29th July 2013: Andrew Brons has received a response to his Question to the European Commission Requiring a Written Answer (E-005719/2013) on Renegotiation of EU membership by the UK.
"Writing in the UK’s The Times newspaper on 7 May 2013, a previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Lawson, stated:
‘The Prime Minister has embarked on a series of preliminary talks with our EU partners, hoping to be able to renegotiate improved terms for the UK within the Union, which he can then put to the people in a referendum in 2017.
‘I have no doubt that any changes that Mr Cameron (or Ed Miliband) is able to secure will be inconsequential. The theology of the acquis communautaire, the principle that any powers ceded by the member states to the EU are ceded irrevocably, is absolute. It is the rock on which the Union is built, and – through the so-called Passerelle Clause of the Lisbon Treaty – effectively an explicit part of the EU constitution. Moreover, to make exceptions for one member state would inevitably lead to similar demands from others and threaten a general unravelling.
‘The doctrine that “more Europe” must ipso facto be a good thing is sacrosanct. My friends among the eurocracy assure me, too, that a precondition for any renegotiation would be that we agree to give up the UK rebate secured with such difficulty by Margaret Thatcher some 30 years ago.’
Does the Commission agree with Lord Lawson’s view that substantial renegotiation of the UK’s relationship with the EU would not be possible?
EN E-005719/2013 Answer given by Mr Šefčovič on behalf of the Commission (25.7.2013):
As laid down in Article 48 TEU, the government of any Member State may submit proposals for amending the Treaties in accordance with the ordinary revision procedure, or if the conditions are fulfilled in accordance with the simplified revision procedure. In the course of these procedures, the Commission is requested to give its opinion on the proposals for amendment; however, at this time, no such proposals have been submitted.
June 17th 2013: Andrew Brons has received an answer to his Question for Written Answer to the European Commission on Capital controls.
"With reference to your answer to my Written Question E-011592/2011 of 8 December 2011 on capital flight, it is clear that recent events in Cyprus have justified the fears I anticipated in my question.
- 1. Does the Commission concur that it would be prudent for citizens in the ‘southern periphery’ of the eurozone to protect their savings from default on the part of their government and/or their bank and/or from a possible restoration of their nation’s currency (at a devalued rate) by moving their savings to safer havens? If not, why not?
- 2. Will the Commission rule out any further confiscation of savings of the kind recently carried out in Cyprus? If not, why not?
- 3. Will the Commission rule out any further capital control measures of the kind recently taken in Cyprus? If not, why not?
- 4. If the Commission will not rule out any further confiscation of savings and/or any further capital controls, will it therefore concur that it would be prudent for savers and depositors to take steps to seek out safe havens for their savings?"
The answer given by Mr Barnier on behalf of the Commission stated:
"A whole range of measures are in place or being negotiated which contribute to a consistent level of deposit protection throughout the internal market.
"For example, Directive 94/19/EC ensures that depositors are covered by deposit guarantee schemes up to a coverage level of EUR 100,000 in case of bank default. This guarantee has always been preserved for all depositors in the EU, including in Cyprus.
"The DGS system is complemented by Directive 97/9/EC on investor compensation schemes which offers protection with regard to securities. Measures have been proposed by the Commission to strengthen deposit guarantee schemes and investor compensation schemes and are awaiting the legislator’s final decision. In addition, the proposal on bank recovery and resolution made in June 2012 aims at ensuring convergence in regulatory and financial frameworks for bank crisis management in the whole EU. This will reinforce the establishment of a common level of financial safety throughout the internal market.
"While the imposition of capital control measures is an unprecedented measure, Article 65 TFEU allows such temporary restrictions to the free movement of capital. In the case of Cyprus, the Commission acknowledges that, taking into account the emergency situation and the significant risk of an uncontrollable outflow of deposits, temporary unilateral restrictions were justified in the overriding public interest in the given circumstances.
"A monitoring system is in place to ensure that the capital controls are not maintained longer than necessary."
