Tag Archives: S&D Group

The State of the Union Address was all about Mr Barroso

“Where was the European Commission during the crises of the past year?” asked Martin Schulz, Socialist and Democrat Leader in the European Parliament following Jose-Manuel Barroso’s “State of the Union” address.

Schulz is indeed right.  What did the European Commission do about bankers’ bonuses at the beginning of the world economic crisis and what have they ever done in real terms to reduce the gap between the have and the have nots?

The debate, while wide ranging, was ultimately unsatisfying, largely because it was nearly all theory and very little about practical politics. More of a manifesto than a report on last year’s activities, European Commission President Barroso’s address, though upbeat, was curiously lightweight.

Barroso, of course, pressed all the right buttons, but as Martin Schulz pointed out, failed to expand or deal with any of the real issues.  The European Union, in particular the European Commission, really needs to get out of its wishful thinking mode.  As Martin Schulz said, Mr Barroso and his Commission nearly always cave into to the Franco/German alliance which is effectively in control of the Council of Ministers.

In fact, there is a real divergence between the aspiration of the European Council/Council of Minister and the European Commission.  While Martin Schulz disparages what he terms increasing intergovernmentalism, I think we should view this from another perspective.

Following enlargement of the European Union in 2004, not to mention the opposition to further EU integration from some other Member States, the vision of further European integration is, I believe, profoundly unrealistic.  But it’s a vision which has legs with the Leader of the centre-right European People’s Party, Joseph Daul from France, stating in his response to Barroso that people need “more Europe”.

To be fair to Mr Barroso he did not quite give us that.  It was, in effect, a shopping list with no really coherent political basis.  He talked, amongst other things, about the need for a functioning European single market, support for universities and lifelong learning, a European patent, energy security, climate change and creating green jobs and a global role for the European Union.

I have to admit, there was little I disagreed with.  Martin Schulz was again right when he called it a state of the union address for all people.       

However, while Barroso’s strong condemnation of racism and xenophobia was admirable, he failed to mention President Sarkozy’s expulsion of the Roma. Not exactly the approach we would expect of a serious political leader.

It’s hardly surprising that there were those who thought MEPs may not be in the Chamber to hear Mr Barroso.  The quality and content of his speech were more about boosting his profile than tackling the serious issues currently facing Europe.  However, the bribe to dock money from those MEPs who did not attend was extremely undignified and ultimately had to be withdrawn. Yet many were, in fact, present.  It’s a shame they were not regarded sufficiently to be given a speech of substance and, dare I say, vision.

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David Poyser

Many readers of this blog will know David Poyser, latterly EPLP Press Officer following many years as the European Parliament Socialist Group audiovisual specialist.

David is leaving the European Parliament, we hope not for too long.  I will miss him as, I know, will many of my colleagues.  David’s readiness to help anyone was legendary; he would go out of his way to be be of assistance wherever and whenever possible. Nothing was ever too much trouble.  He always had time for EPLP members and always did his very best for us.

Holly Sutton from Journalista, who do my press work, was helped by David when she first began in the European Parliament.  David’s expertiese and easy going manner proved invaluable and enabled Holly to establish herself as a strong player in EU media work.  

For the time being David is returing to London.  I, and I’m sure every MEP who knows him, will wish David all the very best.

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Getting Creative with Creative Rights

 

I had the pleasure of being invited to take part in a panel discussion at a conference run by the EU Observer, called Online Content and Creative Rights. The discussion was entitled ‘Get paid when you get played’ and I shared the platform with Liberal MEP Cecilia Wilkström, Jörg Evers, Chairperson of GEMA, and Jean-Eric De Cockborne from the European Commission.  The debate focused on what we as legislators could do to tackle this important and difficult issue while Mr. Evers provided an industry perspective.

It was an enlightening debate, one that brought in to sharp relief the complex nature of the problem.  The Reflections paper released by the European Commission has suggested that there be a single European Market for copyright, with big international collecting societies providing a “one stop shop” for everyone – from i-Tunes to BBC Radio 1 – wishing to purchase a license to play or distribute music.  This sounds like a perfectly sensible and workable idea, especially when you think about the current situation where rights to music have to be negotiated on a country by country basis, meaning that some music available in one country won’t be available in another.  This can encourage piracy, since if a song is not available legally in a particular country then some would simply look for an alternative, most likely illegal, source on the internet. 

