MEPs Urge Commission to End Double Standards on Trade with Occupied Territories

31 January 2020 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEPs have called on the Commission to act on the issue of EU trade with occupied territories. By urging the Commission to propose an EU-initiative on the matter, they hope the EU can ensure full compliance with both European and international law, notably the obligation of non-recognition of unlawful occupation.

This follows a roundtable hosted in the European Parliament on Wednesday 29 January 2020 during which legal and policy experts debated the divergent and piecemeal approaches of the EU towards trade with occupied territories.

On one side, the EU imposed sanctions on Russia in relation to the occupation of Crimea, while on the other, it has included the territory of Western Sahara in its bilateral agreements with the occupying power, Morocco. In Palestine, experts highlighted the lack of implementation of EU rules concerning the correct labelling of Israeli settlement products. Towards other situations of occupation such as Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh or Northern Cyprus, participants considered the EU’s approach as a best practice to be emulated.

Gina Dowding MEP said:

“Incoherent trade policy undermines the EU’s foreign policy credibility and is also misleading European consumers as to the origin of goods. That creates insecurity and legal risks for EU-based companies. The Irish bill on trade in occupied territories was noted as an encouraging initiative at the national level, which deserved attention and support.”

Participants outlined how current challenges could be overcome, notably through the adoption of a comprehensive policy towards situations of occupation, a mandatory and public register of EU-based importers of goods from occupied territories, accessible and detailed statistical data on trade flows, and a mechanism to protect individuals from these territories, whose property rights may have been violated by illicit trade.

In light of this, MEPs Gina Dowding, Margrete Auken, Grace O’Sullivan, Petra de Sutter and Ernest Urtasun urgently called on the Commission to cease its policy of double standards towards situations of occupied territories. There is an urgent need to adopt a fair and coherent approach to EU trade policy that conforms with its stated ambition to act as a benevolent, global player that is committed to international law and to conflict resolution.

 

ENDS

 

Pro-Europeans have a right to help shape future relationship with Europe, say UK’s Greens

For immediate release: 29th January 2020 

The UK’s seven Green MEPs have issued a statement following the vote in the European Parliament on the Withdrawal Agreement, in which they voted against.

The Green MEPs responded:

“In spite of the powerful campaign waged by Greens and many others for almost four years, with a deep sense of regret and grief, we accept that the UK will leave the EU this Friday. But Brexit isn’t done; the negotiations over the nature of our future relationship are only just beginning.

“Europe is a beacon of peace in the world, upholding human rights, leading the world on climate change, protecting our environment and safeguarding consumer standards. And we believe that in the months ahead pro-Europeans, who would prefer us to remain in the EU and who make up at least half the electorate, have a right to help shape our future relationship with Europe.

“So we urge the Prime Minister to aim for a settlement that maintains the vital legal protections offered by our EU membership. For Greens, this must include freedom of movement, a privilege we are proud to champion because it offers the chance to live, work and form relationships across 27 other countries.

 “It is particularly important for our young people that we maintain the closest possible relationship with our European neighbours as we know they are considerably more pro-European than older generations. It is their future that is being limited by leaving the EU. So, while now is not the time to campaign to re-join the EU, we will nonetheless aspire to this in the future.”

The departure of the UK’s Green MEPs, representing seven different regions of England and forming the largest ever Green Party delegation to the European Parliament, will be a significant loss to the Greens/EFA group. The group’s MEPs will be reduced from 74 to 63 as the Greens/EFA group included Scottish and Welsh nationalist MEPs.

ENDS

Notes

The UK’s seven Green MEPs are Molly Scott Cato (South West), Alexandra Phillips (South East), Catherine Rowett (East), Ellie Chowns (West Midlands), Gina Dowding (North West), Magid Magid (Yorkshire and the Humber), Scott Ainslie (London)

 

Letter to Stephen Barclay Regarding Citizens’ Rights

Department for Exiting the EU
Rt. Hon. Stephen Barclay MP
9 Downing Street London
SW1A 2AS, United Kingdom 

Brussels, 10/01/2020

Dear Mr Barclay

We are writing on behalf of EU citizens who have experienced anxiety due to changes to their protections because of the passage of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill

As MEPs, we have been receiving letters from distraught citizens from the EU27 since the 2016 referendum. They are seeing their lives torn apart and plans they made on the basis of an existing legal situation being undermined in a way that causes them considerable distress. In this context, the least we can do is to provide them with the maximum level of reassurance and protection

We are concerned by the weakening of the Independent Monitoring Authority, established to defend the rights of EU27 citizens, and in particular that the British government has reserved the unilateral right to abolish this body. The government committed to the IMA in the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement and to renege on this agreement so soon and to split the role of the IMA between different existing bodies is totally unacceptable

Alongside this raised level of anxiety, it is crass and damaging for Security Minister Brandon Lewis to threaten those EU citizens, who fail to navigate the Settled Status registration scheme sufficiently rapidly, with deportation. We have all met people who have lived in our communities for decades but for reasons of limited language skills, difficulty in locating documents, or lack of facility with digital technology are facing problems with registration. Others simply feel themselves to be British and do not understand that they need to register for something that they already possess. The duty of the government is to offer them support in availing themselves of the rights that are legally theirs, rather than threatening them

