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

 

 

Tackling Racism, Research and Rudeness

The contrasts between the Parliaments of the UK and the EU have never been starker than this week. I watched from Brussels as our UK MPs returned at last to the House of Commons only to end up embroiled in ugly scenes of disrespect and outright misogyny. It feels like we’re in dangerous territory and the situation is failing to improve despite the Supreme Court ruling making it clear that PM Johnson acted unlawfully.

In Brussels this week, the scenes playing out for me were warm, professional and with clear purpose; from the Shared Future Hearing attended by MEPs from many parties from the Republic, Northern Island and Britain, to the inspirational launch of work on anti-racism and diversity in the European Parliament and the huge exhibition and consultation days on research and innovation.

Back home and along with Cumbrian architects, sustainability experts and representatives from other political parties, I joined a panel discussion and Q&A following the film screening of the film The Age of Stupid in Keswick; and then to the fabulous Make it Matter Craft Fair in Cockermouth. I write this as I prepare to speak at the rally in Manchester (during the Conservative Party Conference) calling to ‘Defend Democracy and Reject Brexit’.

Shared Future Hearing

I attended this first cross-party hearing on Brexit in the European Parliament on the impact of Brexit on the island of Ireland. With a keynote speech from former Irish Taoiseach, John Bruton, we watched a direct message from Tony Blair, had powerful accounts from community groups (both ‘sides’) and young people who had come from Northern Ireland and were reminded of just how hard-won and valued the Good Friday Agreement is.

Organised by Alliance Party MEP Naomi Long, the #BrexitHearingEU warned how devastating a Brexit could be on the peace process. All agreed that no hard border on the island of Ireland could be tolerable and that no realistic suggestions have been made to avoid it. It seems to many that this is a circle that just cannot be squared.

A highlight for me was hearing from Ellie Crawford of the Northern Ireland Student Climate Network and Doire Finn, co-founder of ‘Our Future, Our Choice’ who are determined to ensure that young people across Northern Ireland have their voices heard and gain a People’s Vote.

Anti-racism and diversity at EU Parliament #ARW19

Fantastic energy and commitment to anti-racism and diversity action at #ARW19 this week. It was uplifting to see our own Magid Magid MEP co-chairing and launch this new formally recognised cross-party ‘intergroup’ within the Parliament to address racism and increase diversity, with support from The European Network Against Racism (ENAR), a network of member organisations across Europe aiming to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia.

Afterwards, I connected with Laurie and Kim from The Runnymede Trust, the UK’s largest race equality organisation, which has produced some extremely helpful briefings. One particularly welcome is about how we challenge current discussion around race and class. In short, they advocate a public conversation about politics and inequality which builds solidarity across ordinary people to address the urgent issues facing society today.

What we’re up against is that ordinary people from all backgrounds, from the rural towns of northern England to the tower blocks of London, have been divided and pitched against one another. Too often, people are pitched along the lines of Brexiteers/Remainers, deserving/undeserving, British/foreigner, white/migrant/BAME. So I’m pleased to have met these wonderful women. As well as Zlachar from Apna Haq. Short video clips coming soon.

Research & Innovation

Mid-week, I attended a couple of sessions in the European Commission’s research and innovation days – tentatively reassuring to hear loud and clear commitment within the Industry and Digital cluster to the Horizon Europe (research funding) objectives to research the circular economy innovation and climate-related activities. Europe is ahead again in terms of understanding the importance of the circular economy whereby industrial processes must use and produce materials that are inherently recycled and recyclable.

This was a massive event in a Brussels exhibition centre, and I was disappointed not to have had time to visit more stalls or sessions (the future generations of sustainable batteries nor to experience Sea Bubbles – the zero-emission boat on the canal outside). I am ever-more excited to be the Greens/EFA representative on these themes of EU work.

Formal business

Among other formal business, I also attended the Transport and Tourism Committee Meeting. All of the European Parliament’s committees are preparing for ‘hearings’ with the new Commissioners-designate (the new ‘college of Commissioners’ in-waiting). One Commissioner from each member state is proposed by the new President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

Each committee can give its consent to, or recommend rejection of the proposed commissioner for their specialist area. The Greens/EFA use this opportunity to test the understanding and real commitment of each Commissioner-designate to the values and climate targets the EU has set.

Supreme Court ruling

The UK Supreme Court ruling confirming that PM Boris Johnson’s proroguing of Parliament was unlawful, was a relief to hear. It had seemed obvious to most that the PM’s motivation was not for the good of the country, but to fulfil his own political agenda.

