La Treizième Étoile: 22/01/12 - 29/01/12 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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David Cameron stands firm on Gibraltar’s right to self determination during speech before the Council of Europe

Saturday, 28 January 2012
British Prime Minister David Cameron was in Strasbourg this week to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (note: entirely different to the EU) of which the UK has now assumed the presidency.

David Cameron speaking at the Council of Europe, Strasbourg (Photo: Guardian)Following his speech delivered on Wednesday in which he urged EU leaders to seize a 'once-in-a-generation chance' to make sweeping changes to the European Court of Human Rights (see also: full speech and analysis here and here), he took questions from parliamentarians and in response to one notably reaffirmed the UK backed Gibraltar’s right to self determination and that to go against the wishes of its people would amount to “re-colonisation”.

Mr Cameron made that particular statement in response to questions from a Spanish Partido Popular (PP) MP Pedro Agramunt, who sought his views on the “European Union, the Schengen Agreement, the European Monetary Union and the decolonisation process”. In reply, Mr Cameron said:

I am not sure whether the last part of your question was on Gibraltar or the issue of the Falklands, which has been raised recently. I have a very clear view: we should stand for self-determination, and as long as people in a part of the world that is part of the United Kingdom, effectively, want to remain with that status, far from being de-colonisation, it would actually be re-colonisation to go against their wishes, and that is the case in all those instances.

Since arriving in power last November, Mr Agramunt’s Partido Popular have been making loud noises about Gibraltar seeking future sovereignty talks, but the British stance has remained firm. A little over a week after the Spanish General Election, The Europe Minister David Lidington, vigorously restated the Government’s long-standing assurance that it will not talk about Gibraltar’s sovereignty against the wishes of the Rock’s citizens.

The United Kingdom holds the Presidency of the Council of Europe until May 2012.

Happy Birthday three years young

Wednesday, 25 January 2012
Tomorrow (Thursday 26th) marks three years since the launch of BloggingPortal - a website ran by volunteers that now aggregates more than 900 blogs written in an array of European languages and each discussing European affairs and political activity.

As many will testify, a week is a long time in politics (all the more so in current times of European crises) but over the last three years, blogging as a communication tool has come on leaps and bounds; it has become more and more established and is now recognised as an important extension of the media landscape no longer just the employ of passionate citizens 'with time on their hands in the evenings'.

Not only platforms for expressing ones opinion, I believe blogs exist to fill holes left vacant by traditional print media and the success of one's blog is dependant on finding a niche interest, establishing a readership, and ultimately the writer enjoying the process of maintaining it. There are currently some incredible and informative blogs that focus solely on particular aspects of European affairs and these have become terrifically influential and essential reading as a result, all of which can be found via Bloggingportal.

I do not for one minute qualify my blog in those glowing terms, but I would like to think that mine fills a gap left vacant by the traditional media. My blog seeks to answer a question my mother once asked me, namely: "what does the EU do for me?" Since this is virtually neglected by the Westcountry's eurosceptic regional press, my blog covers the work that the six elected MEPs and the EU institutions do that affects my home constituency of the South West of England and Gibraltar - that is my 'niche', my mother (anyone else is a bonus) is my readership, and I enjoy maintaining my blog.

My blog is just one of many threads in the rich tapestry of discussion and debate that is the European 'blogosphere'. BloggingPortal currently numbers more than 900 blogs (not all active it must be said and regrettably not all that I am able to read for reasons of language inability) and a selection of must-read articles is promoted by a small team of co-editors that since June 2011 I have been fortunate enough to be one of.

Through BloggingPortal I have had the privilege of making some great friends, participating in discussions during the Hungarian Presidency about bloggers getting accreditation to attend and report on meetings of the European Council, attending an event hosted in London on EU-UK reporting, and even being invited by the European People's Party to attend one of their leaders' summits. And this is hopefully just the start.

Happy Birthday BloggingPortal.

For those interested (and I hope you are), BloggingPortal produces both a daily and a weekly newsletter (subscribe via the website) and posts links to articles continuously via RSS feeds and its Twitter account.

BIG NEWS: the South West unveiled as the UK’s first Marine Energy Park

Monday, 23 January 2012
Another honour for the region: the South West has today been named as the UK’s first Marine Energy Park. Firmly placing the region on the international map for leadership in marine renewable energy, the South West Marine Energy Park will stretch from Bristol all the way along down to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

The Marine Energy Park (confusingly also abbreviated to MEP) will create a collaborative partnership in the region between national and local government, Local Enterprise Partnerships, the Universities of Plymouth and Exeter and industry including Cornwall’s landmark Wave Hub.

The aim of the partnership will be to speed up the progress of marine power development and government ministers believe the new MEP status will drive the creation of 5,000 jobs in the region by 2017.

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker made the announcement on a visit to Bristol where he met with key members of the new initiative. “
This is a real milestone for the marine industry and for the South West region in securing its place in renewables history as the first official marine energy park,” he said. “The South West can build on its existing unique mix of renewable energy resource and home-grown academic, technical and industrial expertise.

Marine power has huge potential in the UK not just in contributing to a greener electricity supply and cutting emissions, but in supporting thousands of jobs in a sector worth a possible £15bn to the economy to 2050. The UK is already a world leader in wave and tidal power, so we should capitalise on this leadership to make marine power a real contender in the future energy market.

