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October 9, 2009

European Parliament committee backs visa-free travel for Balkan countries

European Parliament committee backs visa-free travel for Balkan countries

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Friday, October 9, 2009

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The European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee supported on Tuesday a proposal by the European Commission to scrap visa requirements for citizens of Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia, starting on January 1 of next year.

The committee also asked that Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania be included in the visa liberalisation process, although neither has met EU-determined benchmarks yet. European Parliament members also want to initiate visa liberalisation dialogues with Kosovo and establish a roadmap for visa-free travel.

Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro currently appear to have strong support within the Parliament for implementing the proposal.

“I am convinced that what we are trying to do now with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania will not slow down the other three countries. This was a political decision by all the member-states of the European community and that will not change,” said Tanja Fajon, the European Parliament Rapporteur on Visa Liberalization.



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June 8, 2009

United Kingdom elects first British National Party members of European Parliament

United Kingdom elects first British National Party members of European Parliament

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Nick Griffin
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The first members of parliament for the British National Party (BNP) were elected today, in the United Kingdom elections for the European Parliament. Nick Griffin, the leader of the party, was elected Member of the European Parliament in the North West England region, and Andrew Brons was elected in the Yorkshire and the Humber region. This is the first time that the BNP has won a parliamentary seat in any European Parliamentary or U.K. General Election.

Although the number of votes cast for the BNP in the North West England region in the 2009 election (132,094) was lower than the number of votes cast for the BNP (134,959) in the previous election in 2004, the percentage of the popular vote achieved by the BNP rose, from 6.4% to 8.0%, because of a lower overall voter turnout. Nick Robinson claimed this was because of the abolition in postal ballots in this years elections. He went on to say that BNP voters are more enthusiastic on voting, so their votes wouldn’t decline as much as other parties.

Similarly, in the Yorkshire and the Humber region, the number of votes cast for the party fell from 126,538 in the 2004 elections to 120,139 in the 2009 elections, but a lower turnout resulted in the party’s percentage share in the popular vote rising from 8.0% to 9.8%.

The BNP will now receive EU funding, in the form of MEP expenses and office and staff allowances. What it will receive will be governed by the Statute for Members of the European Parliament, new rules for MEP expenses introduced for the newly elected 2009 parliament. Mr Griffin and Mr Brons will each receive a €7,000 per month salary (formally, 38.5% of the basic salary of a judge at the European Court of Justice), paid from the EU budget, and a pension when they leave office. They will also be entitled to employ personal staff, whose salaries are also paid from the EU budget.

The election of BNP MEPs has caused protests. Mr Griffin was accosted by political protestors when he attended the vote counting on the night of June the 7th, and was forced to enter the building via a rear entrance. When he stepped forward to make his victory speech, after the result had been declared, all other parties’ candidates took the unusual step of leaving the stage.



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Europeans go to the polls to elect Members of the European Parliament

Europeans go to the polls to elect Members of the European Parliament

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Monday, June 8, 2009

European Parliament logo

Over the course of the last four days, people across the European Union went to the polls to elect Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) as part of the European Parliament election, 2009. Voting began on Thursday in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and parts of Ireland. It continued on Friday across the rest of Ireland and parts of the Czech Republic. On Saturday the countries of Cyprus, France (for part of Outre-mer), Italy (day 1), Latvia, Malta, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all voted. On Sunday, the final day of polling, the remaing countries of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy (day 2), Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Sweden voted. Votes were released last night and will continue to be released over the course of today with the exception of Netherlands, which has broken rules and partialy released them on Friday.

The current President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering

The European Parliament is divided into constituencies, which have a group of representatives (the MEPs). Each constituency elects them proportionaly. The amount of MEPs representing a political party depends on the percentage of votes they gain. For example, if 50% of the electorate of a constituency vote for the x party then 50% of the MEPs in that constituency will be from the x party. In total there are 736 MEPs up for election by approximately 500,000,000 Europeans across 27 member states making it the largest transnational election in history.

