La Treizième Étoile: 27/05/12 - 03/06/12 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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As Bristol European Green Capital supporters exceed 3,000, there’s curiously still no sign of Bristol’s MEP Ashley Fox

Friday, 1 June 2012
As the number of public supporters for Bristol’s bid to be crowned European Green Capital 2014 smashes through the 3,000 barrier, one name curiously remains absent – that of South West Conservative MEP Ashley Fox.

While it must be admitted that the city faces tough competition in the form of Danish capital city Copenhagen and the German city of Frankfurt, as a proud resident of the region’s largest city, you would expect Mr Fox to be keen to publicly lend his name and support to the bid. (Let us not forget that it's progression to the final three is already a praiseworthy feat.)

I can only presume that Mr Fox does not want to publicly associate himself with Bristol's moves under a Liberal Democrat led city council to move increasingly towards becoming “a low carbon city with a high quality of life for all”, a centre of excellence in green technology, a city attracting investment for further regeneration and a city on target to reduce its CO2 emissions to reduce its contribution to climate change, and a city more resilient to global economic shocks, because it has invested in local sustainable energy supplies. (NB: If Bristol won the award it would also open the door to European funding for hi-tech "green" projects, and attract massive economic investment. The spin-offs could galvanise Bristol as a European hub on sustainable issues.)

Bristol last entered the competition in 2010 and reached a shortlist of six cities but this year marks a considerable achievement since among the defeated rivals were three capital cities – Brussels, Paris and Vienna.

The region’s Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson – not a resident of Bristol – was amongst the first to add his name to the public list of supporters and lend his support to the bid.

None of the four other MEPs have publicly pledged their support.

But you can do better than Ashley Fox and add your name to those who back the Bristol bid by clicking here.

UPDATE: 11/06, 21:02
I have come to understand that Mr Fox and Mrs Girling have both backed the bid, privately. The latter has also sent a letter to the Council to that effect which has been published in a pamphlet of supporters as part of the bid presentation package. I am pleased to hear this and happily acknowledge their support, even if they prefer not to do so in public.

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‘Disturbing parallels’ with the Falklands: Gibraltar and its MEPs speak out over the recent tense fisherman stand-offs

Wednesday, 30 May 2012
The current escalation in the long-running dispute between Britain and Spain over the sovereignty of Gibraltar is displaying "disturbing Falklands-style tendencies according to one member of the European Parliament representing The Rock.

Police and Royal Navy patrol boats try to stop three fishing boats which work near Gibraltar (Photo: Daily Mail)Gibraltar police vessels supported by the Royal Navy intercepted a Spanish trawler shadowed by two Spanish police boats fishing off the Rock on Monday (see photo above). After a tense few moments the trawler finally left Gibraltar's fishing grounds without incident, but there were similar stand-offs last week, with reports that boat hulls did collide but consequently downplayed as accidental collisions.

The Spanish fishermen - based in the southern Spanish port city of Algeciras across the Bay from Gibraltar - say they are being prevented from fishing off the Rock in waters they claim as their own. But according to the Gibraltarian Chief Minister Fabian Picardo fishing with nets in waters Gibraltar claims as its own is outlawed under its 1991 environmental law aimed at protecting fish numbers unless a licence is issued.

Spain ceded control of Gibraltar to the British in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. The UK recognises The Rock it as one of its overseas territories and its 30,000 inhabitants have British citizenship. But Spain has historically rejected British and Gibraltarian claims over the waters beyond Gibraltar's port, arguing that the treaty never included any mention of them.

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has recently described the tense and (thankfully) not yet confrontational stand-offs between the British Royal Navy and the Spanish police boats backing up Spanish trawlers as “an obviously carefully premeditated challenge to our indisputable sovereignty, jurisdiction, and control of British Gibraltar Territorial Waters” and now the region’s MEPs are speaking out in equally strong terms.

Conservative MEP Julie Girling has compared the situation to that of the Falkland Islands, saying: “what we don’t want in Gibraltar is a situation like the Falklands. There seems to be disturbing parallels in attempts to damage the livelihoods of Gibraltarian fishermen.

The Spanish are not being reasonable in their actions; there must be a prompt dialogue between the PDP, the Government and Spanish fishermen,she said. “The aggressive intervention of the Guardia Civil is not acceptable. There must be a mutual acceptance and respect of Gibraltarian waters by Spanish fleets and the Spanish Government.

Sir Graham Watson has said it is “unacceptable” that Spain is turning a local fishing dispute into a sovereignty issue. "As the Liberal Democrat MEP for Gibraltar, I fully support the Gibraltar government's efforts to reach an agreement with the La Linea fishing industry,he said. “I hope that the Algeciras fishermen will also respect any such agreement. Should Spain persist with this belligerence, we will not hesitate to pursue this at European level."

Mrs Girling’s Conservative colleagues have also responded: Ashley Fox has said he had written to the European Commission to condemn “this latest act of provocation” by Spain, while Giles Chichester has said that the Spanish are “being irrational and need to get a grip".“What happens in Gibraltar frankly is not the responsibility of the Spanish. Gibraltar is under British rule and that is how it will stay for the foreseeable future,” he said

The issue was raised in London yesterday at talks between Foreign Secretary William Hague and his Spanish counterpart, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo whose brief was to demand a return to a 1999 fishing agreement and to reiterate that Gibraltar has no territorial waters. However Mr Hague made it clear that sovereignty was not up for discussion and upheld British sovereignty in respect of Gibraltar's territorial waters.

Following the two-hour meeting both sides thus urged the Gibraltar Government and Spanish fishermen to find "a local solution" to the ongoing fishing dispute - a paradox that Spanish daily newspaper El Pais duly took note of.

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‘Why are we still wasting time discussing a Financial Transactions Tax?’, asks MEP Fox

Sunday, 27 May 2012
After many months of discussions, MEPs last week in Strasbourg voted by a majority of 487 votes to 152 (breakdown of the vote) in favour of introducing an EU-wide Financial Transactions Tax (FTT). Last year, the European Commission proposed imposing a tax of 0.1% on the trade in shares and bonds, and a 0.01% tax on derivatives trading.

Supporters of an FTT (also known as the Robin Hood Tax) see it as a means to disincentive speculative trading which is partly blamed for current financial woes and for the EU to raise its own funds instead of annually calling for greater contributions from member states.

But Conservative MEP Ashley Fox is a staunch opponent of an FTT; for him it is a “thoroughly bad idea” and “quite simply an EU cash grab on the City of London”. Following the Parliament’s vote, he spoke to EuroparlTV and questioned whether it would raise any substantial sums of money and noted that the UK and three other governments have said they will veto the proposal “so it’s not going to happen”.

Certainly with this latter remark, Mr Fox has a point. Taxation is an area where the agreement of all EU member states is required for the proposal to become law. Since several member states – including the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK – are strongly opposed, it is highly unlikely to ever see the light of day at an EU-27 level.

As he later muses in his June 2012 newsletter, “why [is] the European Parliament still wasting time and talking about the measure?”

All six South West MEPs voted against the FTT proposals.


Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.