June 17th 2013: Andrew Brons has received an answer to his Question for Written Answer to the European Commission on the UK convergence programme.
"I refer to the Commission Recommendation for a Council Recommendation on the United Kingdom’s 2012 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on the United Kingdom’s convergence programme for 2012-2017 (COM(2012)0309)1.
Recommendation 2 states:
- ‘Address the destabilising impact of high and volatile house prices and high household debt by implementing a comprehensive housing reform programme [...]. Pursue further reforms to the mortgage and rental markets, financial regulation and property taxation to prevent excessive volatility and distortions in the housing market.’
"Will the Commission kindly explain what type of reforms it has in mind, especially with regard to property taxation?
"Under what obligation is the UK to implement these recommendations?"
The answer given by Mr Rehn on behalf of the Commission stated:
"The analysis supporting the second country-specific recommendation proposed by the European Commission in 2012 as part of its assessment of the United Kingdom's national reform programme is mentioned in recital (11) of the respective Council Recommendation1 and detailed in the 2012 Commission Staff Working Document assessing the UK national reform programme2 and in the first in-depth review of the UK economy under the macroeconomic imbalances procedure3.
"The second in-depth review for the UK4 was published on April 10, 2013, updating the analysis contained in the previous documents. The Commission would refer the Honourable Member to these documents, which contain the Commission's views on possible policy action and reforms to improve the functioning of the UK housing market and to address the high levels of UK household debt. In particular, the Honourable Member is referred to the policy challenges section of the second in-depth review (pages 61/62) and to the Country specific recommendations of the 2013 European Semester5 and the respective Staff Working Document. .
"It is in the best interest of the Member State to implement the country-specific recommendations addressed to it in the context of the European Semester. Under the Treaty, the Member States have agreed to coordinate their economic policies at the EU level. In this context, the country-specific recommendations are proposed by the Commission and adopted by the Council after endorsement by the European Council."
17th June 2013: Andrew Brons has received an answer to his further Question for Written Answer to the European Council on a simple definition for the terminology used by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights.
"I refer to your reply of 25 February 2013 to my Written Question E-011371/2012.
"You have not provided a clear definition for each of the words ‘racism’ and ‘xenophobia’, as I requested.
"You state that ‘the framework decision defines offences concerning racism and xenophobia and thus ensures that such behaviour constitutes an offence throughout the EU Member States’.
"Your answer refers only to offences that relate to ‘racism and xenophobia’.
"These terms are referred to often but are meaningless without a definition.
"Xenophobia means fear of strangers – a state of mind. How can you make a state of mind a criminal offence? Racism is sometimes used to mean hatred or incitement to hatred. However, it is often used to refer to words that neither express hatred nor incite it in others. What do you mean by it?
"These words also feature prominently in Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law.
"Will you please provide an all-embracing definition of both these terms, so that my constituents will know exactly what is meant whenever the Council refers to these words in its documents?
"If the Council cannot define what it means when it employs these terms, how can the public do so, and how can they constitute criminal offences?
"Are these words deliberately undefined in order to frighten the public and politicians away from discussing immigration or ethnicity?"
The reply from the European Council stated:
"As stated in the Council's reply to the Honourable Member's question E-011371/12, Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law defines a common EU-wide criminal law and criminal justice approach to combating racism and xenophobia.
"This Framework Decision defines offences concerning racism and xenophobia and thus ensures that such behaviour constitutes an offence throughout the EU Member States. This serves as a minimum harmonisation of what is understood as such offences of "racism and xenophobia" across the EU.
"The definition of criminal offences concerning racism and xenophobia used in Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA extends only to the intentional conduct specified in Article 1 (1)(a)-(d). This is confirmed in recital 6: "This Framework Decision is limited to combating particularly serious forms of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law".
"Such offences are constituted by the following conduct, when done intentionally: "publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin". The same applies to doing so "by public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material". This conduct has thus been defined in a clear fashion in accordance with the principle of legal certainty and cannot be said to be undefined or unclear."