The elections didn’t quite go to plan across the Netherlands, as the European Commission have asked that Dutch officials give an explanation to results they released. As countries across Europe vote on different days, the results of the election can only be released on the last day (Sunday), so that the results in other countries will not influence the decission made by people in countries that are still voting. Despite this, the Netherlands released some of their results on Friday: 92% of the votes have currently been counted. Further controversy arose from the results themselves. Results so far show that far-right Dutch Member of Parliament, Geert Wilders’s party the Party for Freedom (PVV), appears to have come second behind the Christian Democratic Appeal. Wilders is facing prosecution in the Netherlands for an anti Islamic statement and was refused entry to the United Kingdom on grounds of the intent to incite hatred.

It had initially been foreseen that the Treaty of Lisbon would have entered into force by the time of these elections, making them the first to be held under its provisions. However, primarily because of the failure of the referendum in Ireland, the framework established by the Treaty of Nice will be used again. Amongst other differences, the number of MEPs to be returned depends upon which rules are in effect: while 736 MEPs will be elected under the Nice rules, this number would have increased to 751 if the Lisbon Treaty were in force. A further change that Lisbon would have brought was an increase to the powers of Parliament, including powers over the appointment of the President of the European Commission.

In the previous election, German Hans-Gert Pöttering of the centre-right EPP-ED won with 34% and Martin Schulz of the Socialists came second with 26%. Despite this, during the last term the two leaders shared, each serving approximately two years in office.

European Parliament election, 2004 – Final results at 20 July 2004
Group Description Chaired by MEPs
  EPP-ED Conservatives and Christian Democrats Hans-Gert Pöttering 268 PE2004e.png
  PES Social Democrats Martin Schulz 200
  ALDE Liberals and Liberal Democrats Graham Watson 88
  G–EFA Greens and Regionalists Daniel Cohn-Bendit
Monica Frassoni
42
  EUL–
NGL
Communists and the Far Left Francis Wurtz 41
  ID Eurosceptics Jens-Peter Bonde
Nigel Farage
37
  UEN National Conservatives Brian Crowley
Cristiana Muscardini
27
  NI Independents none 29 Total: 732 Sources: [1][2][3][4][5]

Europeans have also been voting in local elections of County Councils in the United Kingdom and Ireland.



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“United Kingdom elects first British National Party members of European Parliament” — Wikinews, June 8, 2009

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May 29, 2009

Interview with Anna Mikkola, Finnish Left Alliance candidate for European Parliament

Interview with Anna Mikkola, Finnish Left Alliance candidate for European Parliament

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Friday, May 29, 2009

File:Anna Mikkola.jpg

Anna Mikkola
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Anna Mikkola is running for European Parliament in Finland as a member of the eco-socialist Left Alliance party. At the age of 28 she’s the youngest member of the 14 candidates on the Left Alliance’s list for the multi-national body. She spoke to Wikinews during a break in campaigning. Finland votes in the European Parliament election on June 7.


Wikinews

Thanks for joining us, Anna.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngThanks for asking. I had a convenient break in the campaign this afternoon.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngYou’re the youngest member of your party’s list in the Euro elections; but you’ve also had an extensive career in politics already. How did you first get involved in political activity?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngI believe I was 16 or 17 at the time, and I just stopped by at the local party office and asked if there was something I could do. There had just been a general election in Finland and the conservatives widely spoke of things I could not accept. Like [how] public financing for culture and sports is unnecessary. One politician even suggested young people could spend their time climbing trees and not expect society to provide them with facilities.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngSo from there you went straight into the Left Youth. How did you choose that party? Did you explore others?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngIt was between the Green party and the Left Alliance. The Greens I felt concentrated too much on individual life style choices as a method of doing politics, so I chose the Left Alliance. I have always been the sort of person who likes to think of structures and their effects, the big picture in a social sense if you may.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngSo what’s it like campaigning for a nationally-elected office? Is it like organizing youth locally or does it feel basically different?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngBasically different. The whole country is one constituency, which means more traveling than most people do in a year. It’s also expensive as in our election system candidates have to buy their way into public knowledge. Luckily I have both an extensive election team covering the whole country and also some financial support from the Left Youth movement.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngYou mentioned last night waiting for a bus and seeing three with pictures of you on the side pass by…

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngIt’s kind of absurd. I have ads in public transport in the 6 biggest cities in Finland. You are definetely more conscious of yourself when you’re traveling on a bus or tram that has your face on it.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngNow, Finland’s role in the world has fundamentally changed in your lifetime: from a neutral state with closer ties to the Soviet Union than many others in democratic Europe, to EU member and now potentially to NATO member. Do you think your youth makes it easier for you to adapt to the changes going on?

