements of sheep born before the 31st December 2009. This, he said, will allow farmers to delay the electronic tagging of the older sheep and save around £11m in the process.

"This is good news for the sheep sector, but more needs to be done. The EU's obsession with 100% tagging compliance is impractical for many South West farmers," he said in a statement on his website.

"I firmly believe that the remaining tagging proposals are too rigid, and are being pushed through in too tight a timeframe, taking little account of the kind of conditions that farmers work in. Tagging may work for small pens and fields, where the sheep are tightly controlled, but out on the moors in the rain and mud, it is impractical to say the least. At the present time if the farmer can't account for every sheep, or if a tag is lost, then he would be financially penalised."

Individual recording is mandatory in all Member States, irrespective of flock size, and was introduced by the EU following an agreement reached in 2003. The objective was to improve the identification and tracing of sheep by bringing in individual traceability across all EU member states after its deficiencies were highlighted dramatically during the 2001 outbreak of Foot-and-mouth disease.

Video from Quadrant on YouTube.

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Check! South West MEP meets former Chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov

Thursday, 16 February 2012
South West MEP Sir Graham Watson today met the former Grandmaster and World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov to discuss a new initiative to get chess into school curriculums across Europe.

Mr Kasparov (left) was in Strasbourg this week lobbying MEPs to sign Written Declaration 50/2011 - Chess in School and get behind his campaign to bring more chess programmes into schools with the aim of impacting positively on European childrens' education by improving and practising their concentration skills.

Sir Graham, who hosted a breakfast event in Strasbourg this morning to promote the initiative, commented: “Chess is a game that stimulates the mind, helps build problem solving skills, develops concentration and gives a child the opportunity to take responsibility for their own thinking. All these skills are vital when young people enter higher education or the working world.

I am very privileged to help Garry’s campaign and I hope schools across the South West will consider bringing chess into the classroom if they do not do so already.”

To read more about Garry Kasparov and his Chess Foundation Europe initiative visit www.kcfe.eu.

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