La Treizième Étoile: 05/08/12 - 12/08/12 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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Swimming with sharks: SW MEP takes the plunge to support stronger EU finning ban

Thursday, 9 August 2012
South West MEP Julie Girling, right, and Richard Benyon MP (photo: Shark Trust)While many were profiting from the hot summer weather and taking a dip in the sea, South West MEP Julie Girling instead opted to take a dip in a shark tank at Sealife London Aquarium.

Alongside her fellow Conservative MP and current UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, Mrs Girling took the plunge protected in a net cage to show her support for shark conservation and a Shark Trust initiative calling for the closure of loopholes in the existing EU ban on shark ‘finning’ (the practice of slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea). The stunt aims to raise public awareness of the issue ahead of a series of crucial votes to be held in the European Parliament this autumn.

The European Parliament first called for a strengthened finning ban in 2006,she said. “After six years of debate, we must take the opportunity we have this autumn to show we have listened to scientists, conservationists, and the public, and insist that sharks are landed with their fins attached."

Today provided an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of the problem. The European Parliament Fisheries Committee will vote on the issue in September before it is submitted to a vote in plenary in October."

In March this year, the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers adopted a position in favour of a proposal to strengthen the EU finning ban by requiring that all sharks be landed with their ‘fins naturally attached’. The UK championed the proposal with only Spain and Portugal opposing. The European Parliament must now also support the proposal for it to enter into force.

Speaking at the event (see also video below), Ali Hood Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust, said “only two EU member states, Spain and Portugal, continue to remove shark fins at sea and it is time for Europe to bring its regulation in line with other nations who have adopted more effective management regimes.

Mrs Girling will return the sharks den in September when the Parliament resumes its normal business.

Read also: MEP Girling delighted as EU ‘finally’ moves to outlaw 'cruel practice’ of shark finning (26/11/11)


European Commission confirms probe into whether Gibraltar tax regime is state aid

Sunday, 5 August 2012
European Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has this week confirmed that the Commission was looking into Gibraltar’s new corporate tax regime and whether it constitutes a form of state aid not permitted under current European competition laws.

The Competition Commissioner, who is Spanish, was responding to a written question submitted by Spanish MEP Francisco Sosa Wagner which cited the judgement of 15 November 2011 at the European Court of Justice that Gibraltar’s corporate tax regime contravened European competition law.

In his reply of 30 July, Commissioner Almunia said thatAs Gibraltar's proposed tax reform notified to the Commission in 2002 was never put into effect, the Court's judgement did not require any particular action, either from the Commission or from Gibraltar's Government.

However,he continued, “the Commission is currently examining the compliance of Gibraltar's new corporate tax reform, introduced in 2011, with EU State aid rules in light of the recent Court judgement.

The UK and Gibraltar Government were reportedly informed of this investigation several weeks ago but it was not publicly confirmed until now. Initially it is being handled by civil servants in the Competition directorate in Brussels and is a preliminary step aimed at gathering information from the authorities in Gibraltar. Depending on what they find at this stage, a decision will be made whether or not to open a formal state aid investigation.

UPDATE (09/08):
Responding to this news, a spokesman for No.6 Convent Place told the Gibraltar Chronicle that “The Gibraltar Government is compiling the data necessary to provide a full response […] We are fully confident that the new Income Tax Act complies with all EU laws.

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