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Update From Catherine

by Press Officer on 1 February, 2013

Hazel at regional conference in Worthing

Happy 2013! Although New Years’ Day seems like quite a long time ago now after another busy month!

Many of you will remember me recently asking the Commission about Ash Tree Dieback.  We have received an encouraging response and you can read more here.   We have been reminded once again that the disgusting trade in people that is human trafficking is happening where we live.  A man has been convicted this week this week of trafficking in Portsmouth, you can read more here.

I’m looking forward to helping in some of the action days that are being arranged across the whole of the South East and beyond on the 9th February.  The theme of the day is Fairer Tax.  Contact your local party to find out about getting involved.

Confused Cameron leaves UK in limbo

Britain’s place in the European Union has been debated at great length over the last few weeks. The Prime Minister’s long-awaited speech meant I was asked to speak about the issue quite a lot on various local radio stations and newspaper articles.

Mr Cameron has doffed his cap to the right wing nationalists in the Tory party, whose real agenda is an immediate exit, and simultaneously put British growth, jobs and investment at risk.  He pledges to work with the EU to fight terrorism and crime… then decides he wants to repatriate justice powers from Brussels.  Businesses are confused, our EU partners are confused and, no doubt, the voter is confused.

Backbenchers in his own party demanded, and got, pledges on repatriating powers from ‘Brussels’.  However, be warned, fellow EU member states are clear what they expect. Britain cannot be allowed to cherry pick elements of EU policy.  A high degree of dithering is unhelpful for everyone at a time when a clear path forward for the union is needed.

Let’s face it, multinational companies looking to invest in Europe, the largest single market in the world will think again while Britain does not show a commitment to its partners and biggest export market for two, five or even 10 years? I imagine they will be weighing up options in Germany, the Netherlands, or any southern countries where the support for employment creation will be great.

Unlike Mr Cameron and many in the Conservative Party, I am 100 per cent sure where Britain’s interests lie. The UK has played a fundamental role in establishing the EU and we should play a fundamental and very influential role in its development.
Positive reform can only come through working closely with our European partners. Not by thumbing our nose from across the channel. In these difficult times, we must concentrate on the major economic challenges and the national interest; fixing the eurozone, protecting our trading rights and preserving our voice in Europe. Not, I stress, by threatening to turn our back and, in a delusional manner, wandering into an unknown future alone.

Commission gets the message from Eastbourne fish fighters

Last week I delivered hundreds of petition cards from Eastbourne to the European Commission in a bid to force a review of EU fishing laws.

The 600 cards, which I gave to EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki, really do show the strength of feeling on the issue.  Small-scale fishermen are being punished in places such as Eastbourne and across the south coast. But they are the ones leading the way in sustainable fishing.

The future of fishing is on the line and we cannot afford to plunder fish stocks anymore.  The petitions call for an end to the practice of discards, ending harmful subsidies and rewarding fishermen who fish sustainably.

I collected the cards at an event in Eastbourne that was part of the “Be a Fisherman’s Friend campaign”, which has pulled together fishermen from around the South East and South West in an effort to change the EU Common Fisheries Policy.  Local fishermen, fantastic Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd and Greenpeace campaigners met with me to discuss radical reform of the law, which can only be changed once a decade.

According to Greenpeace, the UK’s small scale fishing fleet contributes 65 per cent of full-time employment at sea, but gets only four per cent of the UK Government’s fishing quota.  Meanwhile, large scale vessels which have the highest environmental impact are favoured.   Commissioner Damanaki welcomed the petitions and emphasized the key role that EU citizens can play in supporting the on-going reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

U-turn on ivory sale sends strong message

This month, I was delighted by the decision of Tanzania not to try to sell a huge stockpile of tusks ivory which would have just fed the global market for ivory.

Tanzania wanted to off-load ivory worth around £35m in China and Japan, but its Government backed down in the face of fierce lobbying.

This comes after I was able to push through a declaration on this when representatives of 105 countries met at November’s joint African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) EU joint parliamentary assembly in Surinam.  You can read the declaration here.

This is a clear sign of the desire to apply pressure on the supply of ivory.  Tanzania signed up to the declaration and it was heartening to see they are now taking positive action to protect elephants which live and migrate through its country.

Tanzania will not push ahead with a request for a sale at CITIES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) in Thailand.  Demand for ivory is a key factor driving the killing of elephants. It is used for medicines and ornaments, and money funds militias to wage wars across Africa. The General Secretary of CITES told me last week that the Declaration had acted as a powerful message and was influential in the decision of Tanzania to withdraw its request.

The game reserves which rely so heavily on tourists will lose out, but – most importantly – it is a blow to the fragile ecosystems that Africa cannot afford.  Park rangers need help, but it is not just their responsibility. We need more worldwide awareness of the impact on elephant and rhino numbers.  This barbaric business, which is now happening on an industrial scale needs to be stopped, and quickly.

Euromyth Buster

“EU wants power to sack journalists”

This month, the Telegraph has claimed that “A European Union report has urged tight press regulation and demanded that Brussels officials are given control of national media supervisors with new powers to enforce fines or the sacking of journalists.”  The article goes on to say that this is the EU’s response to the Leveson report.

Unsurprisingly, this is not true!  The report on media pluralism by four independent experts, is a report submitted TO the European Commission. It is not a report BY the European Commission.

Although the Commission wasn’t asked to comment on this bogus story by the Telegraph, it has been confirmed that they have made no proposals to implement it. The report’s recommendations do not in any case include such things as giving the EU “the power to sack journalists” as the Daily Telegraph has wrongly alleged.

The European Commission has not taken a position on the Leveson Report and does not intend to do so. That is a matter for the UK alone.

Do you suspect something you’ve heard might be a Euromyth? Let me know. Post a link on the Facebook page and let everyone see it.  Here is the link to the Euromyth Buster Facebook page. You can also let me know on Twitter @catherinemep.

European Commission stung on bee health

Swift action should be taken to put EU-wide restrictions on chemicals which could wreak havoc for beesA European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) report last week highlighted dangers of a string of commonly used insecticides on bees and other pollinators.

The British Beekeepers Association has estimated there are between 40,000 and 50,000 beehives in South East England.  The European Commission needs to restrict certain pesticides to further protect the dwindling bee population.

There is growing scientific evidence that these widely used insecticides, even when applied in non-lethal doses, can cause problems among bee colonies.  The commission should impose measures to ensure bees are not harmed.

Last year a European Parliament report highlighted 84 per cent of plant species and 76 per cent of food production in Europe are dependent on pollination by bees.  We need a coordinated response across Europe to share research and veterinary treatment, as well as recruitment and training for young beekeepers.  The health of bees is vital to our ecosystem. We must take every threat seriously.

I will be keeping these newsletters coming out regularly to keep you all up to date with my work in the European parliament and the region but if there’s anything you want to see in these pages or any issues or problems you feel I should be looking at then don’t hesitate to contact me at catherine@bearder.eu.  My Lib Dem colleague in the European Parliament, Sharon Bowles has now started her own monthly newsletter and you can sign up by visiting her website at www.sharonbowles.org.uk.

With best wishes,

Catherine Bearder

Member of the European Parliament for South East England

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