16th June 2011: Andrew Brons made it six speeches in just one week when he spoke during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on intra-corporate transfer* of employers from one country to another. "Intra-corporate transfer reveals the true face of economic migration. It is not about satisfying human aspirations of the migrant but about satisfying the economic needs of multi-national and global businesses. The language is quite informative. We have heard this morning about, "the needs of the labour market". I would remind you that a market is where goods and not people are bought and sold - at least since the abolition of the slave trade. We have also heard that chilling expression human resources, as though people were simply anonymous factors of production - things to be used by business. Economies should be tailored to satisfy human needs. Human beings should not be manipulated and traded in, to meet the needs of corporations. We have heard that the people targeted in intra-corporate transfer are: managers, specialists and professionals from Third Countries - in many cases that means Third World countries. Many of these have been educated and trained with the use of limited resources and then they are head-hunted (their word not mine) to work in the developed world. Some of you might remember the President of Mali addressing the European Parliament last year. He drew attention to the high proportion of Mali's graduates working overseas, mostly in developed countries. I do not want to be pessimistic but the only hope for the development of these countries is to be found among its most talented people. If the West and the North transfer these people, we might be condemning their countries to eternal poverty and stagnation. If we have a shortage of particular skills, we must ensure that our education systems retrain our own unemployed to fill the vacancies. One final point is that states must retain the control of their borders. They should not hand over the responsibility for this to money-grubbing corporations. * This is immigration by the back door. Multi-national and global corporations would be able to transfer their employees from one country's branch to another country's branch without going through standard immigration procedures.
16th June: In his 5th speech of the week, Andrew Brons MEP addressed the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the Conclusions of the Hungarian Presidency* on Roma inclusion. I am sure that those, who speak in favour of measures to bring about Roma inclusion, are generous people driven by the best of motives. However, their approach is sometimes unintentionally patronising towards, and even dehumanising of, the Roma. They are treated as people who have bad things done to them and need good things to be done for them. They are seen as passive inanimate objects who have no responsibility for their present life-style and behaviour and no power or ability to change it for themselves. I suspect that this is a by-product of the nurture hypothesis that people are born with a clean slate and their natures and behaviour are the product of their experience. Change their cultural experience and you will change them, they might say. If on the other hand, it is accepted that people are not the product of their cultures but that cultures are the product of distinctive peoples, you arrive at rather different conclusions. Some members of the Roma do indeed lead successful lives; there are some in my own home town but they do so as the result of their own efforts rather than as the result of things being done for them. However, the so-called Romany community in Britain has a rather more tenuous link with their remote Romany ancestors. Nevertheless, the Roma in Eastern Europe are disproportionately involved in some criminal activity. I asked a representative of Europol, in a LIBE meeting about a year ago, whether any population groups were to be found disproportionately involved as human traffickers and as people trafficked. He replied that the answer to both questions was the Roma. The victims of this practice must be protected and rescued and the perpetrators must be prosecuted. * The six month Hungarian Presidency of the Council (not to be confused with the European Council) is due to finish at the end of June.
15th June 2011: The fourth speech of the day for Andrew Brons MEP came during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on Conclusions of the Hungarian Presidency of the Council* in the Area of Justice and Home Affairs. "The first speaker (Mr. Tibor Navracsics) mentioned the Charter of Fundamental Rights and its implementation. He spoke of fundamental rights as though they were unproblematic, consistent and perhaps even complementary. What seems to have been omitted from the debate is the potential and actual conflict between conflicting rights - between competing rights within the (European Union's) Charter on Fundamental Rights or perhaps between rights in the EU's Charter and the Council of Europe's Convention on Human Rights**. "In particular, freedom of expression seems to have lost ground for the benefit of various rights not to be offended. "When it comes to the rights of adherents of different religions, it seems that some religions are more equal than others. We have seen, in the United Kingdom, medical practitioners being dismissed for talking about their faith to patients, when it would be considered to be quite improper to take similar action against members of other faiths. We have also seen employees being disciplined for wearing or displaying crosses at work, when symbols of other religions would be beyond criticism. "It is easy to extend rights, one by one and catalogue them into a comprehensive list often accompanied by emotively favourable and emotively unfavourable lnaguage. However, it is much more difficult to reason and express in objectively precise language how conflicts between one right and another should be resolved. "In my opinion, the fundamental democratic rights of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of elections should take priority over freedom from offence. "We, who are engaged in politics, are sometimes criticised in less than temperate language but I would rather put up with that, as long as I have the right of reply, rather than restricting the freedom of expression of my critics. We must trust the public to distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable criticism." Explanations * The Presidency of the Council (as distinct from the European Council) is not held by a particular individual but by the government of a member state, which changes every six months. Hungary has been President of the Council since the New Year and will give up the Presidency at the end of this month (June 2011). ** The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms is a European Union document of comparatively recent origin (2000). The European Convention of Human Rights is a document of a completely different and older international organisation (dating from 1949) called the Council of Europe, with a much larger membership (forty-seven countries). Here it becomes complicated! The Lisbon Treaty implemented in December 2009 stated the intention of the European Union as a whole to sign up to the Council of Europe's Convention on Human Rights. The twenty-seven individual countries of the European Union had already become members of the Council of Europe and signed up to the Convention. Confused? More confusion is on the way! The Council of Europe's Convention on Human Rights is now (or will soon become) a European Union document as well as a Council of Europe document and so both the EU's Charter and the Council of Europe's Convention will be able to be interpreted and enforced in the EU's Court of Justice. However, the question of whether the EU as a whole is respecting the Convention will be decided by the Council of Europe's Court of Human Rights. Still confused?
15th June 2011: Making his third contribution of his week at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons asked Mrs. Eniko Györi, Hungarian Minister of European Affairs (above), representing the Hungarian Presidency of the Council*, the following question. "You mentioned implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. As you know, three countries (including the United Kingdom) were granted opt-outs from the Charter. Indeed, in the case of the Czech Republic, the opt-out was the price paid to it for signing the Lisbon Treaty. I have been told by some members of this Committee that these opt-outs are worthless because the Lisbon Treaty contained an obligation to implement it. I have asked several people - members of the Commission, representatives of the Rotating Presidency of the Council from three different countries and some constitutional experts. I have never received a satisfactory reply or, some cases, any reply at all. I am aware that some of the content of the Charter might be introduced in member states by a different route in the form of ordinary EU legislation. However, I am asking about the implementation of the Charter in its entirety. Are the opt-outs valid or are they worthless?" Response: Mr. Andrew Duff, who had on previous occasions agreed with the need for this question to be answered, responded by saying that the three countries did not really have opt-outs, although he conceded that British Governments had described them as such and had thereby misled the population. He said that the Protocol restricted the freedom of the British courts to deploy the Charter in litigation to the detriment of the capacity of British citizens to enjoy the full protection and charm of Charter. Mrs. Györi did not really respond to my question herself but referred to the fact that Mr. Duff had responded. However, she did say that the Czech Republic had gained its opt-out later and that this would last only until the Treaty was next amended - when the twenty-eighth country joins the European Union. * The 'President' of the Council (not to be confused with the European Council!) is not held by a particular individual. It is held by a whole government of a member state, which changes every six months. Hungary has held the Presidency of the Council since the New Year and will relinquish it at the end of this month (June 2011).