Nov 28 2014

European Economy needs kick start…

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European economy needs kick start…

My Socialist and Democrat colleagues in the European parliament have rightly decided that we need a good old dose of Keynesian Economics: they have proposed to set up a new €400 billion fund as part of an investment plan to boost growth and create jobs in Europe.

For the first time, since the Barroso era, growth and flexibility are seriously being taken into account at European Commission level. This new approach could represent the beginning of a revolution for Europe.

What is being proposed is ‘shock therapy’ to boost the European Union (EU) economy. A shock therapy carried out by new money – public and private – to be invested in a new European investment instrument for selected European projects, projects which should not be calculated in the national deficit.

It is being argued that there is no more time for a middle of the road strategy. It is the time for ‘brave and wise’ decisions. It is proposed to have a shock therapy to recover our economy and to save the EU from populisms and disintegration.

Investments in any old project won’t get Europe back on track. What’s important is not only the quantity of the investments but where the money is invested.

The transition towards a sustainable and resource efficient economy is the overriding priority and the best way forward. Investments should be targeted towards energy transition and energy efficiency, towards the digital economy and innovation and towards human capital, thus boosting job creation. The EU should focus on projects which could never flourish without a share of public investment.

The EU is perhaps now facing the risk of a long period of low growth and mass unemployment. We are also confronted with an investment deficit estimated at €300 billion per year. Member states need to recover flexibility in order to be able to invest. Both private and public investment must be revived. Public funds must serve as a leverage to attract private investments. A slight element of subsidy, such as an interest-free loan, could unlock many important projects which otherwise could not afford financing on purely commercial terms. European investments should also cover all EU Member States and be aimed at supporting regions in crisis.”

My colleagues have stressed that they will not support a ‘fake’ investment plan. Fresh money is required. That is why they propose to create a special fund. The initial capital would gradually be provided by EU Member States in order to reach €100 billion within six years. These national contributions should be exempt from the calculation of the public deficit and public debt.

On this basis, the fund could mobilise an additional €300 billion provided by private investors. This public financial capacity of €400 billion could generate a total of €500 billion of public and private investment – an excellent boost for the European economy.



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Nov 26 2014

MEP’s praise Sakharov Prize winner for life-saving work with war zone rape victims

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MEP’s praise Sakharov Prize winner for life-saving work with war zone rape victims


My colleagues in the European parliament have praised Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, who received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament today.

Dr Mukwege founded and works at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, where he specialises in the treatment of women and children who have been the victims of extremely violent sexual assaults by rebel forces. Mukwege has become the world’s leading expert on repairing the internal physical damage caused by rape.

He provides medical treatment to victims who have been subject to violent rape, and teaches other surgeons to perform this type of operation. Since 1999, Dr Mukwege has treated more than 40,000 victims of rape.

To especially mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, MEPs presented Denis Mukwege with his award of the Sakharov Prize.

Dr Mukwege’s work is a stark reminder of the continued horrors of violence against women today, but also of the determination to act. He is a heroic advocate for the rights of women, at great personal risk, and has raised awareness of the issue of rape as a weapon of war and trained other surgeons.

Across the globe, wartime rape affects millions of women and children who bear the physical and mental scars of their traumatic and harrowing experiences. Rape in conflict zones is a war crime – the international community must take urgent action to end this barbarism.

Outlawing violence against women and girls has been an ongoing campaign for many years and I can remember being instrumental in getting Edinburgh Council’s ‘Zero Tolerance of Violence Against Women, adopted by the European Parliament 22 years ago, added:

As the person who took this campaign to the European Union (EU), I will continue to highlight the issue of violence against women and girls and the need for the EU to have a clear action plan to combat such violence.

At a special summit in London last year, a number of governments, international agencies and non-governmental organisations signed a Call to Action to prioritise women and girls in emergencies. The UK, the EU’s humanitarian aid department and several other European governments have signed up. We need more to sign up, and we should explore whether the European Parliament can sign up too.

We gave the Sakharov prize to Dr Mukwege to recognise his huge contribution to caring for women victims of sexual violence, but with more stories of atrocities against women coming out of Syria, Nigeria and many other countries, we need real and sustained action.

The EU should take the lead and work with national governments to better combat this heinous crime against humanity.




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Nov 14 2014

Equal Treatment Directive

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Equal Treatment Directive

Under the Italian Presidency the European Commission are due to present a proposal for a directive which addresses discrimination outside the workplace on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation. This is the first attempt to tackle discrimination in an integrated way. It deals with discrimination that occurs in public and private sectors, in access to social protection, education and also in access to goods and services, including housing.

