La Treizième Étoile: 14/10/12 - 21/10/12 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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Revealed: Bristol's capital city competitors for the EU Green Capital 2015 title

Friday, 19 October 2012
The capital of the West Country, Bristol, will face competition from the capital cities of Brussels, Dublin and Ljubljana for the 2015 European Green Capital award as the list of eight applicant cities was revealed by the European Commission today.

Amongst the other cities in contention is Glasgow (the largest city in Scotland), Kaunas (the second-largest city in Lithuania) and Kutahya, a small city in Western Turkey 969 metres above sea level.

The full list of cities that have entered the competition is as follows:
  • Bristol (UK)
  • Brussels (Belgium)
  • Bydgoszcz (Poland)
  • Dublin (Ireland)
  • Glasgow (UK)
  • Kaunas (Lithuania)
  • Kutahya (Turkey)
  • Ljubljana (Slovenia)

EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "This is the sixth year of the European Green Capital Award. It is encouraging to see former applicants reapplying and new ones showing genuine interest. Many EU cities are setting global standards for urban sustainability, with pioneering innovative solutions to environmental challenges. The Green Capital Award is a unique opportunity for them to share this knowledge with the rest of Europe.

The winner will be announced in June 2013 in Nantes, France (the European Green Capital that year).

Conservative party moves to exercise mass EU justice opt-out condemned as ‘Tory Euroscepticism gone mad’

Monday, 15 October 2012
This afternoon in the House of Commons Home Secretary Theresa May confirmed that her Conservative party in Government will look to exercise the existing opt-out of more than 130 European crime and justice measures in a few year's time, a move that the leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg has said he and his party will oppose.

Addressing MPs on their first day back from the Conference season recess, Mrs May said: “the UK cannot pick and choose the measures from which we wish to opt out; we can opt out only en masse and then seek to rejoin individual measures. So I can announce today that the Government’s current thinking is that we will opt out of all pre-Lisbon police and criminal justice measures and then negotiate with the Commission and other member states to opt back into those individual measures that it is in our national interest to rejoin.

However,she added, “discussions are ongoing within the Government and therefore no formal notification will be given to the Council until we have reached agreement on the measures that we wish to opt back into.

In addition to cooperation in bodies such as Eurojust and Europol, one of the measures that is most likely to go in this move will be the European Arrest Warrant, a mechanism that has proved to be very effective and recently ensured the rapid return of Jeremy Forrest who fled to France with a 15-year old student. Over the summer, Sir Stephen Lander, former head of MI5, and Lord Blair, former head of Scotland Yard, were among those who wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron to say scrapping the European Arrest Warrant would be “entirely self-defeating”.

Labour MP Denis MacShane has described exercising the block opt-out as “Tory Euroscepticism gone mad” and that the UK’s withdrawal from the European Arrest Warrant “as a result of the Conservative obsession to limit Britain's partnership and co-operation in the EU, would be welcomed by all transnational criminals who flee British justice”. For Liberal Democrat Lord Oakeshott, this is about just "throwing some red meat to the rabid anti-Europeans on the Tory Right and in UKIP, and frankly there’s no difference between them".

Mrs May’s announcement was met with joy by South West Conservative MEP Ashley Fox, who posted on his Facebook page today: “I was pleased to learn that the Home Secretary intends to call time on our involvement with the EU Justice & Home Affairs Programme […] I realise that Mrs May’s words may cause consternation in the Liberal Democrat parts of the Coalition Government, but this issue is too important to allow coalition politics to overrule the long term health of our justice system.[Editor’s note: is that not exactly what the Conservatives are doing to appease their backbenchers?!]

But Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson, who piloted the European Arrest Warrant through the European Parliament, was expectedly disappointed at the announcement.

Who would the public rather listen to: 13 former senior Police chiefs and the former head of MI5 or a Tory politician? A recent YouGov poll stated that 77% of the public supported co-operation with the EU to tackle cross-border crime and terrorism. David Cameron's attempt to appease his backbenchers threatens the safety of us all,he said in a statement.

We should be concentrating on how we can improve these powers, not on how to get rid of them. I agree that the European Arrest Warrant requires some reform in the UK, due to the failure of the last Labour government to implement the legislation into law effectively. But to withdraw completely flies in the face of our Police forces, who comprehensively agree on the importance such tools have in combating cross border crime.

"Once again the Tories are blinded by their dogma. Their blinkered vision on Europe will put an end once and for all to the notion that the Conservatives are the party of law and order,he said. “Criminals do not recognise national borders. We need robust policies to bring our police forces together.

Liberal Democrats in government and in the European Parliament will fight to keep the tools that have helped arrest human traffickers, drug barons and paedophile gangs before they reach our borders.

Frankly, the whole situation is a bit of a mess with all the hallmarks of badly thought-out policy for the sake of a few headlines and roars of support behind the Prime Minister immediately after the Conservative party conference.

Of course, the timing once again has done the British national interest no good at all ahead of the next meeting of the European Union’s Presidents and Prime Ministers (aka the European Council) which is scheduled to take place on Thursday and Friday this week in Brussels.

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Application submitted: Bristol will compete for the 2015 European Green Capital title

Following the Capital of the West County's great bid presentation and near success back in June for the status of European Green Capital 2014, the team behind the Bristol Green Capital Bid have been working hard to meet today’s 5pm deadline for entries to compete for the 2015 title. After much effort (and much caffeine) it appears all is in order and the application has been successfully submitted!

In June, following a presentation before the judges at the Committee of the Regions in Brussels, Bristol’s bid received warm praise but in the end lost out to the favourites Copenhagen.

So all the best Bristol! Let’s hope it will be third time lucky this time around!

Lib Dem MEP joins delegation to ‘fight tooth and nail’ for Cornwall EU funding

Sunday, 14 October 2012
Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson this week joined with a delegation of Councillors from Cornwall Council to the European Parliament to secure future European funding for the region and lobby for additional freedom from the rules on how it must be spent.

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have already secured another seven-year round of higher-level funding after figures earlier this year revealed that its GDP remains below the 75% threshold. This is expected to be worth an estimated £410 million to the county.

A category of regions "in transition" (which have a GDP between 75% and 90% of the EU average) stand to get funding, but not on the same scale. Devon's output stands at 86.5% so qualifies for this transition funding and has led to talk of an uneven playing field between Devon and Cornwall.

Currently, it is estimated that Convergence funding gives Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly an economic uplift of £1,120 per head, with Devon at its current level of transition funding receiving £118 per head.

This has prompted fears that businesses could be tempted to cross the Tamar in search of additional grants and business support and concerns that, even if transition funding is maintained, there could be changes in the way it is distributed, with a proposal to give the UK government a greater role in allocating the money.

"Objective one and recently Convergence has been instrumental in providing the sort of funding required to invest in superfast broadband, new business units, improved road infrastructure and retraining people who may have lost their job or did not leave education with the right qualifications. And I will be fighting tooth and nail in Brussels to ensure that same funding continues to be drawn down,Sir Graham said.

"It is important for the UK government to recognise that European funding is important to areas like Cornwall and Devon. The more the Prime Minister talks about wanting to reduce EU funding, the more we put at risk the many successful schemes in our area."

Liberal Democrat Cornwall Councillor Edwina Hannaford, who also chairs a panel on Cornwall Council on European funding in Cornwall post 2013, said she has lobbied for a reduced role for government departments such as Defra and the Department for Work and Pensions in the administration of European funds for the Duchy: “Cornwall is in a unique position with opportunities and challenges ; we have vast experience of delivering structural funds – let us get on with it".


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