Commission announces €125 million immunisation package

Labour Party

When the new mandate begins in July it will start by giving a €125 million package to fund vaccines and immunisation programmes worldwide. The package was been agreed by outgoing European Commission President Barroso, one of his last announcements before he stood down.
The funding, which is more than double the package previously committed, will provide €25 million each year from 2014-2020.

The money will be given to GAVI (the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) a global organisation which aim to increase access to immunisation in developing countries across the world.

The announcement follows the Commission’s adoption of the successful Written Declaration, drafted by myself and colleagues in 2012 which was passed after reaching, and exceeding, the required 372 MEP signatories. The Declaration called for the Commission to increase and continue to support the need for vaccines in developing nations.

I was appalled when I learnt that approximately 1.5 million children die each year from diseases which are entirely preventable if only they were vaccinated against them.

The funding is a hugely important commitment from the European Union which shows how seriously it takes the issue and the length it will go to in order ensure greater access to vaccines is achieved in all corners of the globe.

The latest round of funding will go a long way to treating those who are most vulnerable to treatable diseases. In addition, the European Commission has committed over €83 million to the GAVI Alliance since 2003. Some half a billion children have been immunised since 2000 saving an approximately six million lives, the Commission estimates.


Libraries Need Our Support

Labour Party

Some of my colleagues in the European Parliament have put forward a written declaration on the importance of libraries.  The financial crisis has meant that many public services have been hit hard and unfortunately libraries have been the first to suffer.

This is tragic, because libraries are an incredibly important part of our communities, both educationally and socially.  Also, as the written declaration points out, libraries are especially important for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society.

The European Union has made a commitment through its Horizon 2020 program to ensuring that as many people as possible have access to education through-out their lives.  Horizon 2020 also has the stated aim of improving computer literacy in every strata of society.  It seems to me that neither will be possible if we don’t have well-funded, flourishing libraries in our communities.

Here’s the main text of the written declaration 0016/2013:

  1. A 2013 survey of public library services across 18 European countries shows that nearly 100 million Europeans visited their public library and 14 million used it to access the internet last year;
  2. In the last 12 months 24 million Europeans (most frequently elderly people, members of ethnic minorities and people from rural areas) used their public library to engage in nonformal and informal learning activities;
  3. 83% of those using free public library computer and internet services reported a positive impact on their lives – saving time and money, improving skills, gaining access to government services and employment- and health-related resources;
  4. Last year 1.5 million Europeans applied for jobs and 250 000 found jobs using free library internet access;
  5. Public libraries represent the only source of free internet access for 1.9 million marginalised Europeans;
  6. The Commission is therefore called upon to recognise the essential services that public libraries provide to local communities and disadvantaged groups in relation to digital inclusion, social inclusion, lifelong learning and pathways to employment, and the role ofthose services in assisting with the delivery of the EU’s objectives;

I will be urging all my colleagues who have not done so already to sign the written declaration.  I really hope this passes and we send a message to everyone about the importance of libraries.  If you agree, then do write to your MEP and ask them to sign.

Written Declaration on Online Child Abuse

Labour Party

Despite its many positive advantages, unfortunately the internet has opened an all too accessible front for child abuse. All of us are only too aware that criminals and paedophiles are able to use websites around the world to distribute and share child abuse content.

Along with MEP colleagues Emma McClarkin ,Vicky Ford , Timothy Kirkhope, Silvia Costa, Richard Howitt, Gay Mitchell, Roberta Angelilli, Iva Zanicchi , Maria Da Graça Carvalho, Seán Kelly and Diane Dodds, I have co-signed this European Parliament Written Declaration:

1.   Child sexual abuse content is one of the most abhorrent types of content available, and the production, possession or distribution of such content is universally considered a criminal act;

2.   The cross-border nature of most online child sexual abuse content shows that strong international cooperation is necessary;

3.   The commercial distribution of such content could potentially be profitable for organised crime structures;

4.   Behind every image of child sexual abuse there is a real victim;

5.   The most effective way to deal with such content is to remove it at source in cooperation with law enforcement agencies;

6.   It is therefore important to share internationally information and expertise regarding the fight against online sexual abuse content;

7.   Adequate reporting and take-down mechanisms in respect of child sexual abuse content in every country are crucial;

8.   The Commission is called upon to consider developing as well as developed countries when establishing international cooperation to combat online child sexual abuse content;

9.   The Commission is called upon to support the creation of online child sexual abuse reporting mechanisms that meet acceptable global standards regarding transparency and freedom of expression;

The laws governing illegal online content differ from country to country which makes taking down abusive content and prosecuting the criminals responsible time-consuming and difficult.  In many cases there is also a commercial dimension to online child abuse content with the distribution of illegal material being profitable for organised crime.