Within the European Parliament (EP) the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) is the one responsible for this directive. One of the major challenges to the approval of this Directive is the fact that it brings together many areas.

There are four open questions which represent a challenge in the Council. These questions regard: the scope of application, the anticipatory measures which regard accessibility in the field of disability, the subsidiarity problem and also the legal certainty for the overall directive.

The representative of the Commission expressed the clear political commitment of the new Commission and declared that the Commission is ready and open to improvements of the proposal if necessary. Then it went on to congratulate the Italian Presidency for the “remarkable work in difficult circumstances”. The Commission is fully committed to the adoption of this proposal and Mr. Juncker made that clear when he declared that he will try to convince reticent Member States to approve this directive.

Mrs. Lunacek, the Rapporteur for this Directive, declared that she was pleased to see this issue on the agenda. She continued asking why some Member States do not support the principle of equality that has to be implemented. She declared: “My impression is that there is no more questions of technical or legal clarity – the point is political will. The real question is how do we get the reticent governments to move ahead?”

We have the principle of equality with regard to employment and also we have the Directive against racial discrimination. The employment directive establishes that everybody has to be treated equally. But why do the other vulnerable groups not enjoy the same rights?

The point, according to the Vice President of the EP, is that the European citizens expect equal treatment from the European Union (EU).

The issue at stake here is access to services and goods for everyone. Why should non-discrimination be legally binding only with regard to race and not on other grounds?


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Nov 07 2014

New Report on global warming highlights environmental concerns

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There is a new report circulating in Brussels that states the President of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has called for urgent action against global warming. The French Government wants to use the latest IPCC report as the basis for a political agreement at the Paris Climate conference in 2015.

The IPCC President, Rajendra Pachauri, praised the European Union (EU) for its 2030 climate objectives, whilst appealing to the world to act on climate issues. The EU scientist presented the findings of the Report at a meeting with the French Minister for the Environment (Ségolène Royal), and Foreign Affairs Minister (Laurent Fabius).

The Report presents new findings on the human impact on the climate and global warming. The Report claims ‘…we are 95% certain that mankind is responsible for the increase in air and sea temperatures…’ giving as evidence the discovery that: the oceans have absorbed most of the extra heat that has been recorded over the last 10 years, leading to a general rise in water temperatures.

This observation is both undeniable and “good news”, according to Pachauri. We still have time to build a stable and prosperous future, if we manage to reduce carbon emissions. But it will not be easy. In order to limit the global temperature rise to +2 degrees, CO2 emissions must be cut by 40 to 70% between 2010 and 2050, and the world will have to become carbon neutral by the year 2100, according to the Report. This scenario will be unattainable without an enormous joint effort from all the World players.

The IPCC chief welcomed the EU’s target of reducing CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030, without criticising the fact that energy efficiency had been relegated to second place.

It is up to individual governments and citizens working together to decide how we will achieve this. Energy efficiency is a solution that our societies must grasp. That applies to the EU Member States and other countries around the world.

Laurent Fabius, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, believes the Report should be taken as the basis for an international agreement at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015.

‘The IPCC report tells us three very simple, very important things: climate-scepticism is impossible; climate-fatalism is dangerous; and willingness to act is crucial,’ the Minister said.

Laurent Fabius revealed the four domains on which France hopes the Paris climate agreement will focus:

1 – A legally-binding protocol aimed at limiting the global temperature rise to +2 degrees Celsius by 2050;

2 – A detailed plan of how each country plans to modify its economic model;

3 – The transfer of funds from North to South through the Green Climate Fund;

4 – Solutions proposed by civil society, local communities

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Oct 31 2014

UK Government should take lead in cutting toxic emission!

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UK Government should take lead in cutting toxic emission!

Labour MEPs have called on Europe’s leaders, who meet as the European Council, to agree ambitious, binding targets to save energy and reduce carbon and other toxic emissions.

My colleagues and I have set ambitious targets in the battle to tackle climate change: we want at least a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to the 1990 level; at least 30% renewable energy and a 40% improvement in energy efficiency.

We need this ambitious climate framework to lay the groundwork for a global climate deal in 2015, something we plan to highlight in the upcoming UN climate conference.”

Europe’s leaders must agree targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, greater use of renewable energy and improvements in energy efficiency.

