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

 

Endings, Visits & Injustice

Mood change

The mood has, of course, changed in Europe now, the sense of an impending end and unclear view of what the next stage of our relationship with the EU will be. There was a feeling of gloom amongst UK MEPs (except of course the Brexit group) that we could see on the faces of our Green colleagues and those of all the parties. It’s absolutely clear that across the Parliament over the last four decades, UK MEPs have been highly valued for their contribution and what they bring to the Parliament. And I would say amongst those, the Greens are held in particularly high esteem.

The demands of the job, however, go on, and the vital work of the European Parliament continues. This week, a group of visitors from the North West (the fourth visit I’ve arranged) went to Strasbourg. Discussions touched on the UK elections, but much of the time, my work was around international affairs.

Speaking on Brexit

In the European Parliament plenary, I was given speaking time to discuss the UK general election result and Brexit. My speech is below but I also want to quote first, the remarks of European President, Ursula von der Leyen:

She warned that a cliff-edge Brexit at the end of 2020 will hurt the UK more than the EU as she laid out her intentions to “make the most” out of the “extremely challenging” 11 months available to strike a trade deal.

“In case we cannot conclude an agreement by the end of 2020 we will face again a cliff-edge situation and this would clearly harm our interests but it will impact the UK more than us as the EU will continue benefiting from its single market its customs union and the 70 international agreements we signed with our partners – but it’s clearly not in our interest.”

Von der Leyen said she would not miss the Brexit party MEPs, as they heckled her speech, but she offered her condolence to those parties who had campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU.

“If I look at our very brave remain MEPs I can only say, I’m sorry, we will miss you. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for having been at our side. We will never miss those who scream and yell.”

My speech:

Thank you Madam Chair,

Sadly, for all of us who think the European Union offers the best future for the UK and the rest of Europe, we now have to face the reality of Brexit.

Last week the European Council reiterated its commitment to a level playing field in standards and regulations in trade between the EU and the UK, but the new UK government already threatens to break its commitments.

We now have a serious risk to workers’ rights and environmental protections, to parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals, and therefore, a risk again of the possibility of a no-deal Brexit at the end of next year.

This parliament, elected on proportional representation, demonstrates of all that can be achieved by nations working together in co-operation, representing citizens against global corporate business interests; and in confronting the global challenges of climate change, social injustice and the ecological crisis.

Citizens of Europe look to their governments to protect them against the vested interest of financial and property millionaires, and corporate power.

Many of us in the UK will continue to look to the best in the EU to overcome those challenges.

Visitors to EU Parliament from the North West

We are trying to make sure that more North West constituents get the chance to experience the EU institutions, albeit at a very sad time, as we know we are leaving. This is the fourth visit my team and I have arranged since taking office and every visit has been such an amazing experience.

On Wednesday, we welcomed a sponsored visitor group from the North-West region to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. We originally were due to host around 25 visitors, but due to strike action in France, the final number of participants was 12. The ones who made it had to endure a tough journey to get there, and we hope the ones who could not make it will have a chance in January before we leave.

The day began with an opportunity for the visitors to meet some Green MEPs, hear a bit about their work and ask them questions. We were lucky to have MEPs Molly Scott Cato, Terry Reintke and Ellie Chowns, who took time out of their busy schedule to meet the visitor group of Green and Remain activists.

All the MEPs spoke of their profound sadness at the prospect of the UK leaving the EU. Molly outlined her disappointment in not being able to continue her work on important projects going forward, such as Green financing and the European Green Deal. Terry, who is a German MEP, gave a passionate account of her love for the UK and her difficulty in coming to terms with the UK leaving. She told visitors that after the election result on Friday, she moved fast to set up a Friends of Britain group in the Parliament, made up of MEPs willing to continue their relationship with the UK going forward. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with a huge number of MEPs from all over Europe having already signed up. Ellie, in explaining how she went from a university lecturer to MEP, was also able to uplift the mood by encouraging people to get involved in Green politics at the local level because it is possible to make a difference. I would like to wholeheartedly thank all of my amazing and inspirational colleagues for taking the time to meet our visitors.