In 2010 it was estimated that over 200 images of child pornography are put into circulation ever day and that the victims are getting younger and the content more violent and graphic. Other studies suggest that 10-20% of European children will suffer some form of sexual abuse as a child. This is an issue which is growing in severity and impact. The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström hit the nail on the head. “The response of the EU cannot be too clear or too resolute. Whatever the EU can possibly do against that, the EU must do and will do.”

Global action is needed to fight online child abuse.  As you will have seen, this Written Declaration is a cross party project involving members from every main European political grouping. Ending child abuse is an issue that transcends party lines and enjoys support across the political spectrum. I hope we will see huge support from the European Parliament for the Written Declaration.

A Cash Injection

Labour Party

Below you can read my article in this month’s Parliament Magazine supplement. I argue that whilst Europe enjoys the health benefits of immunisation, the EU must now work harder to ensure developing countries can do the same.

In the western world we take for granted that none of us will die from diseases like polio, diphtheria, measles, whooping cough or yellow fever. This happy state of affairs is thanks in large part to long running immunisation programmes and widespread vaccination across Europe. The same cannot be said for the developing world, however, where many people do not have access to these life saving vaccines.

In a recent visit to the European parliament, Bill Gates, who has campaigned tirelessly on this issue, told us that the world is missing 20 per cent of its children. The reason is straightforward: too many families do not receive access to immunisations against vaccine preventable diseases. The problem is inevitably most acute in developing countries. In Nigeria the number of vaccine preventable deaths climbs to a massive 60 per cent.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that around 1.5 million deaths among children under five years old were due to diseases that could have been prevented by routine vaccination. This represents 17 per cent of the total global mortality in children under five years of age.

The EU, through the member states and the European commission, funds a number of excellent organisations which help to increase the number of children being immunised in developing countries. Organisations like the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) have helped to expand immunisation coverage in some of the world’s poorest countries. Their work has meant that 326 million children have been immunised and over 5.5 million future deaths have been prevented. But despite GAVI’s efforts, and those of other organisations, over 1.5 million children continue to die each year from diseases which would have been prevented by vaccination.

Smallpox was eradicated world-wide in 1977, while polio is almost there. Between 2000 and 2008, measles deaths were reduced by 85 per cent and maternal and neonatal tetanus has almost been eliminated as a public health disease.

The European commission will have contributed over €86m by the end of March this year towards the global vaccination programme. These contributions derive from both the European development fund and the development cooperation instrument. While it is very good news that the commission is taking vaccination seriously, there is scope for much more to be done.

Money is urgently needed for vaccinations. For the price of a cup of coffee, a child can be vaccinated against five of the major childhood killers, including haemophilus influenzae B, diphtheria and tetanus. A better health outlook also brings economic benefits by lowering the burden on overstretched healthcare systems and freeing up for social provision such as education, as well as cutting down the indirect costs such as time off work to look after sick children.

In order to gain a commitment to vaccination from the European parliament, I, along with fellow MEPs Veronique De Keyser, Sean Kelly, Bill Newton-Dunn and Marie-Christine Vergiat, have launched written declaration 4/2012. It urges the European commission to continue its work in reducing the number of vaccine preventable deaths in its future external actions. I have previously blogged about the written declaration here.

I urge MEPs to sign this written declaration. Vaccination is crucial for all children in order that they may live the lives they deserve. Most of us in the EU will have benefitted from vaccinations for polio, diphtheria, tetanus and many more diseases which were killers in previous generations. It is now time we made sure developing countries are given the same chance.

My written declaration states that “disease prevalence is a barrier to achieving sustainable socio-economic development” and, with 1.7 million dying from vaccine preventable diseases every year, it urges the European commission to continue and increase its support for immunisation programmes. It must receive the backing of the majority of deputies (by 10 May 2012) before it is forwarded to parliament president Martin Schulz.

I have previously blogged about the written declaration here.

Written Declaration 4/2012 on Vaccines and Immunisation

Labour Party

Last week I wrote about the written declaration on vaccines and immunisation which I am campaigning on. The written declaration calls on the European Commission to continue and increase its commitments to reducing the number of vaccine preventable diseases in the developing world.