If the self styled ‘greenest government ever’ in the European Union (EU) is to have any credibility at all, it requires David Cameron to take the lead for once and back the European Parliament’s ambitious, binding targets, not threaten to water down or veto these proposals.


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Jul 28 2014

Environmental Policy – Sink or Swim

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Sink or Swim

Each year millions of European Union (EU) citizens spend leisure time at a local beach or travel abroad for a holiday by the seaside. Only the hardier of us will be sampling the cooler waters of the North Sea on our East Coast, but we may still have an interest in the quality of our waters and whether they conform to European Union (EU) standards.

When travelling abroad many features help us to make choices about where we may go, but what we hope to take for granted is that the water will be clean and safe. This is not always the case!  It is therefore vital that the quality of the water we and are our families are swimming in will not jeopardise our health.

Efforts by the EU to ensure clean and healthy bathing waters began in the 1970s and the first European Bathing Water Direcyive was adopted in 1975. This was designed to safeguard public health and protect the aquatic environment. Since 2009 the European Environment Agency (EEA) has been publishing an annual report on the quality of coastal and inland bathing areas throughout Europe. It is hoped that the Agency’s latest (2013) report will encourage Europeans to enjoy local bathing areas and help them with planning trips further afield.

Europe boasts countless beautiful beaches, rivers, lakes and lochs for a relaxing holiday and it is encouraging to see that according to the report, more than 94% met the minimum water quality standards set by the EU directives. Only 2% of bathing waters were found to have poor quality bathing water. The highest rates of poor or non-compliant bathing waters were found in Estonia, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain and Ireland. Nine countries had no poor quality or non-compliant bathing sites at all. These were Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

Bathing water quality is not only essential for bathers’ health; it is also a strong indication of the overall state of our coastal zones and inland water bodies. All efforts to improve the quality of bathing water should therefore also be seen in the context of good ecological and environmental management.  These are the aims of the EU Water Framework Directive and Marine Strategy Framework Directive. In addition many years of investment in better wastewater treatment under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive has meant that Europe’s bathing waters are much cleaner today than they were 30 years ago when large qualities of untreated or partially treated urban and industrial wastewater were discharged into bathing water areas.

Water is essential for human life, nature and the economy. The EU’s water policy has been successful in helping us to protect water resources and the quality of EU bathing sites. The extensive information gathered has served us well as a management tool for the responsible authorities but equally as a valuable source of information for Europe’s citizens.


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Jul 25 2014

S& D Group Calls for Immediate Ceasefire and End to Blood Bath

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S& D Group Calls for Immediate Ceasefire and End to Blood Bath

The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrat (S&D) Euro MPs have urged the High Representative (ostensibly the European union (EU) Foreign Minister), Catherine Ashton to fulfil the hopes and desires of millions of Europeans who are calling for EU action to stop the bloodshed in the Gaza Strip and to achieve lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.    Every day of non action means further victims of senseless violence. Every single day of shameful silence leads to sufferings and destruction. What else are we waiting for? The EU must behave as a serious political actor by calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and then lead a comprehensive Peace Conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Lady Ashton’s mandate has not yet expired. The High Representative must meet her responsibilities in this regard as well as playing a meaningful role in the peace process in Gaza Strip war. There can be no excuse for the lack of EU political initiative.   We (the S&D Group) support all international and regional efforts aiming to stop the on-going violence in the Gaza Strip and in Israel. We condemn the continued firing of rockets by Palestinian militants into Israel. We also condemn the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army in Gaza – an estimated 70 per cent of the more than 700 Palestinian victims are civilians, including many children – and we call for an end to this military operation through the de-escalation of the conflict.   The longer we wait, the less room there is to achieve a rapid ceasefire and a final appeasement of this bloody conflict based on the two-state solution – with 1967 borders and Jerusalem as capital of both states – with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace and security.

It is not a dream – it is common sense!


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Jul 23 2014

A Holiday Bonus from Europe

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A Holiday Bonus from Europe

A European Union (EU) Court ruling mean employees who earn extra cash for overtime, shifts and commission, but have only received basic pay in their holiday pay packet, will be able to claim back substantial amounts from their employers.

The right to holiday pay originally came from the EU through the 48 Hour Working Time Directive.

Thousands of Scots, and other EU, shift workers could now be entitled to millions of pounds of holiday pay for overtime and nightshift hours they have put in over the years – plus. enhanced holiday pay in the future.

A new European Court of Justice Ruling means employees across the country will be able to claim back substantial amounts of money from their employers.