After the session, the group went inside the Plenary, where they watched my speech in the hemicycle on Brexit. I was pleased they got a chance to see the plenary in action, although sadly, Nigel Farage spoke shortly after myself so visitors were unable to see first-hand, the carry-on pantomime that is usually performed by the Brexit Party MEPs at every plenary session. Afterwards, I was able to speak to our visitors, where I outlined my work in Parliament and answered questions.

To conclude, there was also a talk by the visitor centre staff on the history of the EU and the Parliament.

When I spoke to the visitors at the end of the day, you could feel a general sadness they felt in leaving behind an institution that they firmly believe can offer them the best future.

However, there were also little moments of hope – particularly the sense of solidarity from our European friends and the confirmation that there will be a collaborative relationship in the future between the UK and the EU. If there is anything we should not do, is lose hope.

We are not alone!

Palestine & Israel

This week, I attended a meeting of both delegations for relations with Israel and relations with Palestine.

The focus at the Palestine meeting centred around how to ensure that the EU member states only import correctly labelled products from the illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. And while the Greens are calling for a total ban on these products, the EU position, recently reinforced by the European Court of Justice decision, is that products should be labelled so that the consumer knows the province.

We heard from specialist speakers that a recent survey showed only 10 per cent of wines sold by online sales from EU outlets and produced within illegal settlements, are correctly labelled as such. Wines are the one sector that is relatively easy to monitor, so these findings understate the problem. Ethical issues are clear: a third of settlement vineyards are based on private Palestinian land (confiscated land). Palestinian agricultural areas have decreased by one third in recent years.

Meanwhile this week…

Good

Although we will be leaving on the 31 of January, I aim to do and achieve as much as I can until then. There has been much interest in the future role of hydrogen and in my role on the Industry, Research and Energy Committee. I am planning a workshop in the European Parliament to make an impact on both the Green groups and Parliament’s views on hydrogen. In our report on The Green New Deal in the North West, we highlighted the potential role hydrogen technology will play a key role in the transition of some sectors, but it is essential we underline that it must be fully renewables-based hydrogen.

Bad

The European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning a new Russian law this week. This new law forces an individual who distributes information on the internet and receives money from any foreign source, to brand him or herself as a “foreign agent”.

This is the latest attempt of the Russian government to prevent journalists from doing their job; hindering independent and investigative journalism from scrutinising those in power.

Russia’s efforts to interfere with the media also concerns the UK. Propaganda and disinformation is a serious threat to our democracy and it’s becoming clear how systemic Russian efforts to influence democracies are.

After last week’s elections, Putin and his cronies have a new ally in Downing Street. Until recently, Boris Johnson blocked the publication of the report into Russian interference in UK politics; only clearing it for release after voters can no longer hold him accountable.

The Tories also deceived voters through online ads featuring outright lies and disinformation, while also setting up accounts such as “Factcheck UK” to mislead voters.

Like Putin, this is just another way of preventing journalists from scrutinising those in power. Another way of withholding information from the public to mislead voters. Another way to gain supporters and demonise opposition by spreading lies.

With the Tory party cosying up to Russian methods of misleading voters, it is becoming clear that Boris Johnson is a threat to our democracy. Spreading hate and lies to gain and keep political power and pulling our country apart in the process.

In the coming years, we will have to fight the government’s lies. We will have to hold them and the media accountable. Fighting for independent and critical journalism that is not a mouthpiece for the Downing Street spin machine. That is the only way to fix our broken democracy.

Where hope lies

It’s a mixed ‘where hope lies’ this week, tinged with optimism in a sad situation. This week saw the awarding of the Sakharov Prize to Ilham Tohti. His daughter, Jewher Ilam, received the prize in his stead, due to his imprisonment. She hasn’t heard from her father since 2017 and has no information from authorities about him whatsoever.

