Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun

Update From Catherine Bearder MEP

You know that summer has arrived when Wimbledon begins but someone needs to tell the weather to catch up!  I always know the summer break is coming when the frenetic pace of activities in the parliament speed up even more trying to get things through before the recess.

As a member of the International Trade Committee, I have been working on the EU-Colombia Free Trade Agreement for some time now and have just returned from visiting Colombia to meet with the President and others to ensure they are fully committed to human rights and environmental protection.  Free trade is all well and good but it needs to be fair and sustainable too and this was a really informative but exhausting trip.

Many people have contacted me over the past few months about the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) so I thought I would report that I support the majority of my colleagues in rejecting this report that will serve as a recommendation for the whole of parliament when it comes to our next voting session in Strasbourg. You can read more about this here.

EU pledges strong action to stop trafficking

Last week a new European strategy aimed at stemming the flow of women, men and children trafficked across the continent, was launched. Coincidently, at the same time, I was hosting an event in Brussels to celebrate the achievements of a group of girls that have done more to raise awareness of the problem over the last year than anyone I can think of.

I’ve spoken about the Row for Freedom girls a lot in these newsletters but for those who don’t know, they recently became the first all-female crew to cross the Atlantic. The team completed the challenge earlier this year to raise awareness of the problem of trafficking.

It was truly inspiring (and a little terrifying!) to hear the stories learning about the mental and physical grind of rowing for 44 days of the journey. They had to go through broken water pumps and navigation systems, losing a third of their food in a flood, let alone having little sleep and no privacy with 2 hours rowing and 2 hours sleep the whole way!

The trafficking strategy includes setting up national law enforcement units specialising in human trafficking and a joint European investigation team to prosecute cross-border trafficking cases.

In our afternoon seminar we heard that recent estimates from the International Labour Organisation suggested there were 20.9 million victims of trafficking around the world.  And Bernie Gravett, a retired Superintendent from the Met said children forced into criminal activities such as begging and shoplifting are traded for around 20,000 Euros each.

People are becoming more and more aware of this previously unreported crime and it’s good to see the police are not willing to see it ignored anymore.

Tory MEPs reject new transparency rules to clamp down on corruption

After letting you know last month about Tory MEPs voting against European Parliament proposals to tackle the pay gap between men and women, they’ve been at it again, rejecting transparency rules that would clamp down on corruption.

The group of Conservative MEPs formed what I referred to as an ‘unholy alliance’ with UKIP and fascist MEPs to vote down new EU rules calling for big businesses to publish what they pay to governments in developing countries.

Due to the Conservative and far-right alliance, the International Trade Committee rejected tough amendments to Commission proposals requiring oil, mining and logging companies to publish payments to countries in which they operate to help curb corruption and bribery.

I was delighted to hear the Colombian President Santos say that this legislation was ‘music to his ears’ when I asked him about it.  So if developing country governments want it, it is only right that we build it into the regulations of European companies operating overseas.

So it is absolutely disgraceful for Conservatives and UKIP to vote against new rules to curb corruption.  Developing countries are often resource rich but trapped in poverty because of corrupt officials.  Transparency and full disclosure of payments made to governments or local powerful officials is the best way to ensure that the money actually reaches the people, and that they are able to find out what is paid.

 How eCall can cut road deaths across Europe

This month, the campaign to ensure new cars are fitted with a device to automatically alert emergency services to road crashes has stepped up a gear.

eCall dials EU-wide emergency number 112 in the event of a serious road accident and sends airbag and impact information, as well as GPS coordinates, to rescue teams.

I and other MEPs have backed a resolution which has said the system would speed up the arrival of emergency crews and save lives.

Even if you are unconscious, the system will let rescue workers know exactly where you are. The great advantage is the technology already exists and we should be taking advantage of it.  The resolution, which was adopted this month, has called for all new cars to be fitted with eCall by 2015.

It is thought the eCall system would save up to 2,500 lives a year and reduce the severity of injuries by up to 15 per cent. However, currently only 0.4 per cent of cars are fitted with the device.  The figures suggest a staggering number of lives would be saved every year if cars came equipped with eCall so I don’t need any more convincing. Particularly as the resolution stresses eCall cannot be used to determine a person’s location unless they have been involved in an accident.

 

This Month’s Euromyth

This story was reported in the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Express this week.

“Brussels is forcing Eric Pickles to fly EU flag”

Brussels has not “demanded” that the Department for Communities and Local Government flies the EU flag on one of its two flagpoles all year round. And I would imagine that it’s extremely difficult to physically “force” Eric Pickles to do anything! The Commissioner wrote in a letter to Eric Pickles, the proposal would “not require the EU flag to be flown on a flagpole in front of the premises…”.  The EC is proposing only that Member States’ managing authorities for EU regional funding display an EU flag in a place visible to the public – inside or outside the relevant building – as a symbol of partnership in investing EU structural funds, which aim primarily to create jobs.

It is now up to Member States, including the UK, in the Council to decide whether to agree to that proposal. As was pointed out in the letter, no other national Minister has so far registered any objection. Most managing authorities already fly the EU flag alongside their national and sometimes regional ones. As for the Mail on Sunday’s claim that Brussels has “offered to buy Britain a flagpole” this was a handwritten comment by Mr Hahn at the end of his personal letter to Mr Pickles, suggesting lightheartedly that Mr Hahn would fund a third flagpole from his own pocket if Mr Pickles wanted to fly the EU flag from it.

For more myth-busting, have a look at the Euromyth section on my website. Hopefully our responses to these myths will help all of you if you’re challenged about them in a heated European debate!

Coming to a town near you! The torch arrives in the South East

The Olympics is fast approaching and the amazing torch relay will be entering the South East on July 9th as it begins its final stretch heading to London.

The flame will be travelling right across the region so I hope many of you will be making the short journeys to see it and cheer the torchbearers on.  If you know anyone carrying the torch (or maybe you are yourself!) please do let me know as I’d love to hear the stories and celebrate the people of the South East.

Put the dates in your diary now or track the route to see when it’s coming past your house!  You can follow the route here.

Amongst others, the torch will be visiting Oxford (9/07), Reading (10/07), Southampton (14/07), Portsmouth (15/07), Brighton & Hove (16/07), Hastings (17/07), Dover (18/07), Maidstone (19/07) and Guildford (20/07).  I hope to catch it come by my house in Oxford and I hope you do too.

I will be keeping these newsletters coming out regularly to keep you all up to date with my work in the European parliament and the region but if there’s anything you want to see in these pages or any issues or problems you feel I should be looking at then don’t hesitate to contact me at catherine@bearder.eu.  My Lib Dem colleague in the European Parliament, Sharon Bowles has now started her own monthly newsletter and you can sign up by visiting her website at www.sharonbowles.org.uk

With best wishes,

Catherine Bearder

Member of the European Parliament for South East England