Cquote1.svg I think the new political generation are going to change political discourse substantially. Cquote2.svg
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Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngWell, it makes my relationship with Finland’s EU membership definetely easier and less emotional maybe than for many older people. Finland has been in the EU my whole adulthood, so for me membership is not the question. I am more interested in looking at the content. I think the new political generation of around 30 year olds, who are making their breakthrough, are going to change political discourse substantially.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngDo you see green & socialist politics as being the key to this younger generation? In your view can you have environmentalism without socialism?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngWe have an interesting Green party in Finland, who have accepted the necessity of additional nuclear power and support market mechanisms as a part of their climate policy without any questions or caveats. So yes, there is an attempt to create a green capitalist system. The youth as well are divided on this issue. Many people however do see the problems of turning the environment or climate action into products you can buy or sell and speculate with. In that sense I feel environmentalism cannot be separated from socialism, which has a fundamentally different logic.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngThe other end, though, to the importance of the youth vote is voter apathy; how do you deal with the situation of “celebrity” candidates, in particular far-right candidates like Timo Soini?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngIn European elections the problem is apathy in general, not just youth apathy. But maybe you can separate between two types: many older people do not vote in these elections because they don’t like the EU and/or because they feel they cannot change anything by voting since the EU is too big and too far way. These are choices, often resulting from considering the options. Many young people do not vote in elections in general, because they do not really even notice them. Their apathy is not a result of a decision, but genuinely a product of being out of the whle political process. This is something Timo Soini cannot change I think. His candidacy is a big risk for him in any case, since his party is a one man show to a great extent. If he buries himself in Brussels it might well be the end of that party.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngYou’ve been working in Brussels yourself for over a year now; how did you stay in touch with the situation in Finland before the campaign began?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngMostly by visiting Finland often. It’s been two years that I have worked in the European parliament now. Working as a parliamentary assistant to a Finnish MEP kind of means you need to be aware of what is happening in Finland and what the papers are saying about it.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngNow let’s talk policy; on your website you mention numerous issues with the Lisbon treaty but also say that EU membership isn’t an either-or consideration. If you could re-write Lisbon, what would you take out, what would you put in?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngSimply put I would take out all the militarisation stuff, and remove the neoliberal economic thinking of no rules for the financial markets, and maybe remove some of the new policy areas. I would put in a social progress clause that would ensure rights (especially worker’s rights) inside the EU and add a recognition for e.g. cross border strikes.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngOn the subject of militarization, what would be the best alternative to the European Defence Agency? What’s the right path, if any, for collective European defense?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngDefense is a word that is understood very differently in different European countries. The Finnish tend to understand this term as passive defense, but many — especially old colonial countries — understand it in a more active sense, as including pre-emptive and aggressive operations outside EU borders. I believe the right path to be a firm concentration on non-aggressive peacekeeping. As for a common European defense, I am against the idea because of the abovementioned reasons. The European Defence Agency is basically an arms trading operation, when its role would maybe be better in co-ordination of crisis management and peacekeeping.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngSo in the long run should the other countries in Europe leave NATO as well?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngThat is for them to decide. However any European defence organisation would be based on NATO, and would not respect the status of non-allied countries. I believe the European Union should respect it.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngWith regard to workers’ rights, a number of parties on the left have raised objections to the Posted Workers Directive and the European Court of Justice’s positions on the rights of workers from one EU country working in another. Finland both receives foreign workers and sends workers elsewhere; how could the Posted Workers Directive be best fixed, in your view?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngThere is no point in fixing the directive. The ECJ’s decisions have been based on the Treaties, and override the directive, which itself is actually not too bad. This is why European trade organisations too have been demanding a social progress clause I mentioned earlier to be put in the Lisbon Treaty, which would be the only way to fix the situation. So that the rights of workers could not be overriden by for example the free movement of services, which has happened in most of the ECJ decisions.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngAnd what are the practical chances that such a clause would be put in?