Ilham is a renowned Uyghur human rights defender, economics professor and advocate of the rights of China’s Uyghur ‘minority’ population. He is currently serving a life sentence in prison for his activism following a two-day show trial in 2014. Millions of Uyghur are forced into and held in so-called ‘re-education centres.’, which are huge concentration camps in China.

This prize though is so valued by human rights defenders as it helps shine a much needed international light on their plights and protect them for further human rights abuses. Ilham’s daughter works tirelessly on his behalf, in fear also for her freedom and that of her family but carrying on because to raise the profile of the Uyghur people, is their only hope.

Our Greens/EFA coordinator of foreign affairs in the European Parliament, one of the proposers for this years prize, said:

“The Uyghur are suffering from the worst police state that exists in the globe today.”

It was humbling to meet Jewher and witness her bravery and honour; she is an example of the importance of citizens continuing to fight injustice whether that’s against authoritarian governments or the interests of corporate big business. The hope is in those who fight on regardless of the risks they personally face or the sacrifices.

Onwards

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Women, Europe & Planet

Most of this week was spent in Strasbourg, on a diverse range of important issues. From the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, consumer standards and how they’re impacted by big business, to the Green New Deal for Europe, a well deserved human rights award, holding the EU Commission to account with a ‘yellow card’, issues in the Middle East and the EU declaration of a climate emergency. These weekly summaries grow more difficult on weeks like this!

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

The European Parliament adopted a resolution by our Greens/EFA group for ratification of the Istanbul Convention: to add gender-based violence to the list of EU crimes and a directive to combat gender-based violence. We used the opportunity of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to urge the Council to stop blocking EU ratification and denounce this massive violation of human rights which is still very present in the EU. One in three women in Europe has experienced physical or sexual acts of violence at least once since the age of 15; 55% of women have been confronted with one or more forms of sexual harassment and in many Member States, over half of all female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner, relative or family member.

A Green New Deal for Europe

I am delighted to be involved in the Greens’ Climate Core Group discussion on the Green New Deal and European Climate Law. As the Commission begins to draft its proposal for a European Green Deal, Green MEPs are hard at work defining our demands on the contents of that proposal. Any Green New Deal has to recognise the scale of the challenge, and set out sufficiently ambitious proposals to meet those challenges.

As I showed in my report, The Green New Deal for the North West, the main sectors that constitute the bulk of the challenge and from which the vast majority of our carbon emissions come, are energy supply, industry, buildings and land use (farming and transport). In addition, at a European level, these sectors must be looked at through the lens of our trade and foreign policies. The role of an MEP presents a powerful opportunity to challenge proposals, to scrutinise and criticise anything that fails to meet the required standards until we get this right.

Greens Give Yellow Card to New Commission

A major vote took place this week and as Greens in Europe, we chose to abstain, effectively giving the new European Commission a ‘yellow card’. The new Commission, led by President Ursula von der Leyen, was voted through but our abstention was seen to be a sign of goodwill as well as an acknowledgement of serious criticisms including: the profound lack of will to seriously reform the EU’s trade and agricultural policies, the decision to link migration policy to the notion of “promoting our European way of life”, and putting a right-wing Commissioner in charge of EU enlargement.

However, we do recognise that the Commission has moved in a better direction concerning the climate. Announcing their intention to increase the emissions reduction target for 2030 to 55 per cent (previously 45 per cent) and pushing EU Member States to adopt a target of climate neutrality by 2050. This is not enough, of course, but it does represent progress. As the Greens/EFA group in Europe, our targets would be an emissions reduction of 65 per cent by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2040.

Greens are ready to work with the new Commission in designing an ambitious European Green New Deal, and raising our climate targets so we meet our commitments under the Paris Agreement. There is no time to waste and options are diminishing, so although we will work constructively with others, we will not shy away from criticism when it’s due.

