Hearings, Conference & Welcomes

Following a week’s break in my Long Reads due to a busy Green Party Conference and Greens/EFA in London conference, there’s a lot to catch up on and I hardly know where to start! My week in Brussels before the GP conference was improved immensely by having 18 young women from the North West visit the parliament. The Green Party Conference was action-packed and wonderfully hosted by the Welsh Greens in Newport and followed again by the hugely demanding but very satisfying exercise in EU democracy that is the ‘Hearings’. Meanwhile, Brexit talks continue, UK politics continues to unravel and Extinction Rebels take to the streets in days of action to get the environment to be the priority that really should matter most. Rochdale and Manchester though were the best opportunities this week to engage with communities about their feelings on the current climate – in every sense!

Hearings in Brussels

The process of democracy in the European Parliament is fascinating to be a part of and these past two weeks the #EPhearings2019 provided the chance to question incoming Commissioners before their positions are confirmed. My question to the Commissioner-in-waiting for Innovation and Youth, concerned gaining clarity on her commitment to ensuring EU research and innovation funding properly meets the 35% guaranteed for climate-related research and came during a mammoth hearing that was nearly three hours long!

In the absence of our Green working group coordinator, I represented him in the cross-party deliberations before a formal meeting the following day. In effect, there is a now a question hanging over Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s top team. As members of all 18 committees in the European Parliament have now completed the grilling of her nominees for the European Commission. The entire process ended with what was essentially a veto by the parliamentarians of three commissioners-designate, due to actual or potential conflict of interests or lack of suitability. This is the first time this has happened and how it is resolved remains to be seen in Strasbourg next week.

Green Party Conference Wales

During the conference, the Green Party committed to its member-driven updating of policy, including this time, our drugs policy. Broad support is gathering among police authorities for decriminalising the use of cannabis in order for the police to focus on much bigger drug-related issues such as the problem of county lines trafficking.

I personally attended two plenary sessions on agriculture food and farming policy. And it was great to see a member of the National Farmers Union warmly and good-humouredly agreeing with much of Green Party policy. At last! The Greens and farmers should be natural allies in taking policies forward that prioritise stewardship of the land. There is now common agreement that the ‘agri-business’ model designed around large-scale corporate businesses isn’t working for people nor planet and we need to move instead towards an agro-ecological model which supports smaller farmers, biodiversity and moves subsidies towards those public goods that benefit everyone.

On Saturday evening, I was honoured to co-host the Green Party Awards Ceremony giving recognition to our members for amazing achievements. People and local groups nominated to the final three from the North West included newly-elected Councillor Judy Filmore from Ulverston; Liverpool and Trafford Green Parties and our wonderful anti-fracking sisters in Lancashire, Julie and Tina, nominated as Green Heroes for their amazing anti-fracking work. I love this part of the conference, when we take time to celebrate all that we achieve as a Green Party given our limited resources and despite the first-past-the-post electoral system.

#NotLeavingQuietly

As light relief between meetings, my colleague Ellie Chowns MEP for the West Midlands had organised the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Folk Ensemble to play in Brussels. This huge gathering of professional musicians created two hours of music attended by many staff and MEPs which turned into joyous sounds and dancing for staying in the EU. I don’t think the European Parliament has ever seen anything quite like it before!

Back in the NW

A packed Saturday started with a return visit to the British Muslim Heritage Centre in Manchester for a discussion on Faith and the Environment (inspired by a conversation I had back in July) with among others, founder Nassar Mahmood and Bishop David of Manchester. We recognise that all three Abrahamic faith traditions- Judaism, Christianity and Islam – accounting for nearly half of all the world’s populations – share the common values of reverence and respect of the natural world and the role of man and woman’s responsibility as stewards of it.

Good discussion among attendees followed for taking forward some joint actions in the locality, for example in tree protection, as well as further afield. We agreed to send a message from us all welcoming and thanking the peaceful protests of Extinction Rebellion in London.

Then for a delightful meeting in Rochdale where I spoke on a panel which included local Vicar Mark Coleman, who had been arrested that week in London as part of the Extinction Rebellion actions and some very concerning thoughts from Sami Mir about the situation in Kashmir and the potentially horrendous implications of any further escalation of tensions between the two nuclear-armed nations Pakistan and India.

