Cutting off funding to extremist groups is a key tool in the fight against terrorism, Conservative Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Tannock told MEPs today.

He was speaking as the European Parliament approved a raft of proposals, which Conservative MEPs helped shape, aimed at starving jihadist radicals of crucial finances.

He said: "This report focuses on how money moves around the world and with the imminent demise of ISIS in Syria there can be no doubt fighters are trying to get money out so they can regroup elsewhere.

"We also see established and developing terrorist groups involved in many illegal activities, ranging from human trafficking, the drugs trade, and child exploitation.  Tackling the finances of terrorist groups is key to curtailing their activities and goes hand in hand with de-radicalisation programmes and intelligence led counter-terrorism operations.

"It's clear that terrorism and its financing knows no borders and needs to be tackled at the multilateral level. As the UK leaves the EU security is one the key areas of cooperation that must continue."

Conservative Security Spokesman Geoffrey Van Orden, Vice-Chairman of the European Parliament's Terrorism Committee, added:  “These proposals are very timely and complement the work of the Special Committee on Terrorism which is currently working very hard to find ways of improving the response to the terrorist threat.

“We welcome proposals for stricter control over foreign funding of those places of worship and religious education which inhibit integration into our society and in some cases are the seed bed for Islamist terrorists.

“The UK has great expertise and experience in dealing with terrorism. The need for the EU to respond positively to the British Prime Minister’s call for a security treaty should not be delayed.”

The report's recommendations  include improving the way member states monitor and share intelligence on suspicious financial transactions, virtual currencies and traditional informal money transfer systems such as hawala.  Banks would be obliged to monitor pre-paid debit cards  

It also calls for the establishment of a common information platform where intelligence could be pooled, while places of worship and education, institutions, centres and charities in EU countries suspected of having links with terrorist group be forced to provide full details of all their sources of funding.

The proposals will now be passed to the European Council, Commission and the European External Action Service with a call for action.

 

 

Responding to the appointment today of Martin Selmayr to the role of European Commission Secretary General,  Syed Kamall MEP, Co-chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, said:

"How does the Commission expect people to believe that the EU is capable of change and listening to the voters when the process for appointing to top positions is so opaque.

"The Commission should be looking at ways to make Brussels more transparent and democratic, yet this appointment resembles nothing more than jobs for the boys.

"Perhaps the most worrying thing is that the Commission doesn't seem to even realise why this is a problem."

 

 

The EU has been urged to put its house in order and address a "shocking" lack of racial diversity in the European institutions.

Speaking today in a European Parliament debate on rising socio-economic inequalities, Conservative MEP Syed Kamall, leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, pointed out the EU was still often accused of being a rich white man's club.

He told MEPs: "I realise that I am the first non-white leader of any political group, but I remain shocked by the lack of racial diversity not only in this house but across all EU institutions.

"If the EU is going to have any credibility on the issues of diversity and equality, it needs to get its own house in order.

"Let us, across the political spectrum, reach out to young people in all our countries and tell them whatever your colour, your gender, your religion, your orientation or your background, you should not be afraid to put yourself forward for political office.

"It is time to take action if the EU wishes to truly live up to the motto of 'United in Diversity'".

On tackling economic inequality, Mr Kamall stressed that the role local communities can play should not be overlooked.

He said: " When we talk about socio-economic inequality there are often two simple solutions offered - make the richer poorer or make the poorer richer. I believe we should focus on providing pathways out of poverty.

"Last month the ECR Group held a Global Poverty Summit bringing together local community projects from across the world to tell their inspiring stories of how they have offered solutions to poverty on a grassroots level.

"So, whether the left call it co-operative socialism or the right call it community conservatism or localist libertarianism, I hope we can all champion the role of grassroots anti-poverty projects in our local communities."

 

 

Speaking in the European Parliament's debate on Zimbabwe Geoffrey Van Orden MEP said the international community should give the country every support if free and fair democratic elections are assured.

Chairman of the Friends of Zimbabwe in the European Parliament, Mr Van Orden, was a leading campaigner against Mugabe's tyranny. He wrote to Emmerson Mnangagwa immediately before he became President, urging him to initiate the much-needed political, economic and social changes to set Zimbabwe on a fresh course.

Mr Van Orden said: “We have yet to receive a reply from President Mnangagwa but we are optimistic for the future of Zimbabwe. We should give him the benefit of the doubt. Once we are assured that free and fair democratic elections will take place this year we should come forward with a package of electoral assistance to help guarantee their credibility.

“The international community should also be prepared to offer major economic assistance. I would like to think the United Kingdom would take a lead in calling for a donors’ conference at the appropriate time. This is another example where the United Kingdom must put fresh energy into its global role.

“Revitalisation of the Commonwealth should also be a key objective for Britain.  The possibility of Zimbabwe re-joining the Commonwealth is under active consideration – I very much hope that the Zimbabwean government will commit itself to this and that it will be invited to send observers to the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) in London on 19 April.

“But we need to know that the Zimbabwean authorities are truly committed to a new path.  That means, for example, immediate action against political intimidation. Opposition politician Joyce Mujuru and her supporters were injured by ZANU-PF thugs on their way to a political meeting in the Glen Norah suburb of Harare just 4 days ago. Violence and intimidation has to stop.

“At this time, let us also put on record our admiration for Morgan Tsvangirai, who as MDC leader campaigned over so many years in the face of political violence, for democratic change in Zimbabwe – Morgan is seriously ill and receiving treatment in South Africa. We send our best wishes to him for a strong recovery. There could be no better tribute than for Zimbabwe to be firmly back on the road to democracy, freedom and the rule of law”.

 

 

The licensing of pesticides continues to be used as a political football following the establishment today of a special European Parliament committee.

Sitting for nine months, committee members will examine the scientific evaluation of glyphosate, the world's most commonly used weed killer which was relicensed for five years by the EU in December after months of uncertainty. They will also consider wider issues around the authorisation of pesticides.

Conservative MEPs opposed the move, with leader Ashley Fox arguing that the new committee will simply duplicate work already underway and politicise what should be a science-based process.

He said: "It is regrettable that there are individuals in Parliament who remain determined to ignore the science and keep kicking this particular political football.

"We believe the EU already has a system for examining and licencing pesticides which is robust, consistent and fit for purpose. It places scientists front and centre, not politicians with an axe to grind or a campaign to advance.

"Establishing this unnecessary committee, while not changing December's decision on glyphosate, is only going to undermine the trust of our farmers and businesses." 

The special committee, comprising 30 MEPs, will produce a report and deliver its recommendations to Parliament.