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.
14th February 2013: Andrew Brons has received a Written Answer from the European Commission to his question E-011372/2012 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.
"The Commission has proposed the following thematic area: ‘Racism, xenophobia and related intolerance’.
"Will the Commission kindly provide its full definition of both ‘racism’ and ‘xenophobia’?"
This was the answer given, on behalf of the Commission, by Viviane Reding Vice-president and commissioner responsible for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship.
"According to the founding Regulation of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, the Agency's Annual Framework "shall determine the thematic areas of the Agency's activity, which must include the fight against racism, xenophobia and related intolerance"1. The thematic area referred to by the Honourable Member falls thus automatically in the Agency's sphere of activity.
"Racism and xenophobia are complex phenomena and it is not for the Commission to define the different forms and manifestations that they can take. The EU law, in particular the Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia, the Racial Equality Directive and the Employment Equality Directive 2, prohibit certain manifestations of racism and xenophobia, including the public incitement 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, and discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin, or religion."
7th January 2013: Andrew Brons has received a response to his Question Requiring a Written Answer on Britain's Membership of the European Union.
Andrew's question was:
"A nationwide Observer opinion poll in the UK reveals that 56 % of the UK’s population would likely vote to leave the EU in a referendum, with only 30 % in favour of remaining. The Commission will, of course, be aware of negative sentiment in the UK from its own sources.
"1. Is the Commission engaged in any internal discussions or preparations in respect of the probability that the UK will eventually secede from the EU and will almost certainly demand the negotiation of a repatriation of competences?
"2. Does the Commission consider that it will be better able to carry out its objective of building an ever closer union without the hostile presence, veto and voting weight of the UK?
The answer was provided by the President of the European Commission himself, José Manuel Barroso.
His briefest of replies noted:
"2. No. The Commission remains convinced that the UK's membership of the EU is in the best interests of both the UK and the EU as a whole."
7th January 2013: Andrew Brons has received a reply from the European Commission to his Question Requiring a Written Answer regarding the Public Image of the President of the European Council.
"How many organisations and/or individuals advise the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy (above), with respect to his personal and public image? Is this paid for from EU funds? If so, how much has it cost?
"Will the Council make such reports and advice available to the public if they have been paid for out of public funds?"
The response from a Commission spokesperson was less than forthcoming in revealing any costs, saying:
"The President of the European Council is assisted by a Spokesperson and a Deputy Spokesperson who are tasked with the provision of information on the work of the President and the European Council.
"The President is also assisted by the Press Service of the General Secretariat of the Council."
31st December 2012: Andrew Brons has received a response to his Question Requiring a Written Answer on the Public image of the President of the Commission.
1. Do the relevant chapters of the EU budget specify the level of funding for this particular purpose, i.e. reports and advice on the President’s image?
2. The Commission’s answer does not specify whether reports and advice regarding the President’s public image which have been paid for from public funds will be made available to the public. If not, will they be made available to me?
The answer was given by Vice-President Viviane Reding on behalf of the Commission
"The relevant EU budget line covers public opinion analysis and media monitoring on the EU, the Commission and other Institutions without specifying the levels of funding for each.
"Public opinion analysis of the Eurobarometer, including on the image of the Institutions, is available on the internet."
15th October 2012: Andrew Brons has received a Written Answer from the European Council to his Question on Muslim Ritual Slaughter.
"Paragraph 186 of the 18-month programme of the Council prepared by the future Polish, Danish and Cypriot Presidencies states that ‘Shark finning remains a sensitive issue and the revision to the existing Regulation will be examined’.
Clearly, there is a well-understood issue here, relating to animal cruelty.
Will the Council seek action to end the barbaric practice of halal ritual slaughter, which is spreading throughout Europe and which involves the appalling suffering of animals for religious reasons?
The answer Andrew received was as follows:
"The Council refers the Honourable Member to Recital 18 of Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 of 24 September 2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing, which states as follows:
"Derogation from stunning in case of religious slaughter taking place in slaughterhouses was granted by Directive 93/119/EC.
