Euro and GLA elections June 2004
This newsletter will be the last one before the European elections on June 10th where there is every hope that Conservatives will do well in these nationally. In London I believe we will achieve excellent results for the Mayoral and GLA, as well as, the Euroelections, when the effects of the council tax rises, the extension of the Congestion Charge Zone and the lamentable track record in fighting crime in the capital, sink in. Certainly, opinion polls are placing us neck-and-neck with Labour as this Government seems to stumble from one disaster to the next. We witnessed the resignation of Immigration Minister, Beverley Hughes, over the scam of artificially massaging down the asylum figures. Following the socialist victory in Spain and its new government's determination to cosy-up to France and Germany, making Poland very isolated, there is every prospect that the EU Constitution debate and, our call to put it to the people in a referendum, is back on the agenda as we run into the campaign period. Tories are ahead over both immigration policy and EU matters in the public perception in terms of trust so we should do well in June.
I have been active in many different areas. These range from the issue of explaining the position of the USA over the Guantanamo Bay detainees in our global fight against terrorism, to writing a letter to the President of Kazakhstan defending press freedom under his authoritarian regime, where I am building links with pro-democracy forces. I have spoken on the issue of maintaining the arms embargo against China which France for commercial interests is seeking to lift. This would threaten Taiwan's security and do nothing to improve the plight of Tibetans or the barbarous treatment of dissidents including peaceful Falun Gong practitioners. Nevertheless, I have found common ground with China in a written request to the Council of Ministers to ban the Uighur Islamist militant groups from the EU- some of whom were arrested recently in the Pakistani army storming of the Al Quaeda strongholds along with Chechen and Uzbek militants, which similarly cause problems in Russia and Uzbekistan and belong to this dangerous international terrorist network now active in killing innocent civilians from Bali to Madrid. I attended the meeting in the Hague as an official witness to the plight of the families of innocent Israeli civilians killed by Palestinian suicide bombers which I believe justifies the need for a security fence even if the exact route is open to challenge. I was amongst a small party of welcomers at the visit to the Parliament of President Uribe of Colombia who was subjected to a walk-out by the left and I defended his brave campaign against murderous kidnapping marxist guerrillas (FARC). The President has graciously issued an invitation for me to visit his beautiful but tragic country in the autumn, if re-elected. I criticised the report on the UN which sought to eventually replace our UK seat with an EU one and I have been active speaking on the enlargement debate as shadow rapporteur on Slovakia and I was the author of a resolution on democracy and human rights in Ukraine.
I have been active on a number of London speaking engagements. I was part of a panel chaired by Lord Wakeham debating UK and EU Scientific research funding which amounts to some €17 billion over five years under the 6th framework programme. I have spoken to gatherings in London of the National Charities and Voluntary Organisations and Age Concern on how EU legislation affects them and how to lobby their MEPs. I got involved in a debate started in the UK on the danger by choking incidents of small toys to young children hidden in chocolate confectionary made by Ferrero Rocher which incurred the wrath of my Italian colleagues!
I was the author of some UK consumer friendly amendments to the Consumer Credit Directive in my role assisting Theresa Villiers on EMAC.
Future Direction of Europe
The Conservatives last month secured a rule change in the EPP-ED Group to which we are affiliated currently and with whom we are committed to remain till 2009 to carve-out a distinct anti-EU Constitution and anti-federalist agenda. It remains to be seen if we are able attract other parties into the "ED" or European Democrat pillar to share our vision of a flexible decentralised EU but still allowing those states that wish to move further down the path of integration to do so.
The issue of the next wave of enlargement is back on the agenda as strong warning signals were sent to Romania to improve its track record on human rights, corruption, and good governance or its scheduled accession 2007 date would have to be reconsidered. I realised the importance the Foreign Affairs Committee plays, when I had a request for an emergency meeting with the Romanian Foreign Minister lobbying for his country's case. The issue of Turkey and its accession was debated last week and deep divisions are developing across the Parliament and no doubt across European public opinion whether Turkey if fit or even eligible for EU membership as the date of December set by the Commission to determine Turkey's right to start negotiations gets nearer.
That debate will resurface in the next Parliament, if I am privileged to serve the people of London again as one of their MEPs. I have witnessed many events and battles over the past five years and believe that we Conservative MEPs have resolutely defended our national interests often as lone voices, but have scored significant victories too, particularly on the economic agenda and the need to cost the plethora of legislation.
It is certainly my view that given the fact that some 60% of our UK legislation arises in Brussels British voters should take as much care in voting for their MEPs as they do for their MPs.