You can watch my short statement on this momentous ruling hereIn the press, I joined many in calling for Mr Johnson’s immediate resignation, and for Parliament to be reconvened straight away so that it could “begin to chart a sensible path through this national crisis”. Seeing Parliament return though was only briefly uplifting as the atmosphere and behaviour of some MPs were hostile and unprofessional. It was clear Johnson always wanted to make his mark on history – in reality, he has left an unpleasant stain on democracy. I just hope it will fade in time.

Meanwhile this week

Good

I was delighted to be in Cumbria for 24-hours (a treat to be in the rural landscape, even if briefly!) and enjoyed discussions with the crowd who came to the see the decade-old but must-see The Age of Stupid film. Highlighting inaction on climate as nothing less than stupidity, another ten years have passed when we could have been working on developing solutions. So good that organisations such as Cumbrian Action on Sustainability‘s Green Build Festival have been developing and showcasing solutions for energy-efficient and zero-carbon homes. In Cockermouth, the Taste Cumbria fair was busy selling locally made, delicious and healthy foods. Just as it should be.

Bad

The way the House of Commons has looked this week has been ugly and painful to watch. The European Parliament is a pleasure to work in: a respectful, professional and fair workplace with resources, processes and behaviours that go a long way to improving outcomes. My heart goes out to those elected to be in the House of Commons who simply want to represent their electorate and do the job of an MP – rather than facing a barrage of booing and rudeness that only succeeds in further hindering any hope of good-purpose shining through.

Where hope lies:

Reading about the potential for Britain to enjoy 400 billion more flowers if road verges were cut later and less often! Wildlife charities have drawn up guidelines drawn along with highways authorities and contractors that show how this will provide grassland habitat the size of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh combined. Stunning what the little changes can do!

Onwards

 

 

 

 

Youth, Truth and Reason

Leading this week’s thoughts and therefore this summary, the global #ClimateStrike that took place on Friday. The scenes unfolding on the news as each location started their day, were quite breathtaking! Young, hopeful, enthusiastic faces filled the screens and the streets with determination and clear messages. I joined two of our North West strikes, in Preston and Lancaster and came away revitalised after a busy week that started in Strasbourg on Monday. Along with fellow MEPs, we took a vote on a Resolution prompted by the potential for a ‘no-deal Brexit’ and the prorogation of UK parliament. Later in the week, on the eve of the climate strikes, Green MEPs led the call for a fracking ban – I hope you got to see the video. I also attended the Lancashire County Council meeting to discuss pensions.

#ClimateStrike

It’s the power of the people that demands parliamentarians address climate issues that have been for far too long, ignored. Nothing has had more impact than the call from the young climate strikers that started with the inspirational Greta Thunberg just one year ago.

On Friday, as I joined two amazing events (Preston and Lancaster) I was so buoyed by the energy and determination I saw. The young particularly, speaking such clear, plain, truths to power; it made me wonder why it is such a surprise to hear such honesty? I think it was Greta who said that it’s because the young have no concern for ‘Power’s’ view of them, so they can speak with without thinking of the consequences to themselves, whereas adults speak with the concerns of reputation etc. Every young hand that took a microphone on Friday, broadcast what we as adults, and those in positions of power, absolutely needed to hear.

I spoke on the day about the significant role each of us had at the #ClimateStrike – in this truly global movement and that it’s actions like this that are going to make the climate transition to a zero-carbon economy happen. I also took the opportunity to thank those who showed the confidence to elect me as the first MEP for the Green Party in the North West – showing a willingness to say yes to change and to getting new ideas from the North West, into the EU Parliament. And it’s in the EU Parliament that I see how hard the Greens are fighting, for the vision we all want to see. The May 2019 elections were called the ‘climate elections’ as the Green surge exemplifies.

What we were saying on Friday to politicians – locally, nationally (when they’re open!) in the EU and internationally was that we want action, not words, system change, not climate change and those changes have to start now.

Our demands are simple:

  1.  No new fossil fuels (and the shale gas industry can pack up and get out of Lancashire right now!)
  2. An end to existing dirty fossil fuels. We need to power down from coal, oil and gas and power up renewables. We’ve got the technology and the answers, all we need is a level playing field. For every pound invested in renewables, we get cleaner energy as well as more jobs; this transition will solve other problems we currently face too.
  3. A just transition across all sectors from sustainable transport systems; energy efficiency new buildings retrofitting our old ones to achieve both environmental and social benefits (end to fuel poverty); changes to the way we use the land, how we grow our food; and a circular economy. Recycling and renewables will bring jobs, reduce harm to the planet and improve our lives – what’s not to love? In essence this the Green New Deal. It’s not complicated but what’s needed is political will.

