La Treizième Étoile: 16/10/11 - 23/10/11 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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Commission proposals for £8 billion investment in rural broadband welcomed

Friday, 21 October 2011
South West Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson, left, has this week welcomed the European Commission's announcement for a multi billion pound investment in rural broadband to bring all homes up to a 30 Megabits per second speed (Mbps) by 2020.

The announcement, part of a package of measures launched by the Commission “Connecting Europe”, is designed to boost economic growth by encouraging paralleled private investment and seeks to bring areas such as the rural South West up to par with the big cities and the capital.

The coalition government, in addition to and including money via the European Regional Development Fund, has invested hundreds of millions of pounds across the South West in upgrading exchanges as it aims to make the UK the fastest in Europe.

Commenting on the Commission’s proposals, Sir Graham said: ''alongside the coalition government, the European Union has made high speed broadband one of its top priorities for the next decade. Public investment is vital as too often private companies sell rural areas short due to the lack of a good profit margin in comparison with densely populated areas.

"It is important, in the current economic climate, that there is investment in infrastructure, especially in areas which encourage growth. We are falling behind developing economies such as China and Turkey which who are ploughing huge resources into upgrading internet services and transport,he said.

The South West has specific challenges to overcome because of the region’s size, absence of giant cities, and because it is largely rural. As a result the region is at a disadvantage when compared to others and may fall short of national targets of 90 per cent coverage by 2017 even with these additional monies as discussed.

UPDATE, 07/11/11: A study by Ofcom, reported today in the Western Morning News, has identified Cornwall and Devon as 'digital deserts'. The report found that 18 per cent of users in Cornwall and 17 per cent in Devon were not getting access to what has been described as "decent" broadband connections.


Arise Sir Graham! South West MEP at Windsor Castle to receive his knighthood

Thursday, 20 October 2011
South West MEP Sir Graham Watson is due at Windsor Castle today for the investiture ceremony when his knighthood, one of the highest awards given to an individual in the UK, will be conferred upon him.

Earlier this year, Sir Graham was awarded the honour for public and political service, in Her Majesty the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

He was the first Liberal Democrat MEP to be elected, taking the Somerset and North Devon seat by a majority of 22,500 in 1994. In 1999, he was re-elected to the wider South West England constituency as it remains today.

From 2002 to 2009 he was leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group in the European Parliament. The only UK MEPs to have been similarly honoured in previous years also led transnational political parties in the European Parliament.

Graham will receive his knighthood together with around 80 other recipients who are being awarded honours for their contribution to their community, country, sport or their profession.

Ahead of the investiture, Sir Graham said: "The European Parliament and the work of the UK's MEPs are often overlooked. I see this honour in part as a recognition of the importance of the EU's Parliament and the work that is done there.

"Over the seven years which I spent leading Liberal Euro-MPs from across the EU, I managed to shape decisions to the benefit of Europe's citizens. I think there is still a lot to play for in building Liberal strength across Europe, and hope to be able to contribute further to this endeavour in the years to come."

"I am proud to accept this honour on behalf of my fellow Liberal Democrats in the South West, who have worked so hard alongside me over the last 17 years. We have achieved a lot together!"


Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.