Palestine debate

The Local Palestine Solidarity Group in Alsace was hosting two wonderful women from Palestine, Sahar Abbassi the Director of the MADA association in Silwan and Rania Mohjareb from Al-Haq, a human rights organisation based in the West Bank. I had met different representatives of both these organisations during my recent visit to Palestine and Israel in August. The situation following last week’s announcement from the US administration that ‘settlements are not illegal ‘ is serious and the statement from the US is a clear breach of international law. By contrast, in the EU last week, the Court of Justice said that products from illegal settlements must be labelled as such when sold in the European market. Rania also called for the publication of an existing report by the UN Human Rights Council that lists companies operating in the illegal settlements.

 

Palestine event

As part of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, an event was arranged to encourage an exchange of views on the situation for women in Palestine and I had the opportunity to speak:

“It is time for the EU to step up as the neutral peace broker in Israel and Palestine. That requires an unwavering commitment to international law.

“Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

“That is why last week’s ruling by our Court of Justice is so important. Products from illegal Israeli settlements must now be labelled as such. We now need to take concrete steps to enforce the court’s judgement.

“This is the first step. Going forward, the EU needs to impose a ban on all imports of settlement products into the EU. Similar measures have been taken with products from Crimea and Northern Cyprus. Why not from the settlements?

“The UN should urgently release the database of companies operating in Israeli settlements that are profiting from their construction and growth.

“It will send a clear message to the world: any attempts to legitimise annexation, and contravene international law, will have concrete repercussions.

“Finally, I would like to ask the High Representative: what concrete steps will the EU take to ensure international law remain a respected point of reference for the Middle East Peace Process?”

European Parliament Declares Climate Emergency

Another high point of the week was witnessing the European Parliament adopt the resolution declaring a climate emergency and urging EU member states to take immediate action to address the climate crisis. The flip-side of this though was the disappointment that the resolution itself did not contain the concrete actions the Greens are demanding.

This declaration is a step but not enough and will ring hollow if it is not followed by determined climate action. Therefore, the Greens have called on the Commission to present concrete measures before the climate summit in Madrid (COP25).

I was asked for comment:

“Today, the European Parliament declared a climate emergency. This is significant. The world’s second-largest economy now recognises the climate crisis.

“In the UK, meanwhile, we now know that the Tories are planning to sell out our NHS to Donald Trump. In that deal, Boris Johnson and President Trump are making sure to ban any mention of climate change.

“While the EU takes a firm stance on climate action, our Prime Minister is trying to silence the climate debate. He won’t succeed.

“We Greens won’t stay silent. And we will take every opportunity to give climate change the attention it needs.

“Because we are in a climate emergency. Silencing the debate won’t help us. Only ambitious climate action will.”

Meanwhile this week

Good

Ukrainian film-maker, Oleg Sentsov, has finally collected his human rights prize after five years in a Russian prison. Oleg received the (belated) 2018 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought this week, finally having the opportunity to collect it. He had been arrested by Russian authorities following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for “plotting terrorist acts”. The conviction has been described by a host of international organisations as being fabricated.
Oleg was finally freed due to a Ukrainian-Russian prisoner swap and able to come to Europe. He was keen to emphasise that Russian atrocities toward opposition figures and minorities in Crimea have not ceased since his arrest. At the same time, the war in Eastern Ukraine continues to rage. That Oleg Sentsov was finally able to collect his prize is a powerful symbol. In the face of aggression and injustice, The European Union continues to stand up for human rights, international law and justice.

Bad

As a representative on the European Union’s Horizon Research and Innovation Programme, I find it a fascinating and positive group which really tackles the issues. This week, the group published a report on ‘the innovation principle’ that’s been touted by major companies in the oil and chemical sectors. They’ve pushed for ’the innovation principle’ to be more widely accepted and given the same legal weight as the ‘precautionary principle’; an aim considered by many consumer rights organisations as a ‘Trojan horse’ that would enable businesses to undermine EU environmental and health regulations.

The precautionary principle should not be undermined. The recently released report was published by the Centre for European Policy Studies CEPS. CEPS has 14 companies on its corporate members’ list that lobby for this and they are the ones who stand to gain.

