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Straight Talking - February 2006

Love Europe. Hate the European Union

Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Brussels

Please feel free to distribute this newsletter, or to quote from it. It is primarily written for Conservative Party members and activists in the East Midlands, but may also be of interest to others concerned about developments in the EU. If you want to go onto the e-mail list please click here.

Conservatives and the EPP

William Hague was in Brussels in January negotiating arrangements for a new centre-right group in the parliament.

Also in January, EPP President Hans-Gert Pöttering (HGP) went to London to meet David Cameron. The word is that HGP has abandoned any hopes of keeping the Conservatives in the EPP, and is focused on how relations between us should work in the future. Without going into details, there are a couple of nail-biting issues on which HGP desperately needs our support. And provided he strikes the right deal, I for one shall be happy to give him that support.

This illustrates the point I have been arguing since 1999: outside the EPP, they will have to come and negotiate with us, instead of taking us for granted as they have done for years. We shall have far more influence over the EPP as a good neighbour than we ever had as a disgruntled tenant.

See my article in Freedom Today at www.tfa.net/pdfs/10622.pdf (pdf format).

Contempt for democracy

The European élites are still looking for every possible way to force through the Constitution, even though by their own rules it should now be dead. In January the parliament voted through the Duff-Voggenhuber report (some of us are calling it the Duffenfuhrer report) setting out a "road-map to ratification".

In the debate, HGP (see above) speaking inter alia for the British Conservatives, condemned the Dutch Foreign Minister for daring to declare the death of the project. Predictably, despite our best efforts, the wretched report went through. But there's a silver lining: we in Britain may now finally get the referendum that Blair promised us but thought he'd never have to deliver.

One of our Conservative colleagues, Chris Beazley (East Anglia) saw fit to defy the whip, and break a manifesto commitment, by voting for the report. He is also one of those insisting he will never leave the EPP -- because he fears it would break a manifesto commitment!

Strange Tory whipping in Brussels

The following appeared in a recent briefing from the European Journal in London:

In the January Strasbourg session of the European parliament, East Anglia Conservative MEP Chris Beazley chose to defy the whip, and to break a clear manifesto commitment, by supporting the Duff report calling for the resurrection of the EU Constitution. Later in the month, Edward Macmillan-Scott MEP, former leader of the Conservative delegation in Brussels, accused Party Leader David Cameron of "working towards the centre at home and yet moving to the extreme right abroad as fast as he can". Neither of these incidents seems to have attracted any disciplinary action from the whips' office.

Yet the whip has still not been restored to another Tory MEP, Roger Helmer, whose only offence was to fulfil a clear manifesto commitment to oppose fraud, and to embarrass the leadership of the Tory delegation by roundly criticising the EPP, who had sought to sweep allegations of improper behaviour under the carpet.

Just by coincidence, the MEPs who are keeping Helmer out of the delegation are the same ones who are opposing David Cameron's policy on leaving the EPP.

Some small successes

We rarely vote down a whole report, but we did so twice in January:

Catania report on European Citizenship: This would have given citizenship rights to any alien who resided in an EU member-state for five years. It would have driven a coach and horses through our immigration policy (if we had one).

The Ports Directive: This would have liberalised management and employment in ports in continental Europe (where they desperately need it), but was vehemently opposed by European trade unions. But bizarrely the effect would have been exactly the opposite in the UK -- it would have required us to de-liberalise our already fiercely competitive ports business. I make no apology for voting in the British interest, not the EU interest, but it was surreal to be making common cause with hard-left trade unions.

Blair backs down on Europe

In a remarkable speech in Oxford on Feb 2nd, Tony Blair admitted he had been wrong on the EU Constitution. When he signed it in June 2004, he said that he "whole-heartedly recommended it to the British people". Now he admits that it was an ivory-tower exercise dealing with issues that don't interest the average voter, and that it failed to address vital questions of economic reform. Lucky we didn't take him at his word in 2004, then.

