Recent events at the European Parliament
State of the European Union Address
In his annual 'State of the European Union' address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said that the EU is facing "the biggest challenges [it] has ever had to face in its history" as a result of the Euro crisis. He set out a number of proposals to address these challenges and urged national governments across the EU "to show a bit more pride in Europe". The speech was followed by a lively debate among MEPs.
EP Approves Economic "6-Pack"
The European Parliament has given its approval to a package of new fiscal rules intended to improve transparency and tighten economic coordination among Eurozone governments and prevent them from building up excessive debts. Agreement on these six pieces of legislation was welcomed by EP President Jerzy Buzek who stated: "We have a new economic rule-book. We have developed a powerful and resistant armour against any future crises."
The European Commission has recently published the results of an extensive new opinion poll about British attitudes to the EU and the European Parliament in particular. The poll shows that although the answers to some questions were broadly the same across the whole of the UK, on other matters opinions differed significantly. Respondents in Scotland placed "combating terrorism while respecting individual freedoms" as their highest priority of a list of what the EU's goals should be, whereas the UK-wide preference was "tackling poverty and social exclusion". Interestingly, people in Scotland were more likely to say they did not feel well informed about the EU, but their answers to other questions demonstrated that actually their objective level of knowledge on EU matters was above the UK-wide average!
News from Scotland's MEPs
Ian Hudghton MEP participated in the EP Edinburgh Office discussion events in Aberdeen on the future of food and farming in Scotland and the EU (see below).
George Lyon MEP recently participated in four days of talks with US authorities on key European agricultural issues, such as the easing of BSE restrictions on beef exports from the EU to the US, the lifting of dairy export restrictions and the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.
David Martin MEP has declared his support for the introduction of a tax on global financial transactions as a means of funding the EU budget beyond 2014.
Alyn Smith MEP has welcomed a vote by the EP Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on the future of the EU's protected quality labels, saying the new regime could provide a boost for Scottish Agriculture.
Struan Stevenson MEP has called on the European Commission to impose tough sanctions against imports of all fish products from the Faroes and Iceland in response to their unilateral decision to breach scientific guidelines for safe maximum catch of mackerel stock this year.
Catherine Stihler MEP welcomed new EU rules that put a stop to lengthy mobile and broadband contracts. In future, the maximum phone and broadband package that a consumer can be tied into will be 24 months, which is intended to improve flexibility, choice, competition and customer service.
The latest news and events from the Edinburgh Information Office
It was part of a new pilot scheme to take discussion of topical EU issues on the road to hear the views of local people. Aberdeen was chosen because of the North-East of Scotland's importance as a food-producing area. The panel comprised MEPs Ian Hudghton and Struan Stevenson as well as Professor Peter J. Morgan and Dr Lynda Williams from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, part of Aberdeen University and the Chairman was Ken Rundle, former BBC Rural Affairs correspondent, now at the Scottish Agricultural College. The following day, the MEPs participated in a question time event for local schools, organised jointly with Europe Direct Aberdeen.
It was attended by Struan Stevenson MEP and Alyn Smith MEP, as well as by representatives of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland (NFUS), the Scottish Government, Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City Councils, Aberdeen University and a number of other experts, including some specialist agriculture journalists. Ahead of a key European Parliament vote on CAP Reform on 23 June the discussion covered a number of important issues such as the future funding of the CAP, the future definition of 'active farming' and the future of the 'Less Favoured Areas' support scheme.
They beat Cairneyhill Primary School from Fife by just a single point in the final round. The winning team was awarded a trophy, medals, and a globe for their school. The quiz has been run by the Scottish European Educational Trust (SEET) since 1993 and was sponsored once again this year by Standard Life. It tests Primary 6 pupils on their knowledge of European-related subjects, including politics, geography, music and art. Over 1,500 pupils from 370 schools in almost all local authority areas took part in preliminary heats earlier this year to decide which team would represent their area in the finals. Elaine Smith MSP, Deputy Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, and James Temple-Smithson, Head of the EP Edinburgh Office, provided the questions and answers.
Upcoming events at the Edinburgh Information Office
This event is organised by the Consulate-General of the Republic of Poland and will include exhibition stands providing a range of materials about the EU, its institutions and Poland. It is free and open to everyone. It will be accompanied by an extensive programme of cultural events.
With much of the most incisive coverage of European affairs now available in the form of blogs and social media postings and panel of journalists and bloggers will debate why this is and how it fits in with traditional press and broadcast reporting? The panel will be chaired by Catherine Stihler MEP. It is free but ticketed via Festival of Politics outlets.
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