La Treizième Étoile: 09/12/12 - 16/12/12 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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SW MEP Chichester regrets breakdown in talks on ENISA modernisation proposals

Saturday, 15 December 2012
South West Conservative MEP Giles Chichester, the European Parliament's rapporteur on a new proposal to modernise the European Union Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), has expressed his regret at the breakdown of talks with Council after a failure to reach an agreement in trialogues.

In February 2012, MEPs amended a legislative proposal to establish a new mandate for ENISA with effect from 13 September 2013. These amendments called for broadening the tasks of ENISA in order to strengthen EU defences against cyber-threats, and to do so will require roughly a doubling of its operational staff and budget.

The proposal also called for the establishment of an executive board and for increased political accountability of ENISA towards the European Parliament.

Progress had been made on a number of issues but the Council (currently presided by Cyprus) was not able to reach agreement on certain aspects of the deal which included for example the moving of the agency’s operational staff from Crete to Athens.

"It's disappointing that we could not conclude the trialogues and persuade the Council to accept our key points," Mr Chichester said. "We feel that both sides will benefit from a break in negotiations and hope that we can come back in January and find a solution".

"In the meantime, maybe the Commission should be giving thought to a Plan B – just in case," he added.

Negotiations are currently temporarily suspended with a view to continuing them in January under the EU Council Presidency of Ireland.

(From PR)


Historic EU single patent agreement hailed as ‘huge boost for business’ in South West

Friday, 14 December 2012
It has been a dossier disputed amongst EU member states for more than three decades, but this week MEPs convening in Strasbourg for the last plenary session of the 2012 calendar year voted through a deal which will allow companies to register one patent covering most of the countries across Europe.

Long considered an essential step towards completing the hallowed single market, the single patent was first muted in the 1950s and was proposed in 1973 but became stuck in a political quagmire as member states fought over the language rules and legal protections. Now, thanks to the vote on Tuesday (11th), plans to reform the patent system across Europe will go ahead, making it easier for inventors and entrepreneurs to register their products across the single market.

The report by German Socialist MEP Bernhard Rapkay, the first piece of legislation which is a regulation setting up a unitary patent protection system, was approved by 484 votes to 164 with 35 abstentions.

Under the previous rules, patents typically cost 18 times more than their equivalent in the United States because a patent must be registered in every one of the 27 EU Member States, costing on average £25,000 a time to ensure a product was protected in the single market. Without patent protection inventors run the risk of having their ideas copied and other people cashing in on their hard work.

The historic agreement means that from 2014 a single European patent will become valid throughout all 25 participating EU member states and the cost will tumble to around £4,000 as part of a 'one size fits all' package. The new unitary patents will be processed in English, French or German but can be submitted in any of the 23 official EU languages. Italy and Spain have opted out of the proposed common patent system as they were unhappy about their languages not being included in the proposed European patent.

South West Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson welcomed the vote in the European Parliament and condemned Green and UKIP MEPs for opposing the move saying that they are 'shamefully blocking growth and innovation'.

From Babbage to Brunel, the Westcountry has championed new industry and long may it continue,he said after the vote. “I hope business parks across the South West will welcome today's vote, which will make it easier and cheaper for the Dysons of tomorrow to register and protect their products. This is part of a series of measures by the EU to cut red tape, demolish the hurdles to growth and get people back into work. The South West has always been a powerhouse for innovation.

"When so much of our trade -almost 50%- is with our EU partners, having a patent system which means that you can protect your ideas with one set of forms, rather than 27 makes life a lot easier. Businesses can now spend more time developing products rather than endlessly filling out paperwork.

Michel Barnier, the European Commissioner for the single market, was delighted at the result and described the reform as “a historic decision that enhances Europe’s competitiveness”.

Benoît Battistelli, President of the European Patent Office, was also delighted, adding: “the European Parliament is to be congratulated on this decision, which clears the way for the completion of the European patent system with a unitary patent and a Unified Patent Court, which we have been waiting for in Europe for 40 years."

Further comment came from fellow Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, who said: "this is exactly what the EU should be doing, making it easier and cheaper for businesses across Europe to develop new products and promote innovation."

More information on the EU unitary patent can be found here.

UPDATE (07/01):

Writing in his regular newsletter to constituents, Conservative MEP Ashley Fox has welcomed the agreement on a single EU patent: "the creation of a Single European Patent in 25 of the 27 EU countries will benefit both small and large businesses. Those who rely on intellectual property rights will no longer have to go to every single national patent office to validate, renew and defend their patents under different legal systems. In the event of a dispute over their rights, they will no longer have to litigate in each Member State but can use a single court system, part of which will be based in the UK - a further boost to British jobs."

"This is encouraging news for European competitiveness. The Single European Patent will bring costs down and make it much simpler for patent holders to have their ideas protected across the EU. Technology and innovation are going to be vital areas for growth in Britain. This is a great move forward on the path to getting Britain moving and a further step towards the completion of the Single Market in the EU - the very reason we joined the EU in the first place," he said.

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BIG NEWS: SW MEP Ashley Fox left ‘bitterly disappointed’ as ECJ rejects move to reduce number of Strasbourg sessions

Thursday, 13 December 2012
The European Court of Justice has today rejected and annulled the Fox Amendment that sought to change the Parliamentary calendar to reduce the number of trips MEPs must make to Strasbourg each year, ruling it as unconstitutional and leaving , a ruling that has left amendment author Ashley Fox ‘bitterly disappointed’.