4th Largest Party in EU in London this week

Genuinely excited to welcome the European Greens/EFA in London this week – makes a change to bring the whole party here! All 75 MEPs agreed to come to show solidarity with British Greens and to celebrate the incredible efforts of environmental activists. Speakers at events included George Monbiot, Natalie Bennett, Green Party Member of the House of Lords Jenny Jones plus a video link to speak to Youth Climate Strikers.

Meanwhile this week

Good

The #GreenSurge in Europe continues to rise with the recent win in Austrian elections, this from Politico:

“The Green Party, which will return to parliament swinging with about 14% of the votes. The Social Democrats came second, but fell to a historic low of under 22 per cent of the votes. Still, Social Democrat leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner conceded that at least one goal was achieved, whether that was her party’s doing or otherwise: Another coalition between the ÖVP and the far-right FPÖ doesn’t look particularly likely. The latest mood in the wider European Peoples’ Party network, to which Kurz will soon return as a leading figure, is all about hugging green voters and courting Green parties, offering them a way into executive power at the national level. Green leader Werner Kogler has, of course, requested “signs of conversion.”

Bad

Rude, ineffective and detrimental to decent politics; during the plenary session, Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party voted against stronger EU measures aimed at countering “highly dangerous” Russian disinformation. The resolution also criticised Facebook, accusing the social media company of not following up on most of the parliament’s demands to prevent a repeat of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where at least 87 million people had their data harvested without permission for use in targeted advertising campaigns in the 2016 US presidential election. The Brexit MEPs cast their votes against a European Parliament resolution calling for an upgrade of the EU’s anti-propaganda unit East StratCom, as well as support for public service media. Thankfully their action made no impact and the text passed comfortably with the support of the largest political groups in the European parliament – the centre-right European People’s Party, Socialists, Liberals and Greens.

Where hope lies

Visit by Aspiring Young Women leaders of fabulous young women from all parts of the constituency to the European Parliament. My team had arranged for them to attend sessions on women in leadership and politics, and they were very inspired by the women leading them. Hearing personal stories and tips from Alice Bah Kuhne, one of our two Swedish Green MEPs and her personal story and again from our South East England Green MEP Alex Phillips, added to sessions with women in NGOs amongst others. Like the young climate strikers on the trip before, there is a passion, honesty and a genuine desire to work for a greater good. As one woman noted: “Even the seating arrangements in Europe promote better discussion via the ‘hemicycle’ rather than as oppositional benches face-to-face”.

Keep an eye on my website for updates on their stories (you can also sign up for the newsletter there).

Onwards

 

 

PUTTING THE ‘ART AND SOUL BACK INTO BURNLEY

14 October

For immediate release

PUTTING THE ‘ART AND SOUL BACK INTO BURNLEY

Thursday 17 October 0930-13.00hrs, will see the North West Green MEP, Gina Dowding, visit Burnley’s new flagship digital hub – The Landmark – to lead ‘art and Soul – an engaging seminar, highlighting the relevance of art in the town. This event is in conjunction with a project from Girona in Spain which has been selected as a twinning scheme to enhance community cohesion through arts in schools.

The event will be a showcase from local professional creatives, Jai Redman and Ian Brownbill, talking about the strong cultural heritage of Burnley and how art is a potential for revitalisation of the town. 

A section of the event will be delivered by the Spanish group, ConArte, to explore the “Planters” [1] project in Girona and the positive results the programme had in terms of achievement, wellbeing and community cohesion from facilitating art in schools.

Gina Dowding MEP said:

“The idea behind the seminar is to create a space for stakeholders to explore the important role art has to play in community cohesion, cultural regeneration and economic development, and that those things are inextricably linked. Our suggestion is that art and culture should become intrinsic to a community cohesion strategy: high-quality arts education within schools can help facilitate community cohesion and growth.”

The event has been created by Gina Dowding MEP and funded by the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament.

ENDS

Notes to the Editor:

1.     The “Planters” project from ConArte International

 

UK MEPs sign joint declaration on Brexit

PRESS RELEASE –  Brussels, 04 September 2019

 

A Cross Party Group of UK Members of the European Parliament has signed a Declaration committing themselves to work together in the face of Brexit, and have called upon continental colleagues to support their efforts.

