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Straight Talking - November 2002

Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Brussels

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National Service, EU style

In October, I attended the "Study Days" (or conference, you could say) of the EPP-ED parliamentary group in Estoril, Portugal. A group meeting was addressed by the Portuguese Foreign Minister. An Italian member of our group, Carlo Fatuzzo, asked whether the EU's Common Foreign and Defence Policy should not be supported by an EU "National Service".

To his credit, the Portuguese Foreign Minister dismissed the idea of EU National Service, whether voluntary or compulsory. But we should watch out. Ideas more absurd than this have been dismissed out of hand, only to come back a year or two later as "possibilities under discussion, but don't worry -- we have our veto". Then another year on, it's suddenly a done deal, and it's too late to complain. Compulsory EU National Service. You saw it here first.


European parliament opens the floodgates to millions of refugees

On the 22nd of October, the European parliament voted for a massive change in the definition of refugees which would allow millions more asylum seekers to come to Britain. The Lambert report on refugees was passed with the support of Labour and Lib-Dem MEPs. We voted against it.

The report will widen the definition of refugee to include those fearing persecution on grounds of gender identity, sexual orientation, health status, or in fear of capital punishment or violence. Effectively the proposal will grant millions of AIDS carriers, homosexuals, transsexuals, or those living in violent societies the right to seek refugee status in the EU.

It adds that in determining an application for refugee status, 'suspicions' that an applicant has committed War Crimes are not sufficient to exclude an applicant from gaining refugee status -- there must be 'certainty'! And applicants whose stories are contradictory should be given the benefit of the doubt.

This is another example of the EU passing a perverse proposal which will adversely effect Britain, and which the British people are powerless to do anything about. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have supported the EU in opening the floodgates to potentially millions of questionable 'refugees' in numbers we just can't cope with.


Stability Pact becomes unstable

When the euro was launched, the Germans insisted on the so-called "Stability and Growth Pact", designed to prevent profligate countries like Italy from running big deficits and playing beggar-my-neighbour. But at the first test, the pact is falling apart. Portugal has breached the 3% deficit limit, and several countries are close to breaking it -- France, Italy, and ironically Germany, which asked for it in the first place!

Then on October 17th, Commission President Romano Prodi told Le Monde that the Pact was "Stupido" (he speaks Italian). He was immediately summoned by the parliament, and was given a hard time in very undiplomatic language. I felt so sorry for him that I walked down through the Hemicycle with a little note, in which I'd written "Dear Commission President, Actually, you are right. The pact IS stupid". I don't know whether this gave him any comfort!

He has a point. It is impossible to run a successful currency with eleven different fiscal policies. If they want the euro to be a success, they'll need a single government for Europe and total tax harmonisation -- with big fiscal transfers to sort out the imbalances the currency creates.

That would be a workable macro-economic solution. But it would be repugnant and intolerable in constitutional and diplomatic terms. Another good reason to keep the Pound.


Good news for horses

At the October Strasbourg session we voted a new directive on veterinary medicines. I have been working for some time with other MEPs, especially Avril Doyle from Ireland, to gain exemptions for a range of widely-used equine medicines, which could have been banned entirely or restricted to prescription only.

I have had many representations from horse owners and the equine industry who have been deeply worried about the proposals. The good news is that we have voted through amendments which will solve the problem. They still have to go through Commission and Council, but it looks as though we have finally won on this issue.


Seen in the Strasbourg Parliament coffee shop
Wednesday, October 23rd: Bill Turncoat Dunn reading a copy of The Guardian. 'Nuff said.


Speaking opportunities

I enormously enjoy attending Conservative events up and down the region, but sometimes people tell me I spend too much time preaching to the converted! I an conscious of the need to reach out to audiences who may not be party members.

Are you in a Rotary or Probus Club? Or a Chamber of Commerce? Or associated with a school or university? Why not consider inviting Chris Heaton Harris or me to speak at an event? We can do anything from a non-contentious "Day in the Life of a Parliamentarian" through to a warts-and-all exposť of the EU project, and as you probably know we both relish lively questions and debate.

If we're to win the next general election we have to reach out to the uncommitted voter. Please help us by keeping an eye out for speaking opportunities. Many thanks.


An Evening with Tony Benn
see my review of Tony Benn's one-man show in Brussels!


Conclusion

That brings us up-to-date with events in Brussels and Strasbourg. Remember to check my web-site at www.rogerhelmer.com for more background on current parliamentary business and other issues.

RFH