La Treizième Étoile: 24/03/13 - 31/03/13 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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Gibraltar Government to increase its presence in Brussels; CM wants visits at least twice yearly

Wednesday, 27 March 2013
Following their successful busy and high-level visit last week, the Government of Gibraltar is considering strengthening its presence in Brussels, the Chief Minister today revealed, adding that he hoped he and his deputy would make business visits to the EU capital at least twice a year. Gibraltar already has an office in the Belgian capital, but the scope of its activities is limited.

Speaking to the Gibraltar Chronicle, Fabian Picardo said: “I’m considering an extension of what it is that Gibraltar does in Brussels. I think it is important for us to have stronger independent representation here, whilst continuing to work even more closely with the United Kingdom and the representation that they have already established. And when I say that we should have enhanced independent representation, I mean both for commercial reasons as much as for political reasons.

The Chief Minister added that he hoped to visit Brussels together with his deputy, Dr Joseph Garcia, at least twice a year. “We intend to continue this process, it will be a process led both by me and the deputy Chief Minister at this level, but also involving ministers in respect of each of their portfolios. I believe that we should have full engagement with the Commissioners in respect of all the areas of responsibility where the European Commission is making decisions,” he said.

The news will be welcomed by the Rock's Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson, who was instrumental in organising last weeks’ visit. In a thinly-veiled criticism of the previous administration, he told the newspaper: “It helps Brussels to understand what the special needs of Gibraltar are [...] I think what’s really changed is that the Chief Minister has decided, with his government, to take Europe seriously, to implement all of the European directives - which gives them a very strong position morally – to show that Gibraltarians are good Europeans, and to come here and say, ‘we want our interests to be listened to’.


‘It's a bit like asking a fisherman not to fish’ - Gibraltar MEP says it’s a little odd to be told to stay out of local politics

Monday, 25 March 2013
Liberal Democrat MEP for Gibraltar Sir Graham Watson has labelled it a little odd to be asked to stay out of local politics by the leader of the Gibraltar opposition Daniel Feetham and stands by the comments he recently made on GBC about former chief minister Peter Caruana.

Responding to Sir Graham’s original comments, Daniel Feetham described it as shameful and unnecessary what Sir Graham had said about the recently-retired former Chief Minister Peter Richard Caruana (referred to below by Mr Feetham as 'PRC'), adding that it broke a long-standing convention that UK frontline politicians do not interfere in local politics.

However, reacting to Mr Feetham, Sir Graham told Gibraltar Panorama: "First of all, I want to say again what an enormous success the Government of Gibraltar's visit to Brussels was last week. We put Gibraltar firmly on the map in the capital of Europe. The previous Government of Gibraltar never sought my assistance on any EU policy issues or a visit to Brussels."

"Regarding the claim that I prevented the former Chief Minister from addressing the European Parliament's Petitions Committee, I can assure Daniel Feetham that I have never been Chairman - or indeed even been a member - of that Committee."

"Finally, asking one of Gibraltar's elected Members of the European Parliament to stay out of Gibraltarian politics is a little odd. It's a bit like asking a fisherman not to fish.

READ ALSO: Gibraltar Panorama: Sir Graham Watson elected to speak on our behalf (26/03)


Third time lucky? Bristol makes the final shortlist for 2015 EU Green Capital award

The capital of the West Country, Bristol, has made the final shortlist for the European Green Capital award for the second year running and in its third attempt.

In the final shortlist for the 2015 award, Bristol will face off against two European Capital cities: Brussels and Ljubljana, as well as Scotland’s largest city Glasgow.

After sensationally reaching the final shortlist for the 2014 award and learning they had lost out for the second time last June, the bid team revealed last July they had submitted another application for the 2015 award and faced competition from Bydgoszcz, Dublin and Kaunas to make the shortlist.

At the same time, the European Commission has published the full technical appraisal of all the candidate cities for 2015, in which Bristol ranked number 1 in many of the catagories for assessment. While I must stress this is a comparative assessment, not the absolute one that will ultimately define who wins, it certainly gives cause for optimism for Bristol's third bid for the title.

The European Green Capital Award is presented to a city in the vanguard of environmentally friendly urban living. Stockholm (Sweden) won the inaugural title, followed by Hamburg (Germany) in 2011. The current holder is Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain) and the French city of Nantes will hold the title in 2013.

Reacting to the announcement today, the Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson said "this is tremendous news. We narrowly missed out on winning the prize last year but with determination we can do it this time round. However, we need to up our game and ambition, and I am determined that Bristol becomes an environmental role model to inspire other cities around the globe." The Bristol bid team were also delighted, tweeting:

All four bid teams will now convene in Brussels to present their case before a panel of judges with the winner to be announced in June 2013 in Nantes, France (the 2013 European Green Capital).

