La Treizième Étoile: 20/10/13 - 27/10/13 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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Charges against Greenpeace 'Arctic 30' are ‘disproportionate’ say MEPs

Thursday, 24 October 2013
During its plenary session this week in Strasbourg, the European Parliament discussed the case of the 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists detained in Russia and declared that the charges against the "Arctic 30" by the Russians are "disproportionate”.

Russian authorities seized the Greenpeace ship on 19 September, after their protest against a Gazprom-owned oil platform drilling in the Arctic Barents Sea.

Three of the 30 facing charges are from Devon in the South West of the United Kingdom. They are Alexandra Harris, Iain Rogers and freelance videographer Keiron Bryan.

Sadly, not one of the MEPs representing the South West region in the European Parliament voiced their opinion on the charges, although UKIP MEP The Earl of Dartmouth did speak in the debate but on the political issue of Russia nominating a judge to the European Court of Human Rights.

Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson was the only one of the six South West MEPs amongst the 101 MEPs that signed a statement of solidarity for the Arctic 30 (see photo above).

Just before the debate got under way, the Russian authorities announced that they would replace the piracy charges against the activists and journalists with charges of hooliganism, which carry a shorter period of detention.

But these charges are nonetheless "disproportionate", said MEPs, stressing that they could also be seen as a threat to democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of demonstration.

MEPs called on the Council and Commission to take action to ensure the release of the detainees. The arbitration procedure initiated by the Netherlands to have the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea enforced was welcomed.

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Devon MP supports calls for Gibraltar to be awarded the George Cross

Tuesday, 22 October 2013
A Devon member of the UK Parliament, Oliver Colvile, has given his support to calls for Gibraltar to be awarded the highest civilian honour, the George Cross, a move he says will send a send a clear message of British support to Gibraltar in the face of recent Spanish contestations over the sovereignty of the Rock.

Mr Colvile, the Conservative MP who represents the naval port constituency of Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, secured a Westminster Hall debate today in Parliament, and during the debate this morning said: “I am firmly behind the George Cross for Gibraltar campaign […] Gibraltar’s connection with Devonport, in my constituency, is legendary, because both have a naval dockyard and naval base. Three hundred years ago this year, Gibraltar was ceded in perpetuity by the Spanish to the British Crown at the treaty of Utrecht in 1713 following the Spanish war of succession. It is now a British dependent territory and has withstood more than four sieges over the past three centuries. Throughout that time, it has remained loyal to the Crown.

I believe that by giving Gibraltar the George Cross, Britain will send a clear message that we want to thank the Gibraltarians for their loyalty and that we abide by the commitment that the Gibraltarians have shown in referendums to remaining a British overseas territory,he added. “Consistently, Spain has campaigned for the British Government to hand over sovereignty of the Rock. The current dispute over the fishing reef is yet another example of how the Spanish Government do not get the message. For some reason they think that if they carry on pushing they will get a result. I hope that nothing could be further from the truth.

Campaigners are calling for the British Government to award the George Cross in honour of Gibraltar's military service to Britain over the past 300+ years and its enduring link to the British Crown.

The call was launched by Plymouth campaigner Kevin Kelway, who is the co-ordinator of the UK Friends of Gibraltar Group, who told the Plymouth Herald: "We are delighted our campaign is being heard at the beating heart of our democracy. Big thanks to our local MP Oliver Colvile who is supporting this long and overdue honour to the people and city of Gibraltar."

The George Cross was instituted in 1940 by the Queen's father King George VI and has been awarded collectively on just two occasions – to Malta in 1942 and to the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1999.

An online petition backing Gibraltar for the honour can be found at or via their Facebook page.

Click here to read the HANSARD transcript of the Westminster debate or click here to watch the debate via BBC Democracy Live.

Leading Lib Dem and SW MEP calls for release of Russia’s most prominent political prisoner

Monday, 21 October 2013
Mikhail KhodorkovskyLeading Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson has called for the release of Russia’s most prominent political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky (pictured).

Speaking in the European Parliament in the week that marks 10 years since Mr Khodorkovsky’s arrest and imprisonment, he said: “In those ten years he has gone from being Russia’s most successful businessman to being its most prominent political prisoner. He was jailed on politically-motivated charges because he financed an opposition party. But he worked for a vibrant civil society, he denounced corruption, and he nurtured democratic politics."

Sir Graham, also President of the European Liberal Democrat Party, added: “Today civil society is harassed and intimidated, corruption is rampant, and political parties are silenced. Today’s reality in Russia makes Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s vision more important than ever. Russia needs reform. It needs enlightenment. It needs a change of direction. It needs men and women like Mikhail Khodorkovsky to bring the country towards its true place in Europe. He should be released from prison immediately."


Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.