GND, TUC & Safe and Active Travel

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…

Good

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.”

Bad

Kashmir

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

 

Onwards

 

 

 

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:

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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 💚

 

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