In the European Parliament, the business of committees and work on legislation goes on, and is thankfully not totally drowned out by Brexit or the UK economy and elections. This week, I met with officers of both the European Trade Union Confederation and the TUC Brussels office – a rare visit to a meeting outside the EP building. A meeting with United Nations Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA) representatives later in the week focused on the funding difficulties they’re having caused by both internal issues and the US President withdrawing funding. I sat next to a Greek communist MEP during the meeting – a first!
Meanwhile, it was mini-plenary session week again when all Parliamentarians – all 750 or so of us from all corners of Europe and the political spectrum, sit in the ‘hemicycle’ to vote on formal business. Also this week, I got the chance to talk micro-mobility with like-minds and co-write a piece on the labelling of goods from Israel.
Discussing the Green New Deal with the TUC
I was delighted that representatives from both the European Trade Union Confederation and the TUC in Brussels office responded positively to my request to meet to talk about our common ground on pushing the concept of the Green New Deal at a European policy level. We share concerns that the EU Commission’s commitment to a ‘European Green Deal’ should be underpinned by the principles we’ve included in our Green New Deal for the North West. Key of course, is that there is a ‘just transition’ in that the focus of investment skills and jobs in the new low carbon economy must ensure that workers in traditional industries are not excluded or forgotten and that there are dialogues and inclusion in shaping the circular economy and other sectors by those who work in them.
UNRWA in need
As a member of the Delegation of Palestine, I attended a meeting with United Nations Relief & Works Agency representatives including Matthias Burchard the interim director. While they admitted they are responding quickly to allegations of mismanagement, they reiterated that UNRWA is the key UN body that responds operationally on the ground across the globe to those in need, providing education, health services and basic needs and that many member states have stopped contributing funding – including the UK leaving risks to the people they serve.
Safe and Active Travel
Thanks to Irish Green MEP Ciarán Cuffe for co-ordinating this positive conversation to set up a cross-party ’Intergroup for Sustainable Safe and Active Travel.’ An informal group of us (MEPs) keen to make walking, cycling, and ‘micro-mobility’ a key focus of a sustainable transport programme were joined by various cycling and walking federations including POLIS – Cities and regions for transport innovation. There is a limit to the number of Intergroups that are formally recognised during any term of the European Parliament and so there is a bit of a ‘biding‘ process between political groups to ensure their priorities get on the list. I will be supporting this one and will also be looking at women’s safety and disability planning issue in good transport planning.
Meanwhile this week…
Publication of a joint article, together with other UK Green MEPs, on the Court of Justice decision that goods coming from territories occupied by Israel (Palestine) need to be labelled correctly so that consumers can make an informed choice when buying from the region.
“The EU has an active role to play in ensuring it does not become an accomplice of a state of occupation that it frequently denounces at a foreign policy level but instead contributes to improving the situation on the ground by promoting fair and rule-based trade policies with its trading partners.
“In practical terms, this decision means that henceforth, all products, such as wine, avocado, dates, grapes and citrus fruits are required to be labelled in all European stores and on-line retail, as explicitly coming from Israeli settlements in the West Bank or the Golan Heights, if that is the case, and not “Made in Israel”.
“The court has reminded us that EU consumers have indeed a most fundamental right to be provided with correct and objective, but also clear and understandable information on their purchases.”
The far-right ID group here in the European Parliament proposed introducing a parliamentary resolution on the situation in Kashmir. We Greens voted against that request, as the resolution was not introduced in good faith. Many extreme-right MEPs from the ID group recently participated in a propaganda trip to Kashmir, organised by the Indian government.
Greens voted against the initiative because we do not want to be part of this biased view of the Kashmir issue nor take part in Indian Prime Minister Modi’s propaganda stunt.
The Greens/EFA group in the EP has on several occasions tried to put Kashmir on the parliamentary agenda. On every such occasion, conservative and far-right parties have voted us down. We support the UN-led process for the impartial resolution of the Kashmir conflict, and support efforts to support the Kashmiri population stand up for their basic human rights.
Where hope lies
A moving commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was held at the start of the European Parliament plenary this week. The contrast with the current Brexiteer approach to internationalism was, of course, apparent to all.
“Thirty years ago, democracy and rule of law, and citizens’ rights won out. Many took much personal risk. Remember what is possible. It is still a cause of wonder today”
President of the Deutsche Bundestag