Complex global issues such as climate change and rising extremism spotlight the need for close co-operation with international partners, MEPs heard today at the re-launch of the European Parliament's EU-China friendship group.
Nirj Deva, Conservative MEP for the South East and chairman of the friendship group, addressed new members alongside high-level Chinese diplomats and stressed the importance of building links between Brussels and Beijing.
He said: “The EU-China Friendship Group was founded eight years ago on the belief that in an increasingly interdependent world, the EU and China could only benefit from a deeper relationship. Over the years, strengthening these ties has required fostering trust and an evolving mutual respect, driven by the development of personal ties between MEPs and Chinese politicians.”
The Friendship Group now consists of more than 45 MEPs; including actors from all seven political Groups, and coming from more than 20 countries. Since 2006, the Group has sent more than 10 delegations to China and has worked in close cooperation, at every level, with the Chinese Government, to encourage understanding between the world’s dominant trading partners, with over 1 billion USD in bilateral trade occurring every day.
Mr Deva, Conservative spokesman for international development and vice-chairman of the parliament's Development Committee, said: “With ever more pressing global issues such as climate change, extremism and interlinking of international markets, it is now more important than ever for us to build closer relationships, based on mutual understanding. This requires, however, active engagement with our overseas partners.”
“Since the Friendship Group was founded in 2006, we have accepted invitations to represent the parliament at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and at the opening of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. In 2008, the Friendship Group delivered tents to the Earthquake victims in Sichuan, and since then have, in cooperation with the EU-China Friendship Association, set up a programme of comprehensive cooperation with the Sichuan local government, as well as with Liaoning and Zhaoquing.”
“We are delighted to have also had the opportunity to set up the World Green Design Forum, which has held conferences in Lugano, Switzerland as well as in the European Parliament, seeking to drive forward a programme of innovation and cooperation in the fight against climate change.”
Conservative MEPs representing the West Country today welcomed a decision by the European Commission giving the go ahead for the new reactor at Hinkley Point, Somerset.
The proposed development had been the subject of a lengthy investigation by officials within the Competition Commission as to whether the funding package for the new reactor constitutes ‘state aid’ in contravention of EU law. This investigation has now concluded and the plans have been approved.
It is estimated that the Hinkley Point C reactor will cost £16 billion and will provide 25,000 employment opportunities throughout its decade-long build time, and once completed will need a permanent work force of over 900.
Ashley Fox, Conservative energy spokesman in the European Parliament, said: “The Hinkley C Reactor will provide seven per cent of the entire UK's electricity needs. This decision not only paves the way for a whole new generation of nuclear power stations across the UK but also unlocks billions of pounds of private investment into the South West’s economy.”
“If we are serious about meeting our energy demands with a low carbon, affordable and reliable energy source then the decision to build more nuclear power stations is obvious. I hope that we can all support this exciting project and work together to ensure that the development in Somerset provides the right investment to support the large work force that is needed.”
Fellow Conservative MEP for the South West and Gibraltar, Julie Girling, said: "We've already had a strong indication that this would happen and I'm delighted to welcome this official confirmation that the EU will not put up any barriers to Hinkley's development.
"I am disappointed to see that Molly Scott Cato MEP is leading the Green Party Campaign in Brussels to prevent this development. Encouraging the Austrian government to take legal action against the decision could lead to further delays and much higher costs to taxpayers. Hinkley will make a vital contribution to keeping the lights on in coming years and should be wholeheartedly supported by all the region's MEPs."
Conservative MEP Vicky Ford has secured a key commitment from the proposed EU Commissioner for the single market - to put business before red tape in all her dealings.
Mrs Ford, MEP for East of England and chairman of the European Parliament's Internal Market Committee, gained the promise after demanding the new European Commissioner for the single market put business and the economy first in all new legislation. Polish Commissioner designate Elżbieta Bieńkowska pledged not to propose any new EU laws unless they would have a positive impact for businesses. She also promised that if any existing proposals for EU laws were found to be flawed then she would be prepared to scrap them.
Mrs Ford said: "The single market was meant to help companies trade easily across borders and thus reduce costs for consumers - but too often EU laws have just added more red tape and expensive bureaucracy. Mrs Bieńkowska has promised to be on the side of business, especially small business. I will hold her to that."
The promises were given by Mrs Bieńkowska, the former deputy Prime Minister of Poland, during a three hour grilling by over 80 MEPs at a hearing chaired by Mrs Ford. She asked the commissioner candidate for the two promises and received the firm response "yes and yes". Mrs Ford has described this as: "A record in clarity which I have never seen before from the Commission."
The questions and unambiguous responses prompted a flurry of supportive twitter messages from small-business organisations.
Putting David Cameron back in Downing Street is the only way British voters can have their say over Europe in an in-out referendum.
That was the rallying call to party conference today in a speech by Syed Kamall, leader of Britain's Conservative MEPs.
He said British people deserved a say on the European Union, just as Scotland had deserved its say on the United Kingdom. Status quo was not an option for either.
Dr Kamall,Conservative MEP for London, said voters demanded real change in Europes, and stressed: "We are the only political party that will negotiate a better deal for Britain. And then give the British people an in-out referendum. Labour and Lib Dems won't. UKIP simply can't. Only Conservatives can and will deliver a referendum."
Debunking the myth of British isolation in Europe, he said Conservative leadership has repeatedly proven doubters wrong by delivering a cut to the EU budget, removing Britain from Euro bailouts and vetoing treaty change when it would have harmed British interests.
He said :"Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and make the case for more reform. We can only achieve these reforms by working with our allies across Europe.
"Our critics will falsely tell you that we are alone in this fight. Our allies come from across Europe where more people and more parties are crying out for change.
"That’s why five years ago, we formed a new political group that looks to the future rather than looking back to the past. Forward to the challenges of 2050s not solutions to problems of the 1950s.
"I stand before you as leader of The European Conservatives and Reformists Group. The third largest Group in the European Parliament.
"Our allies are looking to a Conservative government to drive change in Europe. So next May …We need Conservative ideas setting the agenda in Europe. We need a Conservative Government with a clear majority in Westminster. We need David Cameron in Number Ten."
Scottish Conservative MEP Ian Duncan warmly welcomed today's referendum result.
He said: "The people of Scotland have spoken, loud and clear. It is the settled will of the Scottish people that we remain within the family of nations known as the United Kingdom. A union some 300 years in the making will continue.
"However a ‘No’ vote on separation does not mean no change. The serious work of making that change real must now begin. The Prime Minister has outlined a timetable for delivering the change within the United Kingdom that the people of Scotland want, and it is measured in weeks, not years. A white paper will be published in November, with legislation drafted by January 2015.
"The Prime Minister has issued the call for all political parties - including the Scottish National Party (SNP) - to come together to determine the nature of the new settlement. It is essential that all Scots set aside the differences of the campaign and come together in the spirit of co-operation.
"Importantly this change will not just empower Scots, it will also bring about a new settlement for each of the nations of the UK, and it will address the thorny ‘West Lothian Question’ whereby Scots MPs have been able to vote on English matters, but English MPs have not been able to vote of Scottish matters (since these are addressed in the Edinburgh Parliament).
"There is serious work ahead. This is an exciting time for Scotland and for the United Kingdom."
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