The new law will benefit anyone who gets extra cash in their normal pay packet for overtime and shift payments, including nightshift and commission – but doesn’t get that cash when they take holidays.

This judgment is the biggest development in employment law since thousands of low-paid women won millions in damages for equal pay – also through the European Court of Justice.

When news of the ruling first emerged, it was thought it would only apply to people in sales jobs who made extra cash from commission. But the EU Court ruling makes it clear that this also applies to the tens of thousands of Scots and EU workers who rely on extra payments from overtime and nightshift work to make ends meet.

The legislation says that overtime and extra shift payment money is also due to workers while they are on holiday and must be backdated by several years.

Backdating may go as far back as 1998, meaning that tens of thousands of people across Scotland could be in line for huge amounts of backdated holiday pay.

For thousands of workers, these so-called “extra” payments are a normal part of their pay packet but when they are on holiday, they receive only their basic pay packet.

A Scottish law firm has said: “That’s completely unfair and the law says that now. This change in the law will mean workers can now afford to take their leave.”

The new European Court ruling on holiday pay is backed by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and leading trade unions. All union members should get in touch with their union officials if they want to raise a claim.

However, the Trades Unions are warning people to act quickly to stop employers trying to block claims. You don’t need to be in a union to make a claim. If you’re not in a union, you can still make a claim by contacting specialist employment lawyers.

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Jul 22 2014

European Social Policy – The Next Five Years

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European Social Policy – The Next Five Years

The reasoning behind the creation of the European Union (EU) after the Second World War was to make a future war on the European Continent impossible. The EU or EEC (European Economic Community as it was then called) represented the hope of achieving economic progress between Member States in an atmosphere of peace and friendship.

During the recent financial crisis, many people did not see a Europe as a positive construct, offering them protection and opportunities. Their experience was rather that of unemployment and an uncertain future. In many countries people had to pay a high price to save the Euro. As a result, millions of our continent’s young people in particular became disillusioned with Europe or even rejected it outright.

For many European Parliamentary elections served as a wake-up call. The results showed us just how disillusioned people are with Europe. This disillusionment is something that we as committed Europeans need to fight; showing people that the European project pays. For decades, Europe has been a guarantor of peace and general prosperity. But above all Europe is a social community that unlocks opportunities and creates prospects for the future.

A positive future requires us to focus attention on young people, as it is they who will determine what direction the E U develops in. Do we want a Europe that only pursues a rigorous economic policy? Or do we want a Europe that also invests in future social opportunities? For me, the answer is clear: peace, social progress, prosperity and equal opportunities do not just happen. We have to create the right conditions for these aims. This means, for instance, to invest in good education and training.

This is why we have joined our European partners in committing to a Youth Guarantee Scheme which guarantees that all young people under 25 will be provided with a good-quality offer of a job within four months of them becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. This offer should be for a job, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship. This guarantee now needs to be implemented swiftly.

In this context, it is the countries that have borne the brunt of the crisis that most need to be shown solidarity. The EU Youth Employment Initiative is providing these countries with EUR 6 billion for the next few years, which is an important first step. If we can work together to ensure that this funding reaches people quickly and in a targeted manner, then we can talk about additional compensatory and support measures in Europe.

In the next years we want to achieve more social progress in Europe. The efforts of many Member States to introduce minimum social protection systems or labour market reforms should be encouraged and monitored at the European level. Consolidation requirements and the fight for modern social and education systems that are viable for the future must not be contradictory. Therefore it is also important to maintain the scope for investments and to recognize that it takes time for reforms to become effective. What is important is more coherence and balance in European policy.


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Jul 17 2014

When will the suffering end?

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When will the suffering end?

Time and again we debate the heartbreaking plight of the Palestinians! On Thursday the Group of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament debated and condemned the death of civilians, particularly the killing of children, in the Gaza crisis, and called for an immediate end to violence and for the resumption of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Socialist &Democrat Vice-President Victor Bostinaru said in a statement “…more than 200 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians – including many children – have been killed in the Gaza Strip and more than 1000 rockets have been fired by Hamas and Palestinian militants into Israel.” Socialist & Democrat Group is the second-largest group in the EP and put out a statement saying: “We welcome today’s temporary humanitarian cease-fire, which may be a first step on this path. We also support all efforts towards a permanent truce, and we regret Hamas’ decision to reject the Egyptian initiative, which was accepted by the Israeli government.”

The S&D Group called for an European peace initiative and plan, and for the use of all the legal, economic and political leverage at the EU’s disposal to find a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Not till then will there be peace in the east.

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