Meeting in Brussels, representatives of the Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Alliance, Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party were able to sign “the Brussels Declaration” stating:

We, the undersigned UK Members of the European Parliament, representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, declare as follows:

The proroguing, or shutting down the UK Parliament in order to limit scrutiny of the implications of a potential no deal Brexit is completely unacceptable. Limiting the opportunity for MPs to debate, vote and crucially, to legislate, cannot be the response to a referendum in which Leave campaigned for the UK Parliament to “take back control”.

In the continuation of the spirit that UK MEPs have worked in since the 2016 Referendum we commit ourselves to continue to work across party lines and declare that it is vital that MPs do likewise.

We were all elected just four months ago with clear mandates. We are working together. We call upon our European friends and colleagues to assist domestic efforts in keeping the door open to us.

The Declaration was signed by:

Green Party

Molly Scott Cato MEP

Alexandra Phillips MEP

Magid Magid MEP

Scott Ainslie MEP

Ellie Chowns MEP

Gina Dowding MEP

Catherine Rowett MEP

 

Labour Party

Richard Corbett MEP

Seb Dance MEP

Jude Kirton-Darling MEP

Neena Gill MEP

John Howarth MEP

Theresa Griffin MEP

Jackie Jones MEP

Julie Ward MEP

Rory Palmer MEP

Claude Moraes MEP

 

Liberal Democrat Party

Catherine Bearder MEP

Caroline Voaden MEP

Chris Davies MEP

Phil Bennion MEP

Jane Brophy MEP

Judith Bunting MEP

Dinesh Dhamija MEP

Barbara Ann Gibson MEP

Antony Hook MEP

Martin Horwood MEP

Shaffaq Mohammed MEP

Lucy Nethsingha MEP

Bill Newton Dunn MEP

Sheila Ritchie MEP

Irina Von Wiese MEP

 

Alliance Party

Naomi Long MEP

 

Plaid Cymru

Jill Evans MEP

 

Scottish National Party

Alyn Smith MEP

Aileen Mcleod MEP

Christian Allard MEP

 

ENDS

 

PM, Pride & Priorities

No one can have got through this week with much of a sense of joy or optimism; the newly appointed Prime Minister and his Cabinet peppered with lobbyists and apologists have seen to that. Thankfully by the week’s end, I’d been lifted by news from Brussels that the European Investment Bank has proposed cutting support for energy infrastructure projects (fossil fuels). And then there was the glorious colour and solidarity on the streets of Liverpool at ‘Pride in Liverpool’ to refresh and renew for the week ahead.

Brussels

I took time to pause this week when I recorded a 50-second video of my priorities to go along with the 750 other MEPs who represent the 500 million people in Europe. Just outside the European Parliament in Brussels is the ‘Parlamentarium’, a visitor centre (a little like a planetarium or an aquarium but about the activities of the Parliament) and it has an interactive wall, with details about MEPs. From local councillor to being part of a European-wide visitor attraction in a matter of weeks is quite a strange feeling.

Also this week in Brussels, there was definitely a feeling of winding down: the parliament doesn’t exactly close, but there are no formal meetings during the next month and obviously many staff have their holidays.

I attended formal meetings of the Transport and Tourism committee. The committee is not yet dealing with any legislative business but instead is really in a kind of end-of-term-report period. There are what’s easiest to describe as ‘hearings’ taking place. I witnessed one with the outgoing Commissioners, and one looking forwards with the representatives of the new European Council. For the next six months Finland takes that role in the European Council, with Romania just finishing.

Yes it’s confusing for newcomers. I guess in a Union of 28 countries it’s bound to be but there’s certainly lots of chance to challenge!

Along with a number of MEPs (and not just from the Green MEPs group) we emphasised the need in transport for all interventions now to look to reduce emissions; and to look towards the earliest implementation of a kerosene tax on aviation industry. The latter is essential for reducing flights. Let’s not forget that 70% of all flights are made by just 15% of the population!