But this single market idea does have a lot of problems, especially when you consider cultural diversity, something that the European Parliament is very keen to protect.  Artists and creators from smaller member states or more niche markets might get lost or forgotten in a huge, pan-European system.  So already a difficult question and we haven’t even started talking properly about piracy yet.  Needless to say when we were asked questions by the floor, a great many forthright views were expressed.  It was very useful for me and my fellow legislators to see the strength and diversity of feeling on these issues.

The Labour Government is introducing some very good legislation at the moment which is going to tackle this issue head on, punishing those who download and upload content illegally.  I hope that we can be as constructive at the European level.  This is one of the big issues in the Culture and Education Committee, and as the Coordinator for the S&D group, I will be working with my colleagues to make sure we find the right solution.  The internet has meant that the old way of doing things for collecting societies and the record industry is now quickly becoming obsolete, so it is up to them as well as us here in the Parliament to find solutions.  It is time for us all to get creative with creative rights.

I did an interview for the EU Observer website afterwards which you can find here, along with a number of other interviews from people speaking at the conference.

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ELECTED AS S&D GROUP CULTURE AND EDUCATION COMMITTEE CO-ORDINATOR

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Me addressing the first meeting of the S&D group in my new role as coordinator.

The elections for political group co-ordinators on the European Parliament Committees is continuing.  Today it was my turn.  This afternoon I had the great pleasure and privilege of being elected as the Coordinator for the S&D (Socialists and Democrats) Group for the Culture and Education Committee.  The S&D group met before the main committee meeting where I was formally elected, following which I gave a short speech of thanks before we moved on to discuss possible events the Group could run, as well as our involvement in the committee. 

I’m very much looking forward to engaging on issues including education, sport and the arts in Europe.  As I have said before, the Co-ordinator’s position is an important one.  In the case of the S&D Group it is close to the House Minority Leader in the United States.

The Culture and Education Committee has a full programme for the next few months.  Amongst other things, there will be legislation on volunteering across the EU, a legislative Opinion on sexual abuse and child pornography, a report on setting up a European digital library for important government documents and an Opinion on internet governance.  Members of the Committee are also planning to discuss culture and education issues in some detail with the Swedish Presidency.

In terms of S&D Group activity on the Culture and Education Committee, I am pleased to report that there will be a delegation to London to discuss the Olympics and visit the site.  We are also intending to hold a seminar in Brussels on the European initiatives concerning further and higher education – the Copenhagen and Bologna Processes. 

Discussing the various issues the culture committee will be dealing with this parliament.

Discussing the various issues the culture committee will be dealing with this parliament.

 

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EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS TORIES’ EXTREMIST CANDIDATE

The shenanigins within the new Tory inspired Group of Conservatives and Reformists (the group set up by the Tories to get away from the more moderate centre-right European People’s Party) appears to have reached new heights.  The only candidate they put forward for one of the 14 positions of European Parliament Vice-President was defeated in a vote late yesterday evening.  Once Michal Tomasz Kaminski of the ultra right homophobic Law and Justice Party (who are one of the members of the Group of Conservatives and Reformists) went down, the way was clear for the 14 successful candidates – five EPP, five Socialists and Democrats (S&D), two ALDE, one Green plus the unexpected election of Edward McMillan-Scott as an independent.           

McMillan-Scott is, of course, a British Conservative and a Vice-President of the European Parliament during the last Parliament.  He either didn’t get support from the Conservative and Reformists (C&R) Group to stand as Vice-President or he can’t bear the new Group and decided to do his own thing.  In any event he was successful, consigning the candidate from the Law and Justice Party, the same Party that banned gay rights marches while in power in Poland, to the scrapheap of European Parliament history.

Protests against the banning of gay rights marches under the Polish Law and Democrarcy Party

Protests against the banning of gay rights marches under the Polish Law and Democracy Party

The woeful showing by the C&R Group in these elections demonstrates what will be a recurring  problem for them.  The new Group is entirely driven by the British Conservatives who form the overwhelming majority of the C&R Group.  Howver, in order to form a political group under European Parliament rules there needs to be at least 25 MEPs from seven member states.  It’s this latter ruling which causes the Tories difficulty.  There are, in fact, only political parties from seven member states in the C&R Group – the absolute minimum.  This effectively means any one of the smaller parties can call the tune by threatening to walk out and destroy the C&R  if their demands are not met.  Considering the Tories are allied with some unseemly bedfellows, including the Belgian Lijst Dedeker with its links to the Vlams Belang (the Belgian equivalent of the BNP) it would appear that the Tories have put themselves in a whole heap of the proverbial.   

And finally, the good news.  45% of the new European Parliament are women and six out of the 14 Vice-Presidents are women.  I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing the figures for the House of Commons were as positive.

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