The CIA and extraordinary rendition

The European parliament is slavering at the mouth at the prospect of condemning the USA, and the CIA, from a position of moral superiority, on the "extraordinary rendition" issue. This is the claim that terrorist suspects have been transported to European and other countries where they may face inhumane treatment. The parliament has created a "Temporary Committee" to investigate the matter, and I have managed to get onto it. I was able to do this as an independent -- I should not have been able to do so were I still in the EPP.

There are difficult moral questions here. Of course we support human rights. What is the point of fighting to protect Western values if we have to use the same reprehensible tactics as the terrorists? On the other hand, if you had good reason to believe that a suspect had information about an attack which could kill hundreds of innocent people, surely you would have to do all you could, however distasteful, to prevent a tragedy? Should we criticise the US for what we think they may have done? Or should we be grateful that they do our dirty work for us and let us keep our hands clean?

I shall follow the work of the committee closely, and challenge the hypocrisy of the knee-jerk anti-Americans in the parliament. As usual, I shall find myself in a counter-consensual role, and in a small minority. And I shall relish every minute of it! My first speech to the committee is here

Campaigning against wind-farms

While I support the development of renewable energy (and nuclear power) to reduce CO2 emissions, I believe that wind energy is a bad option. Indeed it is only sustained by a lunatic system of hidden subsidies, or "Renewable Obligation Certificates". It's not so much wind-farming, as subsidy-farming.

In very bald terms, wind energy costs more than other renewables. Or put another way, we save less CO2 for each Pound we spend. We'd be much better off with bio-fuels. And a field of bio-crops looks a whole lot better than a field of wind turbines.

I have argued that turbines damage birds. Pro-wind campaigners simply deny that, and insist that the RSPB supports wind-farms. So I was reassured by a story in the Daily Telegraph of Jan 28th. Turbines have killed four white-tailed eagles off the Norwegian coast, and others have been driven from their nest-sites. And the RSPB in Scotland is fighting a proposed 234-turbine wind-farm on north Lewis, fearing damage to eagle populations.

The fate of a few eagles may be a small matter compared to global warming. But bio-fuels are better value, and they don't kill birds. I have commissioned a report from a consulting engineer on the Poddington wind-farm proposal.

The Sound of Europe

At a summit in Salzburg in January, EU President-in-Office and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel called for an EU TV news channel (subsidised by the tax-payer) to fight "American cultural domination". No doubt the EU's propaganda Commissar Margot Wallstrom would approve. Meantime President Chirac of France has committed an estimated £1 billion of public money to create a "European search engine" to challenge Yahoo and Google. This is to go by the improbable name of "Quaero". You never know -- it might catch on with the Lib-Dems!

Coming your way soon -- the new EU propaganda campaign

Now Wallstrom has announced a new white paper which "aims to improve the EU's communication strategy". The EU plans to increase its use of electronic media to win over the hearts and minds of EU citizens, according to Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. They announced that a press agency called "Made in Europe", (which has been dubbed the "Brussels Broadcasting Corporation" by some) will be launched, financed by the EU. Its main target is to turn the EU of the institutions to a "citizens' Union". Agence Europe reports that the white paper also includes a proposal for a "European Teachers College". Story courtesy of Open Europe (see www.openeurope.org.uk)

Neat, that. They use your money to buy your good opinion of their project. They can't lose, really.

Meantime Mr. Malcolm Bouchier of Louth has kindly drawn my attention to a glossy Commission booklet entitled "Let's Explore Europe", which is propaganda clearly aimed at schoolchildren, and has been mailed unsolicited to addresses in Lincolnshire. I have sent some questions to the Commission. How many copies? How many languages? At what cost? Whom were they sent to? And why?

Ken Clarke to lead Conservative "Democracy task-force"

David Cameron has created a Democracy task-force under the chairmanship of Ken Clarke. Its remit includes the Royal prerogative, and the reform of the Lords. It does not, however, include the greatest threat to our democracy: the EU.

It is abundantly clear that the EU is unaccountable. Indeed it holds the views of the people in contempt -- witness its determination to press ahead with the EU constitution in some form despite the NO votes in two referenda.