Cquote1.svg the Lisbon Treaty most probably will not be the last Treaty in the EU Cquote2.svg

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngClose to zero at this point. However the Lisbon Treaty most probably will not be the last Treaty in the EU. And of course the Irish will still vote on it for a second time. Should the result be a no this time too, the chances would increase. What is not widely being talked of is that were are now in a situation where the EU is doing its best to get into effect a Treaty that was negotiated years ago and is founded on an economic logic that has clearly failed. This does not seem to bother most people.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngBut given that this process has taken so long, do you think the will for a new Treaty would be present — especially with the current Treaty having passed most national parliaments by solid majorities only a year ago?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngSolid majorities…The Finnish parliament started its proceedings with it before a translation was available. Then they ratified without any public discussion. I think there would be will, but it is clearly not appropriate to talk about it, since the Lisbon Treaty is presented as the only option. Besides, tax payers pay the politicians to do their job. With that money one would assume they would not say they don’t have the energy for a new Treaty.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngWhat place does the organized left have in a post-Lisbon Europe? Would they have to make an uncomfortable alliance with the anti-European right?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngI think such an alliance would be impossible in post-Lisbon EU too. The anti-European right tends to combine their act to anti-immigration as well in many cases, and very aggressively. I think with the current economic crisis there is an increased risk that the political right, even neofascism, could gain as people look for some way to express their frustration.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngSo to wrap up, then: what’s the best thing the next European Parliament can do, and what’s the best thing you could do in the next European Parliament?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngI think the best thing would be to recognise different opinions. The Parliament is very keen to restrict other voices and likes to pretend were are all one happy family. That is not politics at all.

What I could do and want to do is to speak and try to fix problems with rights; they have not been properly dealt with in the EU, whether they are workers’ rights or for example net users’ rights. The fundamental problem with for example the telecoms package is that its staring point is not users’ rights, defining them and then going into other stuff. Instead, the starting point is the interests of industry, and the limiting of users via different methods in order to protect certain copyright interpretations. The result then for the user is a collection of random and often illogical “rights”. The net is something most politicians seem to be unable to handle as a normal and social part of life for millions and millions of people.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngSo where should net rights come from — from free speech rights, from privacy rights, from practical considerations of restricting the movement of information?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngFrom all of those. Mostly you tend to be in a situation, where you have to explain it to politicians that you cannot cut someone’s connection (to for example bank services and other daily things) without a court order in copyright cases.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngHow do you feel about movements like Sweden’s Pirate Party, which is a single-issue group pursuing radical copyright reform?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngVery neutral.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngAnything else you’d like to tell the readers?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngIt’s been a pleasure. This is actually my second interview online, sort of. The first was earlier this week when I spent two hours on an anti-immigration forum answering questions. I must say you have been very friendly in your questions compared to that.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngWell, thanks for that. It’s been a pleasure and thank you for taking the time out for this.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAnna MikkolaWikinews waves Right.pngThank you, and now I have to run to my next event!

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May 27, 2009

Left-wing EU parliament candidates debate in Cardiff

Left-wing EU parliament candidates debate in Cardiff

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cardiff, Wales — Labour, Plaid Cymru, and No2EU candidates for the Wales seats in the European Parliament met at Cardiff’s Sandringham Hotel last night for the second of two pre-election hustings debates hosted by Cardiff Trades Union Congress. Cardiff TUC president Katrine Williams moderated as Derek Vaughan of the Labour Party, Jill Evans MEP of Plaid Cymru, and Rob Griffiths of the No2EU coalition, the tops of their respective lists, took questions from an audience of 22 composed largely of socialist activists and trade union members.

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Candidates from the Tories, Liberal Democrats, and Green Party were not invited to the evening debate, although the Liberal Democrats did take part in the TUC’s debate earlier in the day. Ms Williams explained that the Liberal Democrats and Tories had been excluded because “we wanted to have candidates more representative of trade unions” but that not inviting the Greens had been “an oversight” due to the less prominent tradition of green politics in Wales. The BNP, UKIP and some minor parties also did not take part.