Asked for my view as the Greens representative on the Horizon programme working group, I said that this was nothing more than trying to give the same status to what amounts to an ’anti-regulation principle’ and a way for businesses to buy influence and weaken the precautionary principle. Innovation doesn’t need protecting by big business, but the precautionary principle is there to protect environmental public health and consumer standards. Yet again big business influence is trying to reach further into places it shouldn’t go.

Where hope lies

This week, 74 European students and teachers came to Strasbourg to present a ‘Declaration for the Planet’ which was contributed to by 310 students and 27 teachers: ‘The first European declaration of the rights for the planet and the living.’

It all started with Anaïs Willocq, a teacher at Montaigne’s school in 2017, raising awareness among her fifth-grade students of the threats facing them on the planet and went on to register them in the Children’s Parliament. The Lobby of Poissy laid the ground-work with educational projects, actions with the town hall, meetings of deputies in the National Assembly, demonstrations, meetings with experts and getting well-known personalities on board with the project: Hubert Reeves, François Hollande and Nicolas Hulot, who agreed to sponsor them and to write the ‘rights for the planet and the living’. Supported by the European Commission, this unique approach places the school at the heart of citizenship.

“It is natural that the Commission is associated with this initiative because it is a true example of what Europe must be: the meeting of Europeans from several countries who think together about solutions to build a better future.”

For Baudouin Baudru, Head of the Representation of the European Commission in France.

You can see a quick bit of my meeting with the children below.

Onwards

 

Safety, Occupation & Netpol

It was good to join with Kevin Blowe, Baroness Jenny Jones – a Green member of the House of Lords – and many others, to celebrate 10 years of Netpol; the police monitoring group. It was, I suppose, a bitter-sweet occasion, with a realisation that we actually need a police monitoring service to keep activists and campaigners safe and ensure justice stands a chance. Following my recent trip to Israel and Palestine, I feel even more acutely for those living under daily oppression and I am keenly aware of how US announcements on the settlements in the occupied territories must affect the morale of Palestinians in the West Bank.

On a more positive note, I was invited along with others, to examine issues of road safety. And I am delighted to conclude that the Green Party’s Green New Deal – and our own report: The Green New Deal in the North West – offer the very best solutions, with positive impacts being very quickly realised.

Netpol 10th Anniversary

Last week passing through London via my usual Eurostar journey back from Brussels, it was a treat to attend a fantastic event to honour the 10th anniversary of Netpol. This is an organisation founded to monitor police responses to public order, protest and street policing, and to also provide challenge when policing is excessive, discriminatory or threatens civil rights. Green Party peer, Baroness Jenny Jones, has worked hard to support Netpol as they’ve become ever-more important –mainly as political and environmental street campaigning increases.

Working in partnership with anti-fracking community groups and Extinction Rebellion, Netpol’s work is vital, but they are in need of funding. See the launch of their ‘Protecting Freedom to Protest Fund.

I like these words by Hannah Chutzpah, who is on Netpol’s Steering Group:

 “I’m fascinated by how successful activist campaigns and movements get absorbed into the historical narrative – with people forgetting that there ever was an opposition. Suffragettes and the Civil Rights campaigners were opposed – violently – at the time. LGSM  (Lesbian and Gays Support for Miners) have a feel-good movie now, and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign is finally getting a proper hearing: but for both, it took decades of fighting, while they were smeared by both politicians and the press. Doreen Lawrence (mother of Stephen Lawrence, a black British teenager who was murdered in a racist attack in South East London in 1993) is now a dame – but before that, she had police spies infiltrating her grieving family’s campaign for justice.”

Road Safety Week

It’s been Road Safety Week throughout Europe this week. The problems on our roads are far more serious than most realise, with pedestrians and cyclists most at risk. A report out this week by Brake, stated that one in three adults were involved in a collision or near-miss on a UK road last year.

In the European Parliament, within the newly formed cross-party group for Sustainable and Safe Active Travel, we want to focus on the “entirely avoidable” deaths of young people due to road traffic collisions. In the UK, five people lose their lives every day on the roads. A ‘modal shift’ to cycling and walking, with an investment in decent cycling infrastructure for short journeys, could drastically reduce air pollution in our major cities.

