The European Heritage Label

Labour Party

Today the European Parliament will be having a final vote on the European Heritage Label.  This will be the report’s second reading.  I wrote about it almost a year ago when we had the first vote in the Parliament, which you can read about here.  I want to congratulate my colleague, Chrysoula Paliadeli, on writing this report and getting it through the Parliament.  I know how much work it must have been and the end product is one that she can be proud of.

Last night was the debate where I spoke in favour of the Label.  You can watch the video by following the link here.

The New European Heritage Label

Labour Party

Today the European Parliament voted through a report that will establish a blue plaque system for sites of European historical significance.  The idea is to create a better understanding of our shared history within the European Union. 

Sites will be selected for their symbolic rather than aesthetic value, and must have links with key European events or personalities.  One of the potential sites in the U.K. that has been discussed so far is Bletchley Park, the site of the British efforts to break the Nazi codes during the Second World War. 

The scheme will be entirely voluntary for member states, with each being able to select a maximum of two sites to be considered per year. Only one, at most, will ultimately be granted the label.

During the debate before the vote today I spoke in favour of the bill.  I believe there are a number of advantages to the scheme in my opinion.  Firstly, it is very cheap, costing the EU very little and almost nothing for the individual member states, literally nothing if they choose not to participate.  Secondly, I think it’s important for us to gain a better understanding of our shared history; the events and people that made Europe what it is today.  I look forward to seeing the first sites submitted for consideration, I think it could be very interesting.

I would like to congratulate my fellow S&D colleague, Chrysoula Paliadeli, who was the rapporteur and has worked very hard to produce an excellent and constructive report.

Lux Prize 2010

Labour Party

This week sees the announcement of the LUX Prize winner for 2010.  Last night there was a reception where the directors of the three films got to meet the MEPs.  Some S&D colleagues were there including Group Vice-President Maria Badia i Cutchet (pictured left) and Silvia Costa (right).  

I think that schemes like the LUX prize offer the European Parliament the unique opportunity to support Europe’s home-grown talent.  I very much enjoyed the opportunity to watch the all three films of the finalists, but in the end only one could win and the Parliament awarded this year’s LUX Cinema Prize to “Die Fremde”, by Feo Aladağ (Germany), which highlights the problem of “honour killings” by depicting the drama of a Turkish family living in Germany.

Parliament’s President Jerzy Buzek awarded this year’s LUX Cinema Prize to “Die Fremde” director Feo Aladağ, the first woman ever to compete for the prize. The film’s lead actress Sibel Kekilli was also at the ceremony, as were representatives of the two other finalists shortlisted for this year’s prize: “Akadimia Platonos” by Filippos Tsitos (Greece and Germany) and “Illégal” by Olivier Masset-Depasse (Belgium).

Awarding the prize, the EP President Jerzy Buzek said “the three films deal in a very sensitive way with the issue of identity, and the differences between a collective identity and an individual one. This is an important topic because in an ever more integrated Europe we will have to answer the question what it actually means to be European, and what our many identities – local, regional, national and European – mean in a united continent. If we want to create a true European demos, we have to be able to truly understand each other. What better way than through culture, art, music and, of course, films?”

Receiving the prize, Mrs Aladağ said “I made Die Fremde because I believe we live in a multicultural society which can no longer rest on promoting consensus but must rather find new ways in dealing with arising divergence. The LUX Prize is an essential bridge between national identities and beyond. That is why, for me, the European Parliament’s commitment to culture and education is of such great importance.”

The winner will receive European Parliament funding, worth €90,000, for subtitling the film in all official EU languages, adapting the original version for visually- or hearing-impaired people and producing a 35 mm print per EU Member State or for the DVD release.

Women in Power 2010

Labour Party

After many months of hard work this parliamentary term, I am pleased to announce the launch of a very special project of mine, called Women in Power. It follows an earlier publication of the same name, which I launched as a hard-copy back in 2008. This project is intended to do two things. Firstly, by presenting personal profiles of all the current female members of the European Parliament, it draws attention to their individual achievements. Secondly, it illustrates just how far collectively women have come. I want to place on record my thanks to all of my staff who have assisted in this work, especially Nicola Whitehead my Brussels Assistant who takes the lead on women’s issues and who has cajoled and persuaded information from many of my busy colleagues. A big thank you Nicola!

Women, unfortunately, still make up only around one third of the total number of MEPs in the Parliament, and a great deal more must be done to improve this. Nevertheless, this directory celebrates the fact that large numbers of women have managed to succeed in politics, despite the hurdles they face. As demonstrated, some actually go into this field because they wish to respond to the concerns of other women and help enrich their day-to-day lives.

On a regular basis (hopefully weekly!) I will add to my website a new set of profiles from one of the different groups in the Parliament (there are eight in total, including the non-attached members). I start, today, with the group to which my fellow Labour Party MEPs and I belong: the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D). Since the European elections in June 2009, there have been fewer S&D members in Brussels than there were during the previous parliamentary term. Yet, despite this reduction, they remain an incredibly strong and diverse group of women who boast a range of different backgrounds, experiences and skills, and who come from a host of different countries.

Not all were involved in politics early on in their careers. Irish MEP Nessa Childers, for instance, first became a mental health professional after graduating from university in 1986, and ran her own psychotherapy practice. She went on to manage a Masters programme at Trinity College Dublin from 2001 to 2006, before being elected to Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and later the European Parliament.

Others, such as Chrysoula Paliadeli, worked in academia before being elected into political office. Paliadeli, who gained a degree in Archaeology in 1971 and a PhD in Archaeology in 1984, became a university assistant at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. She later taught ancient Greek painting, architecture, sculpture and epigraphy, whilst working hard to improve the quality of the educational system in her country.

In contrast to this, there are several women in the S&D group who held high positions of power in their national governments before moving into European politics. Prior to becoming an MEP in 2009, for example, Liisa Jaakonsaari was a member of the Parliament of Finland, where her roles included chairing the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament and acting as Minister of Labour in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen’s First Government.

As you will see, there is no typical or identifiable route for women to becoming a member of the European Parliament; MEPs come from many walks of life. I am proud to be a member of a group, and an institution, that comprises of so many gifted and talented women who hold such a wide variety of skills. I sincerely hope that you enjoy reading their profiles and that you will take an interest in the coming weeks in the profiles of MEPs from other groups in the European Parliament.

A quick guide to Women in Power

Women in Power has been designed so as to make searching through and finding MEPs’ profiles very easy. You will see that the MEPs are divided up in three ways: according to their political group, committee membership and country. Each category, which has its own page, incorporates a full list of MEPs who falls into that particular category.

On the individual profiles themselves, there are links back to the main parent pages. For instance, by going onto my page and clicking ‘Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality’, you will automatically be transferred to this committee page and can see all the other MEPs who are members of this committee. If you simply wish to go back to the previous page, you can click on the link in bold at the bottom.

As ever, I would very much welcome feedback and suggestions as to how Women in Power can be developed and improved. If you exprience any problems with the site, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.