"Since Community provisions applicable to religious slaughter have been transposed differently depending on national contexts and considering that national rules take into account dimensions that go beyond the purpose of this Regulation, it is important that derogation from stunning animals prior to slaughter should be maintained, leaving, however, a certain level of subsidiarity to each Member State.
As a consequence, this Regulation respects the freedom of religion and the right to manifest religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance, as enshrined in Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
Article 4(4) of the Regulation provides that in the case of animals subject to particular methods of slaughter prescribed by religious rites, the requirements on stunning shall not apply provided that the slaughter takes place in a slaughterhouse. Article 26 contains provisions governing the maintenance or introduction of stricter rules by Member States at national level."
5th October 2012: Andrew Brons has received a Written Answer from the European Council in response to his question on the Asylum and Migration Fund.
"In the proposed regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Asylum and Migration Fund, the following words appear:
‘The Stockholm programme recognises both the opportunities and challenges posed by increased mobility of persons, and underlines that well-managed migration can be beneficial to all stakeholders. The European Council equally recognised that, in the context of the important demographic challenges that the Union will face in the future with an increased demand for labour, flexible migration policies will make an important contribution to the Union’s economic development and performance in the longer term.’
"In the proposed regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing, as part of the Internal Security Fund, the instrument for financial support for external borders and visa, the following words appear:
‘Such Union actions include studies and pilot projects to further the policy and its application, measures or arrangements in third countries addressing migratory pressures from those countries in the interest of an optimal management of migration flows into the Union and an efficient organisation of the related tasks at external borders and consulates.’
1. How many migrants does the Council envisage the Union will require in the years to 2020, 2020-2030 and 2030-2050, and how has it arrived at these numbers?
2. What working papers has the Council produced with respect to migratory flows into the Union?
3. Given the oppressive regimes that operate in Africa and the Middle and Far East, is the Council encouraging migration from any particular region(s) as part of its strategy?
4. If the Council has not calculated the inflows it envisages into the Union in the aforementioned periods, will it kindly explain this omission?
The European Council replied:
* The Council instances are currently examining the respective proposals for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Asylum and Migration Fund and for a Regulation establishing, as part of the Internal Security Fund, the instrument for financial support for external borders and visa.
* The Council has not addressed questions 1 and 4. However, a number of studies have been undertaken on the broader question of the issue of the need for labour migration. In this context, the attention of the Honourable Member is drawn to the Commission's Communication of 30 May 2012 to the European Parliament and the Council concerning the Third Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum.
* With regard to question 2, statistics on migration flows are compiled by EUROSTAT.
* With regard to question 3, the Council does not encourage migration from any particular region.
18th September 2012: Andrew Brons has received an answer to his Question for Written Answer to the Commission on the Expansion of the European Union.
"Paragraph 105 of the 18-month programme of the Council of 17 June 2011, prepared by the future Polish, Danish and Cypriot Presidencies, refers to ‘financing customs cooperation between the European Commission, Member States, candidate countries and potential candidate countries’. Will the Commission kindly list the candidate countries and potential candidate countries it envisages might join the EU within the next 20 years should they fulfil the relevant requirements?
This was the answer given by Mr Füle on behalf of the Commission.
"The enlargement process currently encompasses Iceland, Turkey and the Western Balkans. Croatia has the status of an acceding country and will join the European Union on 1 July 2013, following ratification of its Accession Treaty by all Member States. Accession negotiations with Turkey, Iceland and Montenegro are on-going. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia have the status of candidate countries, but accession negotiations have not yet been opened. Albania, which already applied for EU membership, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo are potential candidates.
"There are no timelines for candidate countries or potential candidates to join the EU. Every country aspiring accession according to Article 49 TEU has to meet the conditions laid down by the European Council, in particular the criteria defined in Copenhagen in 1993. As set out in the conclusions of the European Council meeting of June 2006, also the EU's capacity to integrate new members needs to be taken into account.
"This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence."