A pronouncement by European judges striking Hamas from an EU international list of banned terrorist organisation was condemned today as inappropriate and potentially dangerous if not rapidly reversed.
Charles Tannock, Conservative spokesman on foreign affairs in the European Parliament, spoke out after the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg published its decision on a case brought by Hamas against the EU Council appealing against it being placed on a list of proscribed terror groups.
He said: "This is a wrong decision. It is plainly inappropriate given Hamas's long track record of supporting suicide bombers, the reported use of human shields, child combatants, extrajudicial executions and rocket attacks on innocent civilians. I do not believe the decision is safe either."
Dr Tannock, who campaigned in the European parliament in 2003 to have Hamas added to the list of world terrorists, said: "The proscribed list of banned terrorist organisations should remain the exclusive competence of the EU member states acting collectively to defend EU foreign and security policy interests and not subject to judicial review.
"Of course the Council decision was partly based on detailed intelligence information, much of which was classified. That is perfectly proper - and it should not rest on the ECJ to decide its admissibility."
Conservative MEPs today opposed French demands for a multi-million pound bailout to offset the redundancy obligations of ailing Air France.
The criticism came as the European Parliament voted through payments totalling more than £17 million for helping nearly 4,000 French workers who face redundancy as the national carrier loses out to overseas competition. The payment was proposed by Italian MEP Marco Zanni, a member of Nigel Farage's EFDD Group in the Parliament.
Tories criticised the funding as a distortion of the market and unfair support for a struggling French industry.
The €21.6 million pay-out will be made under the so-called European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, which was originally set up to provide retraining and support for individual communities hit by industrial collapse through global market forces.
But Conservatives fear the fund is increasingly being used to protect inefficient companies by providing backdoor funding for restructuring and relocation operations.
In this case, the pretext for funding Air France's redundancies is that they were caused by commercial pressure created by three Middle Eastern airlines – Etiad, Emirates and Dubai.
Budget spokesman Richard Ashworth said: "We have become increasingly concerned that instead of aiding stricken communities such as mining villages or steel towns hit by closures, the fund is helping massive companies offload onto the taxpayer their social responsibilities to their workforce.
"The Air France demand is a prime example of growing abuse of the system. Airlines in the UK are all over Europe are facing exactly the same challenges, but they are not claiming public money. All they want is an opportunity to compete fairly and let customers choose.
"Europe should be facing up to global challenges, not helping major national companies duck them."
Strasbourg, 16th December 2014 -- The European Commission has today presented its Work Programme for 2015, the first of the new European Commission's term of office. It prioritises 23 initiatives aimed at 'big' issues such as investment, the digital single market, energy security, migration and monetary union. However, the programme also proposes the withdrawal or amendment of 80 proposals.
Speaking shortly after the programme was published, Conservative MEP Vicky Ford addressed the European Commission President Juncker and First Vice-President Timmermans. She argued that every action the commission takes must make it easier for businesses to thrive in Europe, which would in turn see higher living standards, an improved environment, opportunity and equality.
Mrs Ford coordinated a list of priority items that the ECR proposed for inclusion in the Work Programme. To read the submission go to: http://ecrgroup.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/ECR-CWP-proposals-2015.pdf
Speaking in the parliament in Strasbourg, Mrs Ford said:
"We face unprecedented challenges; our economies are under pressure, our resources are under pressure, our security is under pressure. Europe needs to change. Commissioners you have talked about change – we need to see you deliver.
"We must build our economic strength. Yes we share wider objectives - higher living standards, the environment, opportunity, equality but we need strong economies to deliver this.
"The economy must come first. Every EU initiative should face a simple test: will it make it easier or harder for businesses to thrive?
"Too often the EU churns out new laws without thinking through the impact on growth, on small businesses, on innovation. This must stop.
"We should make our decisions based on evidence – Mr Juncker promised our group he'd keep a Chief Scientific Advisor. Please keep that promise!
"Instead of focusing on yet more new laws we should make sure the existing ones work. And if they don’t work then we must change them. The last Commission promised to remove burdens – will this new team keep the promise? Will you set a target for cutting red tape - and then stick to it?
"We need to focus on growth - the single market in energy and services and new public procurement rules should reduce costs and help growth. Let's deliver those changes.
"In 2015 we want to look forward to 2050 and not back to the 1950s. We need vibrant digital markets, conditions that let industries succeed and increasing external trade too. If we do not conclude a deep trade agreement with the US, we will be left-behind.
"We must unlock investment especially for small companies and infrastructure, investment built on private funds, on equity, not just on public debt.
"The crisis in public debt is not over. Budgetary stability is still key as are structural reforms. This does not mean centralising social and employment policies. Over-ruling national governments will risk even deeper resentment.
"And Commissioners, we can´t have one set of rules for public spending at home but another in Brussels. You must cut costs and waste from the EU budget and put the EU’s own finances in order.
"It's because public services are stretched so the people of Europe have concerns about immigration that must be addressed. Yes, we must cooperate with third countries to tackle causes of migration, but serious actions must also be taken to stop abuses of the migration system both within the EU and from outside.
"Our Single market is meant to help businesses and consumers trade easily across 28 countries, not a bureaucratic one-size-fits-all monolith, stifling creativity, reducing competition, not red tape. This is our Reformist vision and we will work with those who share it."
A leaked EU Commission document published in Brussels today suggests that President Jean-Claude Juncker has decided to drop a planned directive on air quality.
Julie Girling, Conservative environment spokesman in the European Parliament, reacted with dismay to the news and called on the Commission to reinstate the package to next year's legislative programme. She is the parliament's rapporteur, or lead MEP, on the proposed legislation.
Mrs Girling said: "If it really has been withdrawn we would object in the strongest possible terms.
"We entirely support Mr Juncker's objective of making sure the EU concentrates on really effective legislation – and drops proposed laws which would be too complicated, too burdensome or would produce harmful knock-on consequences. But unfortunately this time he has chosen the wrong target.
"This is a good package of legislation intended to improve the quality of the air we all breathe. For once the European Parliament is united on this – and so are all the relevant campaign groups and experts.
"The commission really should not be flying in the face if such unity and strength of feeling.
"We Conservatives think it is vitally important that Mr Juncker's better-regulation strategy is a success. Making this package its first scalp would be a calamitous start."
Improving and deepening relations between the EU and Pakistan were in the agenda during a visit to Lahore today by Nirj Deva, Conservative MEP for the South East of the England and Vice-Chairman of the European Parliament’s Development Committee.
“The announcement of an EU-funded-funded €630 million aid package to Pakistan marks a signal step towards tackling poverty in the region and presents a critical opportunity to alleviate the deprivation suffered by the most vulnerable elements in the country,” he said.
Following his visit to a sanitation plant providing clean water to 32,000 people Mr Deva, Conservative spokesman for international development, said: “Despite Lahore’s impressive record for clean water, we need to work together to ensure the basic right to clean water and sanitation for all. Across large parts of the country much of the water supply contains unsafe levels of arsenic, pollutants and faecal bacteria. Without a healthy population economic growth and social stability will remain outside our grasp.”
In a follow-up meeting with the Chief Minister of the Punjab, Mohammad Sarwar, Mr Deva went on to discuss the prevalent and evolving threat posed by glacial melting in the Himalayas, an issue he addressed in the European Parliament report On Financing of Reinforcement of Dam Infrastructure in Developing Countries.
He said: “Due to the acceleration of glacial melting in the Himalayas, largely caused by the effects of black carbon (or soot) produced by inefficient coal burning stoves, the entire region finds itself increasingly at risk from natural calamities like flooding. There are 1.3 billion people live under a growing threat and we must act now if we are to prevent an imminent humanitarian disaster in one of the highest food producing areas in the world.”
Governor Sarwar went on to discuss Nirj Deva’s proposal for a cross border agency, established under the auspices of the EU and UN, to address the problems caused by trans-boundary water-related hazards and seek appropriate adaption and mitigation measures. The suggested meeting would be the first time that a common issue of environmental concern on water supply would bring together representatives from every country of the Hindu-Kush region.
Mr Deva's visit and the EU aid package following the granting of the EU's preferential tariff status GSP-Plus to Pakistan earlier this year – a move that has seen 1 million more jobs across the country, fuelling €2 billion euros of increased exports from Pakistan to Europe. The grant is split into three areas of focus. It will address the fundamental building blocks to nation-building by injecting €340 million into rural development, €210 million into education and €97 million for good governance, human rights and the rule of law, aiming to realise concrete improvements to the lives of millions of people.
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