Derek Vaughan responds to a question from the audience

In opening statements, the three candidates discussed their records and their goals for the European Parliament. Mr Vaughan, leader of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, asserted the pro-organised labour credentials of the Labour Party, which has been under fire for several years from the left, and noted that Labour, which currently controls two of Wales’s four seats in the EU Parliament, has brought £1.5 billion to Wales, with a comparable amount to come in the future. Calling the BNP “Nazis” and comparing the British political situation to that in Germany in the 1930s, Vaughan called for the parties of the left to rally behind Labour in order to ensure that the BNP did not obtain any seats in Wales; but he expressed resignation to the likelihood that the BNP would earn a seat in North West England.

Jill Evans MEP after the debate

Ms Evans, meanwhile, who has been an MEP for ten years, announced her opposition to the pro-privatisation current in the EU and pledged that Plaid would support a new program of public investment and pro-organised labour revisions of EU directives, particularly the Posted Workers Directive.

Rob Griffiths delivers his opening statement

Mr Griffiths, meanwhile, who is General Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, took a position urging radical reform of the European Union. The Lisbon Treaty, which he characterised as a re-branding of the European Constitution, would, he argued, enshrine neo-liberal policies in Europe and impose them on its member states in a way that was irreversible — “at least by any constitutional means”. Calling for a “social Europe” as opposed to a “United States of Europe”, Griffiths suggested that the creation of a European Defence Agency and the actions of the European Court of Justice were being used to turn the European Union into a capitalist “empire” akin to the United States.

Discussion of the ongoing UK parliamentary expenses scandal and its implications for MEPs, who draw salaries and expenses considerably higher than Westminster MPs do, dominated the early discussion. The Labour candidate expressed the position that the problems in accountability leading to the scandal had been fixed; his opponents noted that of the parties currently representing Britain in Brussels, only Labour has not yet disclosed their expenses (although Mr Vaughan states that the party will begin to do so soon) and Mr Griffiths furthermore declared that the scandal was part of a wider problem: the corruption of the political system by big business.

On the subject of a common European defence policy the three candidates supported widely differing views. The No2EU candidate stated plainly that he considers Europe not to be threatened, and said that a European defence force would be used for foreign adventures in Afghanistan, Africa, and elsewhere in the developing world while at the same time building up the armaments industry in Europe. Ms Evans, meanwhile, argued that the proper role of a common EU force would be as a “civil force” supporting conflict prevention and conflict resolution operations, and also called for the abolition of NATO. Mr Vaughan finished the second round of questioning arguing that a common European armed force should be an alternative to the “US-dominated” NATO, but also stated the importance of bilateral alliances in building up a common European defence force, citing the Franco-German Brigade of the Eurocorps as an example.

Candidates answered the questions of an active but small audience

Debate ended on the contentious question of MEP salaries, with one member of the audience challenging the three candidates to pledge to accept a wage, if they won, equal to the average wage of their constituents. Ms Evans agreed that the set wage, currently £63,000 rising to £73,000 in 2010, was “too high”, but would not commit to a so-called “worker’s wage”, under heavy criticism from the audience. Mr Vaughan, following, called it “not fair” to ask MEPs to take such a pledge but asserted “I have never been motivated by money” and finished his part in the debate with a call to elect more left-wing socialist MEPs. Mr Griffiths, whose No2EU coalition has made a worker’s wage for MEPs part of their election manifesto, readily pledged to hold to a living wage, albeit not necessarily one equal to the average wage of his constituents, and described some of the difficulties associated with refusing an EU salary, noting that initially No2EU had proposed that its MEPs should draw no salary and claim no expenses from Europe but the coalition’s legal advisors had said that to do so would endanger the status of any of its members as MEPs.

Voting for the European Parliament elections in the United Kingdom takes place June 4.



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March 25, 2009

European Parliament agrees on unified airspace

European Parliament agrees on unified airspace

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

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On Wednesday, the European Parliament approved the “Single European Sky II” legislation that will lead to the creation of a single European airspace. The single European airspace will result in “more efficient rules, leading to shorter flights, fewer delays and reduced fuel consumption”. In turn, this should result in fewer CO2 emissions and cheaper ticket prices. Implementation should be completed by 2012.

Currently the European airspace consists of 650 parts with 60 different control centers and 27 air traffic control (ATC) zones. International flights have to switch between national air traffic control zones, also known as “blocks”, when they enter another country. This leads to delays and bottlenecks, causing airplanes to consume more fuel.

