Visa monopoly over Olympics is not a game

Commission, Olympics

I read with dismay this week at the Olympic Committee’s decision that only fans who use a Visa debit, credit or pre paid card will be permitted to make ticket purchases.

Visa will also have exclusivity inside the village so that any purchases made or money withdrawn from cash points will only be permitted if using the Visa system of payment, or cash.

It will come as no surprise that Visa is one of the major sponsors of the Olympics. Suffice to say I am shocked that both the Olympic Committee and Visa believe they can get away with this.

It is utterly outrageous, and there are two immediate issues which I am particularly concerned about.

First there is the obvious problem it causes for consumers; the whole experience will not be something that everyone can enjoy but it will become exclusive to just those who use the Visa method of payment or are prepared to carry enough cash around to cover all eventualities.

Second, and this is a potentially very serious issue, are the anti-competition implications which could be very embarrassing for our country.  I know that the European Commission, charged with monitoring the EU’s strict competition rules, is concerned about the Visa monopoly at the 2012 Olympics.  

I have, in fact, tabled an  Oral Question to the European Commission on this issue.  The Question will now not go forward until September and I will keep you informed of any developments between now and then.


Body Image, Commission, equality, Gender stereotypes

You may have seen the blog which I have copied at the end of this post which went up on 5 December.

You will see that I put down a priority Written Question to the European Commission. This was, in fact, sent to the Commission on 3 December 2008. To date I have not heard anything back from either the relevant Commissioner or any Commission official.

I have therefore sent the following letter to Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, the Cyprus Commissioner with responsibility for public health, feed and food safety and animal health and welfare (and incidentally a woman).

Dear Mrs Vassiliou,
You will recall that I submitted a priority Written Question to the Commission on 3 December 2008 about the website

I have not yet received a reply.

As you know from reading my Question, I am extremely concerned that a website developed and funded by the European Commission to teach children about farming in Europe uses an inappropriate image of a young female. The image in question shows an unhealthily thin and provocatively dressed girl who is used to guide visitors through the site.

Such an image is both an horrific gender stereotype and an unhealthy example to the very children for whom the site is intended. You will be aware that the European Parliament recently passed a report seeking to end the use of obvious gender stereotyping. Given this, I find the Commission’s seeming disregard for the views of the Parliament both worrying and insulting.

I have to say, the neglect of my Question has only added injury to the aforementioned insult.
I trust you will reply as a matter of urgency.

Yours sincerely,
Mary Honeyball MEP

Earlier blog posted on 5 December 2008

This new website, developed and funded by the European Commission, came to my attention this week: site aims to teach children about farming in the Europe. Sadly it completely ruins any good work it does by using an image of an unhealthily thin and provocatively dressed young girl to guide users through the site.I find it both shocking and depressing that the Commission’s Department for Health and Consumer Protection finds it acceptable to promote their work by using this image. Not only is it a horrific gender stereotype but it is also an extremely unhealthy image to promote to children. In the recent gender stereotyping report passed by Parliament, my colleagues and I noted that children are particularly impressionable audiences and that promoting unhealthy and unrealistic body images can negatively affect young viewers’ self-perception.The DG Health evidently was not listening.I have written a priority question to the Commission asking them what they were thinking of when they made this site and how much it cost to develop. I am also currently rallying support in the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee to take further action.


Commission, Margot Wallstrom, Sarkozy, Women MPs

In July the French take over the rotating presidency of the Council of Ministers. This means that for better or worse we’ll be seeing a lot more of President Sarkozy over the next six months.

According to The European Voice, “France is planning a grand symbolic gesture to launch its presidency of the Council of Ministers.” On 1st July women representatives of each Member State hope to climb Mont Blanc.

Rather than a “grand symbolic gesture”, wouldn’t it be more productive if President Sarkozy threw his weight behind a campaign, that I’ve signed up to, called Females in Front which hopes to promote more women into the top positions in the European Union. With women making up over half the population of the EU it is a disgrace that we are so under represented at the top.

How different things could have been had Segolene Royal been elected President.

Commissioner Margot Wallstrom has also blogged about this

Please sign the petition on the Females in Front website:


Banking Charges, Commission, Credit Cards, Currency, Money Transfers

A number of you have raised EU cross-border money transfers with me. There have been cases where UK banks have levied additional charges without informing the customer.

I have raised this issue with the Commission, via a written question, to establish what obligation UK banks have in informing customers of all charges prior to the commencement of the transaction. I have also asked for clarification on the regulations governing UK banks on extra charges levied for EU transfers denominated in Euros, and what action the Commission is taking to ensure that banks adhere to such regulations.

This is also an issue for those who wish to trade within the EU market.

I am waiting to hear the Commission’s response.

I recently raised a similar question on credit card charges applied within the EU. The answer from the Commission was helpful in that they agreed to take the matter up with the relevant authorities. I hope we get another good response this time.


Commission, Cyprus, Mandelson

Following in the footsteps of Commissoner Marcus Kyprianou from Cyprus, five other European Commissioners will go on or before the end of the current mandate in June 2009. One of the casualties will be our very own Peter Mandelson. According to “European Voice”, “Prime Minister Gordon Brown made it clear that he would not be inviting his Party colleague and adversary Peter Mandelson to stay on board”.

The others on the move are Franco Frattini (Italy), Louis Michel (Belgium), Jan Figel (Slovakia) and the respected Swede, Margot Wallstrom who has already served her allotted two terms.


Commission, Equal Rights, Gender

After the European elections in June next year there will be some amendments to the way the European Union works. Yes, you’ve got it. I’m talking about the Lisbon Treaty. Two important posts need to be filled after June 2009, assuming all Member States ratify the Treaty. One is the President of the Council of Ministers who will serve for two and a half years as opposed to the current six-month rotating presidency. The other is a new leadership position in external affairs combining the roles of the present Council High Representative and the External Affairs Commissioner.

Both these reforms are highly sensible. It’s not the reforms which are the problem. It’s not even the candidates who are being put forward for the posts. The real issue is the lack of women. Despite the excellent representation of women in the European Parliament, currently standing at one third of the members, it seems impossible to get women into senior positions in the Commission and to a lesser extent the Council. There really is no excuse for such gender imbalance.