29th May 2013: Andrew Brons has received a response to his Question for Written Answer to the European Commission on the European Agency for Fundamental Rights - simple definition.
"I refer to your reply of 14 February 2013 to my Written Question E-011372/2012.
"You have not provided a clear definition for each of the words ‘racism’ and ‘xenophobia’, as I had requested.
"In the footnote to the answer given, you refer to ‘Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions or racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law’.
"I am not asking for your definitions of all the ‘forms and manifestations’ that ‘racism and xenophobia’ can cause or take.
"I am merely asking that you provide a definition of each term, as used by the Commission and as employed, for example, in the aforementioned Framework Decision. This is regardless of whether certain manifestations constitute offences or whether they are not currently regarded as such.
"If it cannot define what it means when it employs these terms, how are members of the public, or my constituents, to comprehend the Commission’s views, statements or opinions, be they written or spoken?
"Will you please provide your all-embracing definition of each word, as the Commission understands them whenever it employs them?"
Answer given by Ms Reding on behalf of the Commission:
"The Commission refers to its reply to the written question E-011372/2012.
"In its work, the Commission uses the concepts of racism and xenophobia in the meaning defined in relevant EU law, including Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia, to which the Honourable Member refers. In the context of this instrument (Article 1), these concepts refer to "violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin".
"The Commission also applies, as appropriate, the definitions used in relevant international human rights instruments and by relevant international human rights bodies, such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination1 and the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance."
29th May 2013: Andrew Brons has received a response to his Question for Written Answer to the European Commission on the Police raid at the home of the former MEP, Ashley Mote.
"The house of the former MEP, Mr Ashley Mote, was raided by ten police officers on 5 March 2013, five weeks after the publication of his book (‘A Mote in Brussels’ Eye’) on 31 January.
"The material seized included some EU-related documents.
"Is the Commission aware of any institution of the EU that would wish to investigate Mr Mote, and for what purpose?
"The Commission might have data protection concerns regarding this matter, but Mr Mote is aware of my question and has no objection."
An answer given by Mr Šemeta on behalf of the Commission:
"The Commission is normally not informed about OLAF's investigations concerning other Institutions.
"For the benefit of answering this question, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has informed the Commission that it carried out an investigation relating to Mr Ashley MOTE from December 2008 to November 2010 and that the final case report was transmitted both to the European Parliament and to the UK Judicial Authorities who will consider whether a criminal offence may have been committed under national law."
7th May 2013: Andrew Brons has received a response to his Question to the European Commission Requiring a Written Answer on Fungal infections devastating trees in UK and Europe.
"In the Financial Times, Robin Lane Fox states that the lax trade in vegetation across European borders is causing the devastation of trees both in the UK and in Europe.
"He says that before the UK joined the EU it was necessary to secure a permit from the UK to purchase specimen plants in Germany, for example, which was inspected by the German supplier; the specimens then had to be inspected on arrival in the UK.
"Most of these bio-invaders have been imported in nursery-stock from abroad. The plant certificate system is a shambles. I have seen photos of the “certificat phytosanitaire” which French officials [...] attached to the [...] cluster of sweet chestnuts which brought the [...] sweet chestnut blight to us from France last year. Inspectors tend to look only at the leaves and not at the leaves of everything which is being shipped.’" Mr Lane Fox continues: "Some of the infected ash trees came from there, others from Poland and Scandinavia. One of the dendrologists told me that he had discovered how many official inspections for phytophthora took place in the EU’s Ireland last year. The answer, extorted under the Freedom of Information Act, was [...] 19. In Britain there were thousands."