With its geographical location vis-a-vis the Atlantic and the prevailing winds from the west, the region is well known for its strong winds and huge oceanic waves experienced by sailors and surfers alike. The largest waves are generally found off the north Cornish coast (Newquay is infamous for its surfing opportunities for example), around the Isles of Scilly and out towards the Western Approaches, but it also has a very large tidal range, especially in the Bristol Channel which generates good tidal stream flows off north Devon. Mr Barker commented that wave or tidal energy has the potential to generate up to 27 gigawatts of power in the UK alone by 2050, equivalent to eight coal-fired power stations.

The South West Marine Energy Park prospectus (pdf), commissioned by Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council, outlines how the region’s public and private sector will work together with the government and other key national bodies such as the Crown Estate.

The prospectus says the South West MEP will make it a priority to secure additional incentives for business investment including, business rate reductions, higher levels of capital allowances, Regional Growth Fund and other enterprise grants, inward investment, and access to financing from the Green Investment Bank.

Long time advocate of renewable energy investment, Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson has welcomed today’s announcement: "EU funding has already supported the Wave Hub and the Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy, which together are allowing world leading research and development to take place here in the South West. By investing public money into renewables and new innovative technology we can encourage private investment that is tenfold, helping to create jobs. It will also help bring energy prices down as more efficient and less wasteful systems are created,he said.

"This announcement is another demonstration of the Lib Dems working within the Coalition to deliver on our manifesto commitment to 'transform the electricity networks into a dynamic electricity grid that can better connect and integrate new, clean energy technologies’."


Egg on your Face(book)? MEP Girling takes her Good Egg Bad Egg campaign online

Conservative MEP Julie Girling has this week taken her Good Egg Bad Egg Campaign onto the social network Facebook and is calling on users to speak up for the 'Good Eggs' and name and shame the 'Bad Eggs'.

OK, OK please don't crack up, it may not be the most egg-citing issue but it is a serious one. As Mrs Girling explains "fourteen EU member states have failed to fully enforce the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive [which came into force 1st January 2012] and will face legal proceedings in the coming weeks". These countries are Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain.

All these countries, she explains on the page, have failed to make the grade and "EU inspection teams are now visiting to collect evidence of non-compliance to back up legal action and subsequent fines".

"All of the UKs major retailers have agreed to destock eggs from non-compliant countries; where do your eggs come from? Has your local store or supermarket stopped selling eggs from Non-Compliant Countries?"

Log onto the Facebook page now and join in this egg-cellent campaign.

[Dear reader, please egg-cept my apologises for the terrible egg puns - it was too hard to resist.]


Competitiveness, security, sustainability: MEP Chichester's view on EU energy policy

South West MEP Giles Chichester, the European Conservative spokesperson on Industry, Research and Energy, has used an article published on PRSD to outline his view on the EU’s policy on energy.

Mr Chichester writes that “security of our energy supply remains fundamental [and] without energy, our society would disintegrate” and stated his belief that responsibility for energy policies “should remain with EU Member States” because of the “differences of energy supply requirements from one European country to another [and] the risk to [energy] security is greater if only one EU body is making the policy decisions”.

Security of supply is best maintained by diversity: diversity of energy mix, diversity of technology, diversity of fuels, diversity of sources of supply, diversity of suppliers, diversity of planning models,” he writes. “[But] this doesn’t mean we should forget about climate change or competitiveness; competitiveness is crucial to maintain that diversity and to achieve CO2 emission reduction in the most efficient way.

I think we should draw back from what I call the religion of renewables which prescribes the solution before the problem is defined.”


Dobrodošli u Europsku uniju: Croatia votes overwhelmingly in favour of joining the EU

Croatia is finally set to become the 28th Member of the European Union in 2013 after its citizens voted to join the EU by a sweeping majority in a referendum held at the weekend.

Despite the disappointingly low turnout (44%), the result delivered a greater than expected yes result than what had been predicted in the opinion polls.

With nearly all ballots counted, Croatia's state referendum commission said that about 66 per cent of those who took part in the referendum answered "yes" to the question: "Do you support the membership of the Republic of Croatia in the European Union?" About 33 per cent were against.

The result means that Croatia, who signed an EU accession treaty last December concluding seven years of entry talks, will become the EU's 28th member country in July next year.

Senior politicians in Zagreb have described the referendum as historic – only one had been held previously: on whether to secede from Yugoslavia (held May 1991).

In a joint statement, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, welcomed the result: "We welcome the positive outcome of the referendum on Croatia's accession to the European Union. With this vote, Croatia's citizens have given their endorsement to European integration. We congratulate Croatia and its people on their choice: EU membership will open up new opportunities for them and help secure the stability and prosperity of their nation.

Similarly, Tanja Fajon, a Slovenian MEP and Vice chair of the Delegation to the EU – Croatia Joint Parliamentary Committee, said that Croatians have “clearly decided to continue on the European path” and called it a “wise and brave decision which proves the maturity of the Croatian citizens who understand the great benefits of the European integration despite the difficult economic and financial situation in the EU”.

Welcoming the 28th country means not only a stronger Europe but it is also a very important sign, especially for the countries of Western Balkan, that the EU enlargement process is moving on,” she said.

Dobrodošli u Europsku uniju Hrvatska!

Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.