Euro parliamentarian Corien Wortmann stated that “the EU countries have stepped on the break for years in creating a European airspace, because they wanted to keep influence over their own airspace. Luckily that resistance is now broken.”((translated from Dutch)) Euro parliamentarian Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert agrees: “Everyone agrees – in theory – that this is important for security, efficiency, reliability, cost reduction, capacity improvement en durability. But self-interest of organizations and countries appeared often more important.”((translated from Dutch))

Benefits for the aviation industry over the next ten years are estimated at 2 to 3 billion. CO2 emissions should be cut with approximately 16 million tonnes. As a first step the airspace of Germany, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland will be combined. The European transport ministers are expected to approve the legislation at the end of March.



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Czech PM calls Obama\’s rescue plan a \’road to hell\’

Czech PM calls Obama’s rescue plan a ‘road to hell’

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

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Mirek Topolanek

Mirek Topolanek, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic and the head of the European Union, called United States President Barack Obama’s plan to spend almost US$2 trillion to revive the country’s faltering economy a “road to hell”.

“The US treasury secretary talks about permanent action and we at our [EU summit] were quite alarmed by that. He talks about an extensive US stimulus campaign. All of these steps are the road to hell,”((translated from Czech)) he said, warning that the US’s massive bailouts could risk destabilising financial markets worldwide. He urged other EU governments to avoid making similar plans.

The remarks were made during Topolanek’s report to Members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on Wednesday.

The comments are in sharp contrast to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s speech to the European Parliament on Tuesday, in which he spoke of a “new era” of cooperation in the ongoing global recession between the United States and Europe.

“Never in recent years have we had an American leadership so keen at all levels to cooperate with Europe on financial stability, climate change, security and development,” Brown said Tuesday.

Mirek Topolanek has become a lame duck prime minister after he was ousted in a vote of no confidence in his government in Prague late Tuesday.



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Canadian annual seal hunt begins amid controversy

Canadian annual seal hunt begins amid controversy

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

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Seals Pagophilus groenlandicus are hunted for their pelts for coats and the fashion industry, blubber for oil, meat for pet food, and genitals as reported aphrodisiacs.
Image: Matthieu Godbout.

The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, opened the Canadian seal hunt amid protests by animal rights groups, at a time when bans on seal product imports are becoming more prevalent internationally.

Seal hunters along the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence are allowed to catch a maximum of 270,000 Harp Seal pups from a total estimated population of 5.5 million. 8,200 is the allowable catch of Hooded seals from an estimated population of 600,000, and seal hunters may catch 50,000 grey seals from an approximate population of 300,000.

The Harp seal pups may be killed as soon as they have molted their white pelts, which occurs 10 to 21 days after birth.

It is reported that Russia has shut down the seal hunt on its shores. The United States, Netherlands, and Belgium ban the import of seal products. The European Parliament committee has endorsed a ban on seal product imports by the 27 European Union (EU) member states, in the form of a proposed bill that would still allow the Canadian Inuit to trade in seal products for first nation cultural purposes. All members of the EU must approve the bill for it to become law.

“While we are extremely disappointed that the European Parliament has called for a ban of the trade of seal products, our position remains that any ban on a humanely conducted hunt, such as Canada’s, is completely without merit. We will continue to explore all legal and diplomatic options and we will exercise our rights to their fullest extent under international trade laws if and when it becomes necessary and appropriate.”

“Sealing is a significant source of income in many small, isolated coastal communities throughout Atlantic Canada, Quebec and the North, and creates critical employment opportunities for processing plants, as well as fuel, food and equipment suppliers in coastal communities,” said Minister Shea.

“Our government will continue to defend the rights of Canadian sealers to provide a livelihood for their families through our humane, responsible and sustainable hunt,” she said. “It represents as much as 35 per cent of a sealer’s annual income and is important for thousands of families at a time of year when other fishing options are limited at best.”

The first area to open up to the seal hunt was the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where 30 percent of the catch is allowed.

Sixteen observer permits have been issued. “The majority of the observers are people who protest against the seal hunt, but there are journalists and other observers as well. We try to make sure there’s an even proportion of sealing activity and observer activity,” Mr. Jenkins, Department of Fisheries and Oceans spokesman said. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is going to observe and record the commercial seal hunt.

