La Treizième Étoile: 29/11/09 - 06/12/09 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
My tweets (@SWUKinEU)
'All You Need Is (less) Meat?'

Thursday, 3 December 2009
"Less meat = Less heat" was the message delivered to MEPs this morning by former rock-legend and Beatles songwriter Sir Paul McCartney as he stood in the Brussels hemicycle.

The hearing on Climate Change and Global Warming also featured Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and comes conveniently ahead of the meeting of world leaders in Copenhagen next week.

Sir Paul McCartney at European Parliament by ajburgess, on Flickr

Organised by EP Vice-President Edward McMillan-Scott, the hearing wanted to address the fact that "livestock is responsible for emitting more CO2 than transport", a detail announced by Mr McMillan-Scott before confessing that he had not eaten meat since the traditional turkey dinner last Christmas.

For his part, the former Beatle believes that the production of food — from farm to fork — accounts for between 20 and 30 percent of global green house gas emissions, and livestock production, for our meat-needs, is responsible for around half of these emissions.

"I would like to think that this is not true", he said, "but I have a feeling that it is true which is why I stand before you today".

Earlier this year, Sir Paul launched his Meat Free Monday campaign, which he hopes will encourage households to cut out meat on Mondays and as a result help to slow the effects of global warming.

"People are confused about what they can do [to help]", he told the audience, "but the point of this campaign is that it is very do-able."

Sir Paul spoke of the example set by the Belgian town of Ghent, which earlier this year announced plans to make every Thursday a meat-free day as proof that such an initiative can catch on. Yet, while admitting that Europe cannot just 'become' vegetarian, Sir Paul estimates that if each European gives up eating meat for just one day a week, he/she will save the equivalent of one 1000-mile car journey in CO2 emissions.

"If we leave this planet a mess, it is our children that will have to clean it up," Sir Paul continued. "We have to be responsible for our children's future."

This message was also relayed by Dr Pachauri who said that this source of emissions was "one sector in which we can make a difference", stating that the campaign encouraged by Sir Paul was a "simple, effective and short-term measure to save future generations".

"It would only be a vegetarian that would suggest this"

But the suggestion that Europe should become vegetarian was met with fierce opposition by Irish meat-eating Mairead McGuinness MEP, a member of the AGRI Committee, who exclaimed "it would only be a vegetarian that would suggest this".

"In the EU, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture have been reduced," she said, "yet globally emissions from agriculture have increased, proving that a solution at EU level will not work, which reinforces the need for a global climate change strategy."

"Even if the world became vegetarian, we would still have the problem of global warming and climate change," she said.

Half of the dishes meat-free in the EP canteens

The Parliament also made further special arrangements in ensuring that half of all meals provided for staff and members in the canteens are meat-free.

But if that was not to your tastes, Paul Nuttall (EFD, UK) used his intervention in the debate to publically invite everyone to a staged lunchtime BBQ in Place Luxembourg, which he rather drolly entitled 'All You Need Is Meat'...

Sir Tim Berners-Lee calls for 'One web, free and open for all'

Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Who can deny in this modern high-tech, modern and online lifestyle that we all enjoy, that we do not take access to the Internet for granted? But did you know that 80% of the world's population still do not have access? And did you know that the Internet as we know it was borne out of a fit of frustration by a software engineer at CERN?

Sir Tim Berners-Lee addresses the European Parliament (Photo: EP Photo Service)

Sir Tim Berners-Lee (above), the founder of the World-Wide Web and head of the W3 Consortium, the main international standards organisation, addressed MEPs and guests at the 8th Annual Lecture presented last night by STOA, the EP's Science and Technology Options Assessment group.

Recently voted one of the 100 most important people of the 20th Century and one of the 100 greatest living geniuses, this fact was bought up by Silvana Koch-Mehrin, EP Vice-President responsible for STOA, in her welcoming comments in which she quipped to the great amusement of the audience "it is not often that one of the world's living legends is in the Parliament, despite how highly we think of ourselves".