I am so pleased that I have been able to appoint a good team of staff. One of our first jobs is to get a website up and running for updates and easy contact. Until the site is live, please do find and share updates on one of these channels:

Twitter

Facebook

LinkedIn

I made a big commitment this week; to attend a cross-party delegation to Palestine and Israel. More on that soon.

 

Back in the North West – Love is Love

Fantastic, well organised and thoroughly enjoyed event – Pride in Liverpool; albeit a bit damp! There was rightly a party atmosphere and it was great to meet LGBT+ staff from the British Veterinary Association, the Home Office and organisers.

Although the focus was clearly on solidarity and celebration, PRIDE is a necessary protest still and there is awareness that with the changes in government and potential for Brexit, there comes a serious risk of losing hard won rights and freedoms for our LGBT+ communities.

When the European court of human rights ruled that gay men and lesbians could not be dismissed simply because of their sexual orientation, Ian Duncan Smith announced that once returned to power, if the Ministry of Defence wanted to retain the ban; a Conservative government would re-introduce it. Full article here.

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

Always good to think that some news has sent a shiver down the spine of the fossil fuel industry. This week the EU’s lending arm (European Investment Bank) drafted plans which propose cutting support for energy infrastructure projects which rely on oil, gas or coal by barring companies from applying for loans beyond the end of 2020.

From the media report:

“The EIB said its focus on long-term investments means that it must align with the Paris Agreement which aims to cap global heating at 1.5C above 1990 levels by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“This transition will be profound. Solidarity is required to ensure that potentially vulnerable groups or regions are supported,” the EIB report said.

“The lender said it will set up an energy transitions fund to support projects which help EU member states to transition to a cleaner economy.”

Full article here.

Bad:

Leading with typical bluster and bustle, Johnson has hit the ground out of step with reality and leading the country to a cliff edge clearly sign-posted ‘No Deal Brexit’. The new Leader of the Conservative Party and UK Prime Minister has shown outright contempt for the EU laws that protect us as consumers and workers, and his reckless threat to leave the EU without any arrangements in place, just demonstrates how irresponsible he is prepared to be.

It’s known that Johnson has a poor record on climate change (one of the most serious threats facing humanity) with his predisposition for fracking and having previously voted against setting a target for UK decarbonisation.

*I chatted with Scott Ainslie MEP in European Parliament about the former London Mayor becoming the new Prime Minister and how that might look: “Like a bad idea gone nationwide.”

Full video here

Where hope lies:

Hard to find this week but our Green MP Caroline Lucas always quick off the mark pointed out from Westminster: “…new Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet is the most right wing in years but Parliament is sovereign, he has no majority and we will fight his ‘No Deal Brexit’.”

If you’re not a member of the Green Party of England and Wales – please join and show where you stand on the environment and getting a say on our place in the EU.

Onwards 💚

 

New President of European Commission

She won with 383. She needed 374.

Both the LibDem grouping (Renew Europe) and some of the Socialist and Democrat grouping voted for her. We’ve also been told that UK Labour MEPs voted for her – with such a small margin, they clinched it.

Ursula von der Leyen is now President of the European Commission. UK Green MEPs of Greens/EFA in the European Parliament made our statement about why we voted against her:

“The prospect of the first woman president of the EU Commission is a reason to welcome the nomination of Ursula von der Leyen. We are also encouraged by her comments on Brexit, particularly her willingness to grant the UK a further extension and so prevent a disastrous crash out of the EU.

“However, we find ourselves unable to vote for her. The appointments process used to select her was a backroom deal cobbled together to appease the far right in countries of Central Europe where the rule of law is under threat and democratic standards at risk.

“Also, on a wide range of issues, from tax and trade to climate and protecting life in our countryside, there is clearly a gulf between the views of von der Leyen and the Green agenda for change.

“If she becomes president, it will be thanks to the votes of the far right, rather than those of the strong pro-European majority. Had she chosen the radical change that millions of Green voters demand we could see the EU transformed over the next 5 years. We would tackle inequality and poverty, defend people from corporate power, fix our broken tax system and properly address the climate emergency.

“Improving the lives of citizens and restoring confidence in the EU is also the best way to crush the voices of nationalism, extremism & fascism that are gaining ground across the continent.”

 

RSS
Facebook
Facebook
Instagram