“It’s devastating to be here, to know the commercial seal hunt has started again. It’s clear that a change is on the horizon with the European Parliament voting on a proposal to ban seal-product trade in the EU and many people in the Canadian sealing industry believe that could spell the beginning of the end of the commercial seal hunt,” commented Rebecca Aldworth, director of the Canadian chapter of Humane Society International.



Related news

  • “Newfoundland government launches seal hunt website” — Wikinews, March 26, 2007
  • “Harp seal hunt approved by Canada, activists call for boycott of Canadian seafood” — Wikinews, March 23, 2005

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July 13, 2008

Bronisław Geremek, former Polish Foreign Affairs Minister, dies at age 76

Bronisław Geremek, former Polish Foreign Affairs Minister, dies at age 76

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

File:Bronislaw Geremek.jpg

Bronisław Geremek
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Professor Bronisław Geremek, a former Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, a member of European Parliament and chairman of the Freedom Union, has died today at the age of 76 in a car crash near Nowy Tomyśl, Poland. The accident occurred about 13:15 Polish time (12:15 UTC) along the way 92 near Lubień in the Greater Poland Voivodeship.

According to the spokeswoman of the Greater Poland Voidodeships’s police, Hanna Wachowiak, Geremek died when the Mercedes he was driving collided head-on with a Fiat Ducato on the road from Warsaw to the German border. The reason of Geremek’s car crossing to the other side of the road and crashing into the oncoming car is still unknown. “The officers are investigating the reasons of the accident. They have interrogated first witnesses”, said Mariusz Sokołowski, the spokesman of the Main Command of Police in an interview with the Polish news channel TVN 24. Bronisław Geremek was the only casualty of the crash; the driver of the Fiat and his passenger as well as the passenger of Geremek’s Mercedes have been transported to hospitals in Poznań and Nowy Tomyśl.

The daily Dziennik writes it was not the excessive speed which caused the crash. The newspaper’s Internet news service informs that both cars were driving with the speed of 90-100 km/h (56-62 mph). The daily reports it is assumed that Bronisław Germemek might have collapsed when driving; other assumptions include a defect of the car. “It lasted for a split of seconds. I don’t even know how it happened. I haven’t seen anything wrong happening to professor”, told Geremek’s passenger the police officers.

Bronisław Geremek was born on March 6, 1932 in Warsaw, Poland. Being a historian by training, he was an associate professor of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Polska Akademia Nauk, PAN), a member of the democratic opposition in the Polish People’s Republic, a member of Sejm from 1989 to 2001 and a chairman of the political party Freedom Union. He served as a Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland from October 31, 1997 to June 30, 2000. He was also a member of the European Parliament from July 20, 2004 onwards.

Bronisław Geremek is survived by two sons.

Responses to the death

President Lech Kaczyński, who is currently in France having talks on his stance on the Treaty of Lisbon with president Nicolas Sarkozy, said: “It is a very sad news, I am deeply moved. He was my political opponent, but at the same time a man I met in August [1980], one of the main builders of August, an undoubtedly outstanding politician, who has a great place in our history. We had other beliefs after 1989, but Bronisław Geremek was undoubtedly an extremely intelligent man”. Kaczyński is also reported to have asked Sarkozy for one minute’s silence in memory of Geremek at a European political summit that took place on Friday.

The French president has commented Bronisław Geremek’s death, too. “The President of the Republic has taken with emotion and sadness the note of the tragic death of Mr. Bronisław Geremek. He pays tribute to the memory of this exceptional man, a respected European parliamentarian who through his courage, his humility and his commitment without fail in the service of fundamental rights, embodied the founding values of the European ideal. The President of the Republic wishes to assure his family, relatives and the whole Polish people’s of solidarity of the French people in this ordeal”, we read in a statement published today on president’s official website.

Donald Tusk, the Polish Prime Minister, has published the following statement on his official website: “I have taken with a great regret the note of the tragic death of Bronisław Geremek, an outstanding medievalist and activist of the democratic opposition, co-builder of August 80 and a Minister of Foreign Affairs in the independent Poland. Bronisław Geremek was a man wrapped up in the matters of Poland and Poles. He has been using his knowledge, experience and a huge international authority in Europe and in the world always for the good of Fatherland. I had the honour of working with professor Bronisław Geremek for many years; I will always remember these years. He was a man of agreement and dialogue, and his idea was to connect people, not to part them. Polish sciences and politics have lost a great man, and many of us a great Friend”.