Sir Tim's appearance before MEPs could not have been more timely - with the telecoms package recently being voted into EU law and the Lisbon Treaty coming into force - and he was keen to lay down his expectations for the future of the Internet. Namely that it should be free, uncensored, universal, international and openly available for all citizens around the world.

There are currently more than 100 billion webpages (100,000,000,000) available on the web - a number that will continue to grow on a daily basis - and with each page containing different content and data, the Internet has become a powerful source of information.

But not everyone around the world has access to such information, although the situation is improving. Sir Tim was keen to tell the audience about his newly-founded World Wide Web Foundation, which envisions a world where all people are empowered by the Web — regardless of language, ability, location, gender, age or income, from which a delegation had just returned from Uganda and Kenya.

It was there where it oversaw projects to install high-speed electronic cables between the countries that will see the Kenyan capital Mombasa "go online". Although a step forward, Sir Tim commented it was just the start, as extortionate service provider fees to support the cost restrict the number of those who can afford to connect.

Sir Tim expressed his discontent at countries that try to control what websites its citizens can access and called on MEPs to act to ensure the web remains free of such censorship.

However, while accepting the important role governments must play in the field of protecting personal data of its citizens and fighting online crime, he was passionate about users receiving the adequate protection from unsolicited snooping by third parties.

"Fighting cybercrime," he said, "is very difficult so when governments have the power to act, this power must be used in a controlled manner.

"We should be able to browse [the Web] without fear of being watched".

When later he was questioned on the topic of copyright, he explained how much he enjoyed music and has purchased large quantities online. Sir Tim told how he would like to see people be encouraged to "do the right thing" and compensate artists for their work, expressing a keen interest in the idea of micropayment plans.

In his final plea to the audience, Sir Tim said that content on the web "should not be discriminated because of its quality", continuing that "we need the silly stuff on there!"

Even though I don't think of myself in that sense, it's nice to know this blog has its place!!

The Lisbon Treaty: what will change?

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Today, Tuesday 1st December, is an important day - and not just because you can open the first door on your chocolate advent calendar. No, I speak about the history of Europe, which has this morning seen the arrival into force after eight long years of negociation and struggle of the Lisbon Treaty. But what will change as a result.

Well, it's most prominent innovations include the creation of a permanent president of the European Council and a High Representative to oversee EU foreign policy, and head a new large diplomatic corps. Of course we know that Belgian Herman van Rompuy and Brit Catherine Ashton will occupy these roles respectively (see blog entry).

But the most profound change with the Lisbon Treaty is internal - with massive increases in responsibility for the European Parliament:

  • MEPs will now have their say over a wide range of new areas including farm and fisheries policy, transport, structural funds and justice and home affairs.

  • The major change is that the Parliament will have a full say in the EU budget. Before now, the Parliament was just consulted and its opinions ignored when it came to compulsory expenditure (such as the Common Agricultural Policy) which represents 45% of the budget. Now, the adoption of the full budget will require Parliamentary consent via vote.

  • Member states' ability to veto has been markedly reduced and the majority of votes held in the Parliament will now require a Qualified Majority.

  • That said, votes upon issues such as taxation, social security, citizens' rights, foreign and defence policy and where EU institutions sit geographically are still subject to agreement by member-state unanimity.

  • The EU will become more democratic too with national parliaments gaining some powers to scrutinise legislation to make sure it is proportionate and being enacted at the right level. They will have eight weeks once the Commission has adopted its proposal to scrutinise it and give their consent. If not, the Commission will have to reconsider. If consent is given, Parliament and the Council will begin its readings.

  • Petitions with the signature of one million citizens across the EU will now results in the Commission being obliged to look into acting on the issue concerned.

  • The European Court of Justice will gain new powers to rule in the area of freedom, security and justice as well as judging whether member states are implementing EU laws according to the Charter of Fundamental Rights (a document that all member states except Britain, Poland and the Czech Republic have signed up to).

  • And last but by no means least, the number of MEPs will rise. Currently 736 as laid down in the Nice Treaty, it will rise to 751, with 18 new members to take their seats in the hemicycles. For the time being, the newcomers will only have observer status until the next elections, where Germany will lose three of its existing seats (the UK will gain one).

Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.