While the current concerns are raised by nonUK EU citizens living in the UK, it is clear that whatever treatment they receive is likely to be reciprocated in the by EU member countries. Hence, treating these people who have chosen to be part of our communities with the dignity and respect they deserve also provides protection for British citizens who will continue to live in the EU27 countries

Best regards

Molly Scott Cato MEP, Scott Ainslie MEP, Alexandra Phillips MEP, Ellie Chowns MEP, Catherine Rowett MEP, Gina Dowding MEP

 

A European Green Deal

The European Commission has finally, and historically, placed the European Green Deal as a core strategy on their 2019-2024 political guidelines. Ursula von Der Leyen, the new Commission President, should be commended for finally putting forward as a key priority the foundations of a plan to tackle climate change. We, of course, were not expecting a detailed plan after two weeks in office – although such a plan is direly needed. Now is the time to take this outline of a green deal and make it into a credible and tangible reality.

From a European Greens/EFA perspective, the group’s key overall messages will be the major criteria against which the group are going to evaluate the Commission’s proposals:

  1. The objectives of the Green Deal must not only be in line with the 1.5°C global warming target; it must be about respecting all planetary boundaries;
  2. The Green Deal must ensure policy coherence. There should be climate/biodiversity/resource-proofing of all policies, including with the CAP and trade policies;
  3. Climate action must go hand-in-hand with the reduction of inequalities;
  4. GND needs a green financial system, rather than just some greening of parts of finance.

The line of thinking is the right one, although of course, these points are just a general thematic overview that should underwrite our approach to the Green Deal. The practical reality must ensure our transition to a more sustainable society with some concrete measures that will rapidly propel us to a zero-carbon, nature-friendly economy, create thousands of jobs, improve health and tackle inequality.

These ideas were included in my report The Green New Deal in the North West, and in concrete terms, we identified areas where a Green New Deal can force much-needed change. The report addresses five key areas:

  1. Renewable energy supply
  2. Energy-efficient buildings
  3. Sustainable transport
  4. A zero-carbon, circular economy
  5. Land use, food and biodiversity

So how do we help the European Commission maintain a focus on these areas? We need to provide tangible solutions with frameworks like The Green New Deal in the North West, that prioritise human and environmental sustainability at the local level, and make them a success story. This model can be replicated on the international stage in institutions like the EU to give our solutions the widest reach.

There is no doubt that some issues will require local solutions, and others will need coordinated efforts with our European partners. The difficulty lies in finding the right balance between local, bottom-up solutions and international standards that need to be regulated for the greater good.

In the EU, energy production and use, including the energy used in transport, account for some 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. The five key areas covered in my report would allow us to tackle the bulk of emissions in the EU, as well as in North West England.

Let’s take energy, for example. We urgently need a rapid transition to a smart, zero-carbon energy system and halt all future fossil fuel developments. It is also a reality that many communities rely on the jobs provided by the energy sector. The focus in the Green Deal should be on investing in these people, rather than leaving them behind, and give them the opportunity to re-train in green industries or work in environmental restoration schemes – a policy already implemented by the Spanish government in 2018.

By keeping the focus on people, policies such as improving the energy efficiency of building stock can be a strong way of tackling the climate emergency, while at the same time delivering social justice for those who are affected by fuel poverty. Furthermore, improving energy efficiency can help our public institutions make substantial financial savings as well as in the case of hospitals, speed up patient recovery times. These kinds of societal changes will benefit our communities and leave no one behind.

Policies to be implemented at the EU level, are also needed.

The most important of which is the reform of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Firstly, decreasing the number of free allowances in the ETS and secondly, increase the pace of removing emission allowances from the system (which will lead to a higher price on emissions and a faster decrease in emissions).

Secondly, we need to introduce a Border Carbon Adjustment mechanism (in other words, a carbon border tariff) to avoid carbon leakages with companies who manage to avoid climate regulation and paying for their emissions.

And lastly, introducing a kerosene tax. Airlines should pay energy and fuel taxes like everyone else, and we have to tackle airline emissions, a sector where emissions are still growing significantly.

The Green Deal needs to not aim only at ‘hard policies’ that incentivise the rollout of renewable energy systems and increase the cost of emissions. We also need ‘soft policies’ that change the way we consume, live and travel without putting the responsibility of those changes on individuals – particularly the poorest. For example, making it easy for people to choose public transport over their car, expanding cycling infrastructure to make cycling less dangerous and more accessible. In other words, policies should also aim to encourage new, positive types of behaviour.

That is where we will be able to test the real ambition of political leaders.

Going forward as Greens, we should take a demanding but constructive approach. At this early stage, simply criticising the Commission for not being bold or concrete enough will prove to be counterproductive. We need to ensure that a firm but collaborative approach is what will get the key Greens/EFA demands for the European Green Deal on the table.

These are baby steps, but adequate ones if we want to act and save the future of young people and the planet.

 

Frequent Flyer Levy: Gina on BBC RADIO 4 | Interview

You can listen below to Gina’s interview on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, from 14 October 2019, talking about the frequent flyer levy, alongside former director of the Danish government’s Environmental Assessment Institute in Copenhagen, Bjørn Lomborg, who is a Danish author and President of his think tank, Copenhagen Consensus Center.

Gina Dowding MEP interview on BBC Radio 4, 14 October 2019