Everyone who took part in Friday’s protest was on the right side of history – in fact, we were history!

Strasbourg

This week, the European Parliament moved to Strasbourg for the formal and high-pressure plenary sessions when the media attendance (and the marginal Brexit Party MEPs) are in full swing. There was an intense and serious atmosphere when we sat for the day’s business on Wednesday: the President of the EU Commission, Jean Claude Junker and the chief negotiator Michel Barnier had been in attendance earlier. The subject: “The UK’s withdrawal from the EU”.

The session was informative and resulted in the EU Parliament passing a resolution which insists that any Brexit deal must include the Irish Backstop, or equivalent legally-binding guarantees. It also calls on our UK government to produce written proposals on a backstop alternative and makes clear the EU Parliament’s support for a Brexit extension in a wide range of circumstances, including avoiding no-deal, an election, a second referendum, ratifying the agreement or revoking article 50. The resolution passed by 544 to 126 MEPs; (NB it is not, however, the European Parliament that has the final say: it is the European Council i.e. the Heads of Government of the other 27 countries at heir meeting on October 17th).

Kashmir

The last day of plenary receives ‘urgency motions’ whereby the European Parliament calls for action on (or condemnation of) human rights abuses worldwide. More powerful than those are ‘plenary initiatives’ which warrant fuller debate and this time I spoke regarding the situation Kashmir; in which the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (comparable in layman’s terms to an EU’s Foreign Secretary). The call includes for the Indian government to reinstate civil rights, and to stop the lockdown. While there has been a long-running conflict in the region, the current clampdown on civic life by the Indian government further jeopardises any diplomatic process achieving peace. In the North West, we have many settled communities of Kashmiri heritage, desperately concerned about their loved ones.

Meeting the lobbyists

Along with Molly Scott Cato MEP, I met with two representatives from Make UK, champions of British manufacturers and manufacturing with almost 3 million employed in this sector in Britain. We talked about how a ‘no-deal’ would drastically hit this sector no matter how well businesses had prepared. Make UK made it clear that in any forthcoming general election Make UK will be arguing the case for remaining in the EU, one of the first times as an organisation they had not supported Conservative Party policy.

Make UK fall into the category of lobbyists. I have formally met with Tech UK and the Federation of Small Businesses. In the interest of transparency, I will be publishing a full list of anyone I meet!

The incoming EU Commissioners

A much stranger meeting was with a representative from the European External Action Service who asked to talk to me about the ‘commissioner-designate’ (that’s the person the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has nominated) who has been earmarked to take on the portfolio for ‘Neighbourhood and Enlargement’. As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I will, in any case,e be part of the hearings with the said Lazlo Trocsanyi from Hungary. As a group, the Greens plan the kind of questions they want to put to all the incoming commissioners during the next few weeks.

Pensions

At the meeting at Lancashire County Council for the Pensions Committee on Friday morning, I tried again to strengthen our call, as a Local Government Pension Fund, to exert our powers for better ethical investing (albeit this is not the language they want to hear). I asked for a report on how and what is needed for us (investors) to obtain more information about how much the companies we invest in are spending on lobbying. Current requirements of the FTSE companies to report amounts on lobbying are woefully lacking. This means that activities by companies who, despite PR the contrary, may be trying to resist regulation or higher standards are not transparent.

Meanwhile this week

Good

Chorley Council set a great example of how to work with the community together on the issue of our lifetimes, the climate emergency. Councillors and staff coming out to speak to young strikers, with respect and a genuine aim to include their voices in reaching for solutions.

Bad

Lancashire County Council refusing to send anyone downstairs to speak to climate strikers in their reception; instead, the police came and ushered staff out of back doors and behaved as if there was a terrorist threat – rather than Lancashire’s young people calling for help!

Where hope lies

Unsure if it will be where hope lies but the Supreme Court will rule later in the week on the use of prorogation by the PM – will be watching closely to see where this leaves the state of UK politics that currently teeters on the edge of mayhem.

Onwards

 

 

 

Speeches, Motions & Marching

From making my first speech in the European Parliament plenary on clean air on Wednesday, to trying to get a motion again through Lancashire County Council calling for maintaining the current seismic limits at the fracking site, and ending the week in London at the REMAIN rally…it’s been a roller-coaster of a week: from first-time-highs to deep disappointments and anger, to being re-energised by the power and determination of those fighting to remain part of Europe.