"In Portugal, Mr Lane Fox says, there was only one official plant inspector in 1995, ‘because I met a man who knew the entire expert team. The total was one, who lived in Lisbon and did not even have a car.’ He continues: ‘Are there more than 10 inspectors looking out for deadly oak moths in insect-friendly Poland? In the nationalised park of Rigolin near Poznań there are 1 500 superb ancient oaks, a global treasure. They are now being killed by a boring beetle. This borer, a cerambix, cannot be controlled because another committee of the EU, the one for eurobugs, has registered it as a rarity and given it a protection order. East Asia, too, has been generous with consignments of natural born killers, but the EU inspectors have failed to keep them out. Their plant health protocol is drawn up to facilitate “free trade”, but not to protect the environment.’
"Is the Commission aware of the diseases that are devastating UK and European vegetation, and does it intend to do nothing whilst our green heritage is gradually extirpated?
The answer given by the Commission was:
"New pests and diseases pose a continuous threat to the health of our plants and trees. Union legislation1 is in force since 1977 to prevent their introduction into, and spread within the Union. Import prohibitions and requirements are in place as appropriate for each regulated plant species, and Member States have to carry out plant health import checks. They also have to notify outbreaks of new plant pests and diseases and take immediate protective action. Where relevant, the Commission has adopted emergency measures for this purpose.
"As soon as the Commission receives notifications of new pests and diseases they are communicated to the competent authorities of all Member States. Findings of harmful organisms during import inspections also need to be notified immediately through an electronic database. This early exchange of information allows Member States to adequately respond to new plant health threats.
"The increased globalisation of trade in the past decades has led to an increased influx of new plant pests and diseases. Indeed, several major plant health problems have emerged in the past decade, in particular as regards trees. For these reasons, among others, the Commission is reviewing the Union plant health legislation. A proposal for a revised plant health law, reinforcing protection to our crops, trees and natural heritage, is scheduled for the first half of 2013.
"In its general proposals for a rural development policy for after 2013, the Commission has proposed a measure which would offer support for prevention and restoration activities related to damage to forests from natural disasters, including pest- and disease-related damage."
27th February 2013: Andrew Brons has received a response to his Question to the European Council Requiring a Written Answer (E-011371/2012) on the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights
"I refer to the draft Council decision establishing a Multiannual Framework for 2013-2017 for the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (10449/2012 – C7-0169/2012 – 2011/0431(APP)).
The Council has proposed the following thematic area: ‘Racism, xenophobia and related intolerance’.
Will the Council kindly provide its full definition of both ‘racism’ and ‘xenophobia’?"
This was the reply:
"Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) states that the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
The EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, ethnic origin and religion or belief.
Article 19 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) gives the Union competence to take appropriate action to combat discrimination based inter alia on racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief. Article 67(3) of the TFEU states that the Union shall endeavour to ensure a high level of security inter alia through measures to prevent and combat crime, racism and xenophobia.
In furtherance of the protection of these common values, two acts were adopted:
- Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin which includes definitions of the respective meanings of direct and indirect discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin1; and
- Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law2 which defines a common EU-wide criminal law and criminal justice approach to combating racism and xenophobia.
This Framework Decision defines offences concerning racism and xenophobia and thus ensures that such behaviour constitutes an offence throughout the EU Member States. This serves as a minimum harmonisation of what is understood as "racism and xenophobia" across the EU.
In accordance with Article 1 of the Framework Decision, "each Member State shall take the measures necessary to ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable:
(a) publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin;
(b) the commission of an act referred to in point (a) by public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material;
(c) publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin when the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite to violence or hatred against such a group or a member of such a group;
(d) publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising the crimes defined in Article 6 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal appended to the London Agreement of 8 August 1945, directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin when the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite to violence or hatred against such a group or a member of such a group."
The Multiannual Framework of the Fundamental Rights Agency 2007-20123 included a thematic area of "racism , xenophobia and related intolerance." Since the Agency was built upon the European
Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, it has carried out useful studies and projects in the field of racism and xenophobia. The same thematic priority has been included in the Commission proposal1 for a Council decision establishing a new Multiannual Framework for 2013-2017, which has not yet been formally adopted.