In a statement of the ruling today on Joined Cases C 237/11 and C 238/11, the European Court of Justice said: “It is not disputed that the Parliament departed, by the contested votes of March 2011, from the draft calendars adopted by the Conference of Presidents in so far as concerns the periods of monthly plenary part-sessions scheduled for October 2012 and 2013. It is apparent from those votes that the periods of monthly plenary part-sessions, each lasting four days, scheduled for October 2012 and 2013, were replaced by two periods of part-sessions lasting two days each. The Court finds that the periods of plenary part-sessions as provided for in the contested votes for October 2012 and 2013 do not satisfy the requirements resulting from the Treaties concerning the seats of the institutions.

The statement goes on to explicitly explain that (my emphasis) “even if the disadvantages and costs engendered by the plurality of places of work – as described by the Parliament – are acknowledged, it is not for the Parliament or the Court to remedy that situation; rather, it is for the Member States to do so, if appropriate, in the exercise of their competence to determine the seats of the institutions” .

South West Conservative MEP Mr Fox, whose amendment was challenged by France in the European Court, said he was ‘bitterly disappointed’ at the decision.

His amendment, adopted by large majority in March 2011, reduced the number of annual trips to Strasbourg by putting two separate plenary sessions into one week in September. This happened in September this year and was due to happen again next year. In light of the ruling, political group leaders will meet in January to re-adapt the Parliaments calendar for 2013 for adoption in the January plenary session.

As a Campaign-leader on this issue I believe that the ruling is undemocratic and will prove counterproductive. Our long-term battle will continue to end the wasteful treks to Strasbourg altogether - and will eventually prevail,he said.

This decision is not unexpected because the court received legal advice along these lines from the Advocate General earlier this year, but it is still bitterly disappointing. Still, this case is no more than a skirmish in our longer-term war to stop the ridiculous two-seat travelling circus altogether. The fight continues and I am sure before long we will succeed.

The obligation for the European Parliament to hold 12 part-sessions per year in the French city of Strasbourg is enshrined in the Treaty of Amsterdam of 1997, an operation that has been calculated to cost €170 million per year. MEPs have voted on numerous occasions in favour of a single seat for the European Parliament but European treaties can only be changed with unanimous consent from all EU member states – a scenario that remains rather unimaginable.

But he has vowed to continue his fight and his e-petition launched in September seeks to achieve 100,000 signatures to persuade the UK Government to intervene.

Unsurprisingly, the French authorities have welcomed this ruling in favour of the Strasbourg seat.

The fight continues.


West Country MPs urge government to back ‘transition zones’ to secure vital EU funding for Devon and Somerset

Sunday, 9 December 2012
L-R Ben Bradshaw - MP for Exeter, Alison Seabeck - MP for Plymouth Moor View, Liz Waugh - Chief Executive of the Heart of the South West LEP, Nick Harvey - MP for North Devon & Adrian Sanders - MP for Torbay (Photo: Nick Harvey MP)Nine members of the UK parliament representing Devon and parts of Somerset have this week handed a letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron in which they urge him to support plans for a series of "transition zones" where European money is poured into regions in economic need, with both counties likely to qualify.

If approved, transition zone funding could be worth around £2.6 billion to the UK.

The move comes amid fears Devon and the other counties in the region are missing out while Cornwall continues to receive millions of Pounds of EU funding. Two seven-year investment programmes – Objective One followed by Convergence – will have pumped close to £1 billion of taxpayers' money into Cornwall between 1999 and the end of next year.

In March, official figures from the European Union’s statistical body Eurostat, revealed that the Gross Domestic Deposit Product (GDP) of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly's was 73.2% of the European average in 2009. This meant that the region remains poorer than parts of Romania, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria and qualifies for continued European Regional funding.

However, across the Tamar, Devon's output was at 88.1%. But the letter handed to PM Cameron notes that because of "anomalies" in EU statistics, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay have been lumped into the same category as much-more- affluent London and Hamburg. "(Transition funding) will also tackle the economic 'cliff-edge' where adjoining areas such as Devon ... receive only a tenth of the development assistance that neighbouring Cornwall gets,” it says.

One of the signatories, Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon Nick Harvey, said in a statement: "transition funding would give a huge boost to economic growth in Devon and Somerset, where eight of our constituencies are now in the bottom 15% for lowest wages in Britain compared to three Cornish constituencies. The Heart of the South West LEP has come up with a prospectus championing the best delivery of EU transition funding, so we are ideally placed to target this vital funding at the most important local priorities – rather than the less effective top-down Whitehall route."

Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP for Exeter, added: "The Prime Minister currently has a real problem with a stagnant economy and needs to recognise the growth a 'transition zone' for Devon would bring."

The following West Country MPs signed the letter: Ben Bradshaw (Labour, Exeter), Geoffrey Cox (Conservative, Torridge and West Devon), Nick Harvey (Liberal Democrat, North Devon), Anne Marie Morris (Conservative, Newton Abbot), Tessa Munt (Liberal Democrat, Wells), Adrian Sanders (Liberal Democrat, Torbay), former MEP Neil Parish (Conservative, Tiverton and Honiton), Alison Seabeck (Labour, Plymouth Moor View) and Dr Sarah Wollaston (Conservative, Totnes).

Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.