Conservative MEPs today backed overwhelming calls in the European Parliament for the immediate release of journalists arrested in Myanmar while investigating the Rohingya crisis.
The resolution backed by MEPs condemns the arbitrary conviction of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo after they were jailed for possessing police documents while reporting on the murder of 10 Rohingya men last year.
Conservative Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Dr Charles Tannock MEP, said: “This is another clear attempt by Myanmar to cover up their military's crimes against the Rohingya people. The country has not only denied access to journalists but the UN, aid organisations and human rights lawyers as well.
“Myanmar must immediate release Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, drop all charges against them and against any other reporters, human rights defenders or political prisoners who are fighting to expose human rights abuses and wrong doing in the country."
"I am incredibly disappointed by Aung San Suu Kyi's defence of the conviction of the Reuter’s journalists but not surprised. Despite being awarded the EU’s human rights award and a Noble Peace Prize she remained silent while Myanmar's armed forces carry out atrocities."
Conservative MEP, Sajjad Karim, told the European Parliament: "The EU must seriously consider ending its trade preferences with Myanmar as the country continues to ignore the world's calls for its violent campaign against the Rohingya people to stop.
"The recent UN report on the Rohingya crisis unveiled the true level of Myanmar's crimes against humanity. Their military is burning whole villages, raping women and murdering children. This is not a country the EU should do business with."
A bid by MEPs to trigger action against Hungary for alleged breaches of the rule of law are misguided and counter-productive.
Conservative MEPs will vote against the move tomorrow, arguing it interferes in the sovereignty of a member state and goes far beyond the remit of the European Parliament.
Home Affairs spokesman Dan Dalton said: "This report crosses a boundary by politicising what should be a purely legal matter.
"If the EU's treaties have been breached by any Member State, it is for the European Commission to build a legal case against it. MEPs have no role to play in the process and their involvement leaves any subsequent legal action open to the accusation that it is politically motivated.
"This report is misguided, counter-productive and sets a dangerous precedent. I hope parliament votes against. "
An App providing a single source of advice and dispute resolution is the centrepiece of new EU consumer protection rules unveiled today by Conservative MEP Daniel Dalton.
It would bring together several existing services and enable users to easily access the help they require.
Mr Dalton's report, presented to the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee today, also proposes that online marketplaces should be more transparent about who is selling products and services.
In addition it suggests new powers enabling Member States to tackle the issue of dual quality foods – the practice of branded products being produced to different standards from country to country – and rejects plans by the European Commission to reduce consumers' rights to return goods.
Mr Dalton, the Conservatives' Consumer Protection Spokesman, said: "There are a range of services for consumers but they are fragmented and many people are unaware they exist.
"The App would identify what assistance users require, whether it is information about their rights, help in securing a refund or the resolution of a long running dispute, and direct them to the correct source.
"With more and more people making purchases via apps, it makes sense for them also to be able to turn to one when things go wrong."
On making online marketplaces more transparent, Mr Dalton's aim is to ensure that users know who they are dealing with when they buy online.
He said: "Sometimes it is impossible to discover the ultimate seller of a product, yet this information is important. For instance, where a seller is based can affect the buyer's rights. My proposals address this."
While acknowledging that a minority of people abuse their right to return purchases by, for instance, first using a product to such a degree that it becomes impossible to re-sell, Mr Dalton believes it would be wrong for the EU to change the rules.
He said: "People might be reluctant to buy online if they felt it was going to be more difficult to return products. That is in no-one's interest."
A new plan to protect our seas from 'ghost fishing' has been overwhelmingly backed by the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee today.
The vote is a significant boost to Conservative MEP John Flack's campaign to reduce the number of abandoned fishing nets as MEPs begin to debate the European Commission's plastic strategy. Mr Flack believes that his measures should be included in the EU's drive to end plastic waste.
The nets pose a significant threat to marine life and coral reefs as they continue to 'ghost fish' long after they have been lost or discarded by fishermen. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that discarded fishing gear amounts to 640,000 tonnes, 10% of the world's marine litter.
The proposals recommend that the EU and Member States:
• Set up port reception schemes where financial incentives are offered to fishermen for returning unwanted nets.
• Incentivise vessels to use technology to track and if necessary retrieve their lost nets.
• Support research into biodegradable nets to speed up their development.
Mr Flack, who is leading the European Parliament's Fisheries committee's response to the EU's plastic strategy, said: "Abandoned fishing nets are polluting our seas, wasting fishing stocks and indiscriminately killing whales, sea lions or even dolphins. The tragedy of ghost fishing must end.
"The EU must make tackling ghost fishing part of its new plastics strategy. Today's vote has given my campaign the backing it needs to put this hidden problem on the EU's plastic waste agenda. We cannot miss this opportunity.
"Fishermen more than anyone understand the value of protecting our seas. Sadly, there are often too few places to dispose of unwanted nets or no affordable options, meaning they are abandoned if not accidentally lost. Taking the simple step of ensuring there are port reception schemes that offer an incentive to return nets would significantly reduce the problem."
"My proposals may be bold and ambitious, but they do offer a realistic plan to significantly reduce the damage done to our seas by ghost fishing."
The European Union must turn talk into action and begin providing practical assistance to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, MEPs were told today.
Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg today, Conservative MEP Amjad Bashir said that despite the Parliament passing three resolutions on the crisis, nothing had changed.
He said: "We now need to implement these resolutions. We need to get these refugees returned voluntarily to their homes in Myanmar in safety and dignity, guaranteed by the UN. We need an independent investigation of crimes against humanity and the perpetrators brought to justice. We need restoration of citizens' rights to the Rohingya back in Myanmar. Until that happens we have achieved nothing."
Fellow Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim joined in the criticism, insisting that only by tackling the issue of Rohingya citizenship in Mynamar could their future be secured.
He said: "The Myanmar military's ethnic cleansing of non-Buddhists continues with the aim of creating a Buddhist state. Without the issue of citizenship being addressed, that ethnic cleansing will succeed."
Mr Karim urged the European Commission to investigate whether the trade preferences currently extended to Myanmar should continue.
He asked: "Is it not now time that we made consequences to all the words that we have spoken on this issue over many years?"
MEPs approved a fourth resolution which calls for a range of actions including the provision of more international funding to assist the refugees and asking EU member states to call on the UN to establish an international investigation into alleged atrocities in Myanmar.