Poor air quality is responsible for over 4000 death each year in the North West. Our recent The Green New Deal in the North West focussed on some of the key policy changes required, including a commitment to put public spending on walking and cycling to at least £10 per capita, per year – on par with leading cycle-friendly countries. The future can be positive and bright.

Israel/Palestine

I was due to co-host a meeting this week in the European Parliament with two prominent and respected peace advocates: Former Israeli Ambassador and negotiator, Ilan Baruch, and Ashraf Al-Ajrami, member of the Palestinian Committee for Interaction with the Israeli Society. Sadly I was unable to attend due to illness, but the meeting, chaired by my colleague Margrete Auken, Danish Green MEP, was very informative.

Mr Ilan Baruch, after 36 years of diplomatic career including postings in Asia, Europe and Africa, resigned from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2011 on grounds of principle and since his early retirement, he has been devoting time and experience to projects in public diplomacy. He is currently chairperson of a team of activists promoting the Middle East peace process based on the two-state solution.

Ashraf Al-Ajrami, former Minister in the Palestine National Authority, is together with Mr Baruch a director of a new cultural centre called the Palestine House in Tel Aviv.

Mr Al-Ajrami stated that sadly a majority of Palestinians no longer believe in the feasibility of the two-state solution, which had 70-80 % support after the signing of the Oslo Accords, now due to the Israeli Government’s actions. Many Palestinians believe that the de facto annexation has become the reality on the ground in the West Bank. He warned that the peace process is thus losing momentum.

Mr Baruch underlined the importance of the EU in speaking up and affirming its commitment to ending the occupation of the Palestinian Territories, and to the two state-solution and particularly and significantly this week when the US unilaterally decided to ‘normalise’ and legitimise the illegal settlements.

Mr Baruch also highlighted the recent ruling on labelling of products with origin in the illegal settlements as important EU action to keep the peace process alive. The EU is by far Israel’s most important trading partner and has the potential to use that leverage.

Mr Baruch saw this visit to the European Parliament as the first in many to come, and I hope to meet him in the near future.

This week’s decision by the US administration to overturn 40 years of USA policy, to declare that the illegal occupation of Israeli settlements in Palestine is in fact, not illegal as far as America is concerned, has attracted widespread condemnation and goes against international law. I wrote a piece on this grave situation for Middle East Eye.

Meanwhile this week…

Good

The seasonal festivities this Saturday (23 November) start with friends and community at the Green Christmas fair in Lancaster. I’ve been a Councillor in this area for more than two decades now and The GCF has become an annual institution. If you’re in the area, the fair is Saturday 23 November 10 – 4 at the Friends Meeting House, next to Lancaster train station. There will be all of the usual wonders with two floors of stalls selling locally-produced art, crafts, games, clothing, gifts, and much more (e.g. hundreds of second-hand books/DVDs and the ever-popular Fairfield Association calendars!) plus live music all day, Santa’s grotto and a wonderful café and all for just 50p (free for children). For the first time in 25 years, I will miss due to illness. But I have booked a delivery of a cake from a friend!

Bad

The ultimate insult to voters and democracy in the blatant use of spin and manipulation of truth by the Conservatives this week, when they set up their social media Twitter account to ‘appear’ to be a fact-checking account. Adding insult to injury, Nicky Morgan MP went on to respond that: “This is a total Westminster bubble story,” suggesting that nobody outside of political London is bothered by the lies and lack of integrity. This was then compounded by her colleague, Dominic Raab MP, who claimed “No one gives a toss” about the “social media cut and thrust” after the Tories changed their social media account. This is an appalling attitude to take in the run up to the election.

I do despair at what the  Conservative Party consider to be our new normal. As we are entering the most important final three weeks of the general election, what voters need and want is clarity and truth. The lies on buses and in print during the referendum caused a huge divide in our country and we must learn from this.

Where hope lies

The Green Manifesto launch is for me exactly where hope lies. If you’ve not had the chance to see how brilliant the future could be in the hands of a political party that genuinely cares, please do click here

 

Onwards