“I can’t get out of shock, it is a great loss. Died a man of great talents, merits and knowledge, one of the fathers of the Polish democracy. He was a great man and patriot with a great life-sketch. A talk with him was always an adventure, intellectual and political. I have always respected his opinions and uncommon knowledge”, said Aleksander Kwaśniewski, a former Polish president.

José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, has also issued a statement memorising Bronisław Geremek. “He was a European of exceptional stature, a Pole of unwavering convictions. All his life he demonstrated political courage without compromise. I hope future generations remember Bronislaw Geremek as an example of a free spirit and that he stays in our memory as one of the most powerful symbols of liberation against all oppression”, he wrote.

Graham Watson, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group in the European Parliament, to which belonged Bronisław Geremek, published a statement on the official website of ALDE: “With the tragic departure of Bronislaw Geremek Poland loses one of its heroes, a tireless architect of its independence but also of the national reconciliation. Europe also loses one of its most ardent proponents who by the power of his conviction helped enlargement become a political success. Europe mourns a symbol of its reunification. I am proud to have had such a man among the ranks of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament and among my friends”.

Many Czech politicians, including a former Czech president Václav Havel, have commented the news of the Geremek’s death, too. “The report on Bronislaw Geremek’s sudden death has touched me very much. I appreciated him as a remarkably reasonable and good man, very gentle as understanding. His death is not only a loss for Poland, but for all of us who are striving for the free and decent world”, said Havel. The Czech Deputy Prime Minister and the current Foreign Affairs Minister Alexandr Vondra commented: “Geremek participated in the birth of the Polish Solidarity, he witnessed NATO and EU enlargement… An immense loss. I offer my condolences to Poland”. Jiří Dienstbier, the first Czechoslovakian Foreign Affairs Minister, told the reporters that “Geremek was a great personality who knew it very well what Poland should do to get rid of the burdens of the nationalist past and become a leading and active member of the European family and integration”.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) has issued a statement as well: “Words do not describe this tremendous loss, for both Poland and the Jewish people. Bronisław Geremek was a statesman and diplomat of the first order, and a beloved son of Poland. He will be sorely missed”, said AJC Executive Director David A. Harris.



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April 17, 2008

Chair of European Parliament\’s agricultural committee discusses biofuels with Wikinews

Chair of European Parliament’s agricultural committee discusses biofuels with Wikinews

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sugar cane can be used as a biofuel or food.
Image: Enochlau.

Neil Parish, a Member of the European Parliament and the chair of the Agricultural committee of the European Parliament, was recently interviewed by Wikinews on the subject of biofuels and renewable transport. The interview was held after a workshop was held in the European Parliament on the subject of biofuels.

“I believe that the mixing of biofuels with mineral oils can provide us with significantly cleaner fuel,” said Mr. Parish.

In a press release by the European Parliament about the workshop, the legislative body stated some possible disadvantages to biofuels:

Cquote1.svg In the last year scientific evidence, though disputed, has indicated that biofuels may not be as good for the environment as was once thought. Critics point out that the intensive production of biofuels themselves may add to the release of nitrous oxide – a potent greenhouse gas. Also, the clearing of large tracts of forest to grow biofuels, especially in South America, may lead to the destruction of biodiversity, huge water usage and the felling of forests that act as huge ‘carbon sinks’. Cquote2.svg

The European Parliament
Image: Ala_z.

In the interview Parish also said that encouraging public transport was an important method of combating climate change. Below is the relevant quote:

Cquote1.svg I believe that the way to deal with pollution caused by motor vehicles is not by making peoples lives more difficult or by pricing them out of their cars without giving them viable and cheap public alternatives. In many rural areas, cars are the only viable way of moving around and we need to remember this. Cquote2.svg

Mr. Parish also mentioned road pricing in the interview.

Cquote1.svg On a national level, the British government could look at a road pricing system which could replace the current vehicle tax regime, with revenue being placed back into public transport systems. Cquote2.svg

Biofuels are often used because they provide a way of limiting the emissions of carbon dioxide. Many people do, however, note that rainforest are destroyed to make space for the production of biofuels.



Sources

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This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
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