UPDATE: 26/03 (10:45)
South West Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson, who was part of the team that made its pitch to the judging panel in Brussels last year, has welcomed the city's inclusion on the European Green Capital shortlist for 2015. He said: "I am delighted to see that the judges have recognised the improvements the City is making year after year when it comes to sustainable living and creativity in city management. Let us hope we can do one better than last year and win the title!".

Speaking to Quadrant RadioEP, Sir Graham added that he is proud of how Bristol has improved its management of waste and transport, which he says is more important than winning an award: "What is most important is that the city has not rested on its laurels from last time [and] it has gone on trying to be greener all the time," he said. "If we are going to leave the world for our grandchildren in the same way as we inherited it from our grandparents then we have to stop the environmental damage that we have been doing and work with the grain or nature and not against the grain of nature. Bristol has been doing that and I’m very proud of that."

"So whether we win the award or not is to me less important than the kind of efforts we are making, but of course it would be great to have it recognised and become Europe’s Green Capital."


With new EU funds, Devon ‘can emerge from economic downturn with renewed vigour’ say Lib Dem MEP and MP

Sunday, 24 March 2013
South West Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson has this week penned an editorial with the Liberal Democrat MP for Torbay Adrian Sanders in which they argue that a long-awaited EU funding boost for Devon could be transformative for the region.

Devon is in line to benefit from an EU funding boost after Prime Minister confirmed in February that it would be defined as a 'transition region' so will share around £2.5 billion of regeneration money from next year. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are already set to receive additional EU money through its structural fund programme as its GDP remains below 75% of the European Average and England's poorest region. There had been fears that Devon would get left behind, and nine members of the UK parliament representing Devon and parts of Somerset, including Mr Sanders, handed a letter to the Prime Minister in December urging him to support plans for a series of ‘transition zones’.

In previous years Devon has had to share EU regional development and social funding with the rest of the South West, which has often watered down the value of the spending. What is needed in Torbay is not necessarily the same as that which is needed in Tavistock or Torrington. Devon's economy is below the EU average – as it happens it is at about the same level as our Portuguese holiday destination rivals, the Algarve. But the county's challenges are different to those in other parts of the Westcountry,the editorial reads.

"With investment from EU schemes and the coalition Government's Regional Growth Fund, Devon can emerge from the economic downturn with renewed vigour and confidence […] Our Local Economic Partnership (LEP) is working on a strategy for where this funding could be delivered. We encourage all businesses and voluntary organisations, whether big or small, to work with the LEP to make sure this county gets as much as possible out of the money.

The article comes after Mr Sanders paid a visit to Brussels where he had meetings with Janusz Lewandowski, the European Commissioner responsible for the budget (see photo above), and Bulgarian Socialist MEP Ivailo Kalfin, who is leading negotiations in the European Parliament. They also met with senior officials in the EU's fisheries and regional funds departments, to discuss plans to create a pot of money specially dedicated to areas like Torbay.


MEP welcomes £2m Atlantic Array wind farm investment for Devon businesses

Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson has welcomed the news that £2 million worth of contracts to build and maintain the proposed Atlantic Array offshore wind farm in the Severn Estuary have been awarded to Devon businesses. A further £1.98 million has been awarded to South West firms.

Sir Graham also noted the changes to the proposed scheme by RWE Power following concerns by environmental campaigners and residents. These include a reduction in turbines and the array will cover an area of 200 km2, down from the original 238 km2.

The scheme, when completed, will produce enough green energy to power the number of dwellings in Devon almost three times over.

In a statement, Sir Graham said: “The success of major energy projects is often measured by the impact on the ground. And I am pleased that the local community has been able to take advantage of this major business opportunity. It is now clear that with the news of these contracts being awarded, Devon will benefit enormously from millions of pounds worth of economic activity, safeguarding jobs and stimulating growth.

"We have a unique opportunity in the Westcountry to benefit from our environment, forging a stronger economy through low carbon schemes which create green jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"I welcome RWE's efforts to minimise the impact of the wind farm on the local environment, from both a visual and ecological perspective. It is important that communities are listened to. With our reliance on Russian gas growing by the day and with the major challenges of waste and decommissioning that come with nuclear, we must continue to invest in renewable energy projects such as these that harness the power of nature."

With a planned 1.5 gigawatt capacity, it would be one of the world's largest offshore wind farms. In January 2012, the South West was 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.


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