The written declaration is now open for MEPs’ signatures. It will need 377 signatures for it to pass so if you support this written declaration, you should contact your local MEP and ask them to sign.

You can read the full text of the written declaration here.

In this vlog I talk about how vaccinations have been important in my life, and how they have changed the world. I want to spread that success story to every child across the world.

Sports For All!

Labour Party

Along with four other MEPs; Joanna Senyszyn from the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Sean Kelly from the European People’s Party (EPP), Ivo Belet, also from the EPP, and Hannu Takkula from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), I am the co-signatory on a written declaration to support sports at grassroots level.  The declaration itself:

1.   Calls on the Commission and Member States to promote sport for all, strengthening its educational and integrating role, with special attention paid to under-represented groups such as women, seniors, and disabled people;

2.   Calls on Member States to ensure that grassroots sport does not suffer from major budget cuts in times of crisis;

3.   Calls on the Commission to pay the necessary attention to grassroots sports in the upcoming Communication on sport and to ensure sufficient funding for the EU Sport Programme from 2012 onwards;

4.   Calls on the Commission to take due account of the results of the study on the financing of grassroots sports with regard to a possible EU initiative on gambling issues;

5.   Instructs its President to forward this declaration, together with the names of the signatories, to the Commission and the Parliaments of the Member States.

The declaration closes for signing at the beginning of December, but given the cross party support and the importance of the topic, I am fairly convinced it will get enough signatures and will become European Parliament policy. 

Show your support for grassroots sport and get your local MEPs to sign Written Declaration No. 0062/2010!

Tony Blair divides the Socialists again

Labour Party

Blair EU

I have just come from a meeting of the European Parliament Socialists and Democrats (S & D) Group – the one which used to be called the Party of European Socialists – and I am incandescent with rage.  The rage is again on behalf of Tony Blair and Britain, one of the minority of countries in the European Union to have a government from the same political family as the S & D Group.

 It is, inevitably at present, about the soon to be established post of President of the European Council of Ministers.  The S & D Group as a whole have, it must be said, shown no support for the Blair bid, and more of that later.  My ire is more against the two S & D MEPs who tabled an anti-Blair Written Declaration (similar to an Early Day Motion) in the Parliament.

They know who they are, but for the record I am talking about Robert Goebbels from Luxembourg and German Jo Leinen.  (A Written Declaration needs five signatures – the other three were from other political groups).

 The Written Declaration is particularly damning, asking that the new President be a figure with whom all the people of Europe can identify and whether he/she has displayed the ability to move the EU forward.  It also states the “figure” must come from a country in the Euro and the Schengen Agreement and be from a country which does not refuse to apply the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

It doesn’t take much to work out that the “figure” is our very own TB.  The attack on Tony continued in the S & D Group meeting when one of the proposers of the Written Declaration made it clear he didn’t think Socialists could support Blair due to Tony’s lack of solidarity with other socialists over the Iraq war as well as his attending the French UMP conference just before the Presidential election in France and Blair’s closeness to Berlusconi.

 Tony Blair was the most successful Labour Prime Minister Britain has ever had, winning three election victories, bringing peace to Northern Ireland and improving health and education beyond all expectations.  It is high time European socialist “colleagues” buried their petty jealousies and did what is best for the S & D Group and best for Europe by not continually carping about one of Europe’s most influential leaders, who also happens to be one of us.

Back to the Blair bid itself as opposed to personal animosity.  The S & D Group together with the heads of government in those countries with socialist governments, wrongly in my view, decided to go for the Socialists holding the new position of High Representative for Foreign Affairs, a post which straddles both Council and Commission with the post holder also being Vice-President of the Commission.  The thinking was that the EPP centre-right, who already have the President of the Commission in the form of Jose-Manuel Barroso, will probably get the Council President as well. Given this, the Socialists should have the next bite of the cherry, namely the High Representative.

 This is how David Miliband came to be approached to be High Representative, rather late in the day. Sadly he declined, all but ending British hopes.  EU horse trading has won the day again, showing the worst side of what happens here.  I am tempted to ask, when will they ever learn?  Deals done behind closed doors do not inspire confidence and cause a lot of harm.  Europe will never get closer to its people as long as EU leaders behave like some out of touch clique considering only their own narrow interests.