Starting in Strasbourg, I spoke in a plenary session on the need for action on clean air; it was as daunting as it sounds -the space is so huge- but good to do. In the North West, over 2000 deaths per year are attributable to air pollution. I stressed the need for a shift to a truly green travel system with support for sustainable urban mobility plans; investment in cycling infrastructure, walking-friendly streets and public transport.

“With attractive sustainable transport and polluting vehicles off our streets, we can improve quality of life and save the lives of citizens across all of Europe.”

I watched a lot of the other speeches too and am in awe of the breadth of interests and strength of commitment by all the Greens; especially fellow UK MEPs. People might have noticed empty seats on the film-clips, as you would in any Parliament where people come for their specific interests rather than all the debates.

A lot was shared and discussed this week about Ursula von der Leyen as she successfully sought election to the role of President of the EU Commission, but with a margin of 9 votes; the Greens voted against her. Molly Scott Cato MEP sums up best why we did:

“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 back-room 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. And on a wide range of issues, from tax and trade to climate and protecting life in our countryside, there is clearly a gulf between her views and the Green agenda for change.

“Had she chosen to set some targets for 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.”

I came back to continue the debate in Lancashire County Council about fracking; particularly Cuadrilla’s shale gas site near Blackpool. I was left angered by the exchanges and the outcome. Drill or Drop reported:

“Conservative councillors in Lancashire have been accused of using a “wrecking amendment” for a second time to block support for their government’s policy on the rules on seismic activity induced by fracking.”

Conservatives councillors amended my motion, thus removing all reference to the traffic light system (that monitors seismic activity and forces a halt to fracking operations when seismicity goes above 0.5 on the local magnitude scale).

It’s very frustrating that local Tories are playing games with words: they have undermined an opportunity to strengthen the safety and protection for local people, and our calls for the fracking industry to be properly regulated when it comes to seismic limits.

The vote was 42 in favour of Conservative amendment, 34 against & one abstention.

I was atop a soapbox on Saturday and amongst an inspiring crowd as we took to the (London) streets to join the ‘March for Change’ alongside the ‘Another Europe is Possible’ contingent. I used the opportunity to call for people to visit the shale gas site near Blackpool and lend support to the residents who have been protesting there since 5th January 2017. I ended with:

I’ve got a message for the Tory no-dealers and fat cat fossil fuel industry:

This is our world

This is our Europe

This is our home

We will not be divided

We will work together

And together we will win climate and social justice

 

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

I went to the Electricity North West – Stakeholder Engagement Workshop and it proved very informative. Electricity North West (ENW) is the electricity distribution network operator for most of the North West. It owns and operates the network infrastructure (overhead lines, underground cables, substations etc) that transports electricity from the national grid to homes and businesses, and vice versa when energy is produced by domestic solar panels. And they’re vital to the low carbon transition. Unlike energy suppliers, network operators have an incentive to encourage consumers to use less energy (if we use less electricity, fewer infrastructure upgrades are needed!) and ENW plans to spend £63.5 million over the next four years to help businesses, customers and colleagues to decarbonise – check here for further information. It was good to hear their focus on protecting vulnerable customers from fuel poverty, which is a very real issue in the North West. In some wards, more than one in three households are in fuel poverty.

Bad:

Worrying news throughout the week as tensions are escalating in international waters with oil tankers being seized. The word COBRA sends shivers down my spine; this is the government’s alternate war cabinet when things get really serious. Such a shame it doesn’t meet regularly to deal with the climate emergency rather than focusing on the delivery of oil being transported around the world. The situation is deeply concerning but not unexpected after the ramped-up rhetoric and aggressive sanctions against Iran by the White House and the Trump withdrawal from Iran peace deal that was always going to have consequences.

Where hope lies:

An uplifting visit on Friday to the British Muslim Heritage Centre in Manchester and meeting with the Chair, Nasar Mahmood OBE and Chief Executive, Maqsood Ahmad OBE. The commitment and ambition of the staff and Trustees to providing open, welcoming facilities not only for the Muslim community, but for a whole range of diverse communities to work and learn together was inspiring. The venue itself is in a beautiful setting. There are two exhibition spaces: House of Wisdom, and Stories of Sacrifice, which is dedicated to the bravery and sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of Muslim soldiers who fought for Britain in World War One, provide such good information on the contribution Muslim communities have made to science, technology and culture. The conference space, which is being expanded, is open for all groups to hire, creating jobs and community cohesion. Gracious hosts, a warm welcome and a real highlight of the week.

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.”

 

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