I am sometimes criticised for describing the European parliament as a self-selected bunch of euro-philes. How can they be self-selected, when they are elected, ask the critics? Simple. Every one has at some point offered him/herself as a candidate, and most do so because they are wide-eyed euro-enthusiasts.

But the EU also lacks a "demos", a single people sharing a common identity and aspirations. It lacks the common public opinion without which (as John Stuart Mill rightly said), representative government cannot exist.

I am not sure that Ken Clarke would be the best man to address that particular problem.

High Living

Apparently the EU's Head of Delegation in Tokyo is paying rent of £22,000. That's just on his residence, not the delegation office. Oh, and it's per month, by the way.

German unemployment hits 5 million

In January, German unemployment topped the 5 million mark. Last time German unemployment got this high, they went to war. And as Tony Blair says "What kind of Social Model gives you 20 million unemployed across Europe?". And 5 million in Germany, he might add.

The verbal fascism of the left

A press conference in Straz accused the EU of "institutional autism" in its failure to listen to voters, or to relate to their aspirations. A Labour MEP, Richard Howett, on a point of order, objected that this was insulting to autistic people. I sent him an e-mail saying that it was merely a graphic and colourful metaphor, and there was no reason why it should be offensive to autistics.

He was so affronted that he passed the e-mail to Duncan Campbell of the Guardian, who ran it in his diary column on Jan 19th. Whatever next? They'll be saying that we can't use the word "unconscious" for fear of offending anyone who happens to be in a coma!

2006 Index of Economic Freedom

On Jan 24th I attended the Brussels launch of the annual Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom, presented by a co-author, Ana Isabel Eiras. This prestigious study is compulsory reading for finance ministers around the world. Find the report at www.heritage.org/research/features/index/

The good news is that for the first time more countries are rated "Free" or "Mostly free" than are rated not free. Liberty and democracy are spreading around the globe, although when populations are factored in, a majority of the world's peoples still live in "Not free" or "Mostly not free" countries.

Ana produced three striking conclusions: countries rated "Free" or "Mostly free" were hugely more prosperous than the rest. Prosperity correlates closely with economic freedom. Second, countries with positive year-on-year changes in freedom grow faster than others -- so however free a country may be to start with, it can boost growth by increasing economic freedom.

And thirdly, in Europe, countries with low and/or flat taxes (broadly, the ten new EU accession states) grow twice as fast as high tax countries (broadly, the 15 "old" EU member-states). George Osborne, please note!

Syed Kamall MEP

Syed replaced Theresa Villiers after she was elected to Westminster in 2005. He is proving a worthy successor, and a good and sound colleague. He recently made a short but very interesting and informative film about his work as an MEP, and he invited Chris Heaton-Harris and me to feature in it. To see it on your computer, visit his web-site at www.syedkamall.com, and click on the link.

Syed will also be guest speaker at the Millbank Club dinner at the Yew Tree Lodge Hotel, Kegworth (M1 J24) on Friday March 3rd.

BBC Radio 4 theme tune to be axed

You'll have seen by now that the famous BBC Radio 4 theme tune is to be axed, and like many Radio 4 listeners, I'm hopping mad. If you share my concern on this issue (and if you're up that early -- I sometimes hear it while driving to Dover for the ferry), the BBC complaints address is www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/

Wishful thinking, EU style

Jan 25th: I have just heard Austrian Minister Bartenstein (responsible for employment issues under the Austrian Presidency) make the most bizarre statement: "We don't want less regulation, we just want better regulation". You might as well say "We don't want to eat less, we just want to lose weight". Dream on, Bartenstein, dream on.

And yet more wishful thinking, this time from Yorkshire Labour MEP Richard Corbett: "When we get it right, European legislation is an exercise in cutting red tape". Yes, and pigs fly, don't they?

Quote of the Month

"Who that admires, and from the heart is attached, to true national parliaments, but must turn in horror and disgust from such a profane burlesque and parody of that sacred institution?"

Edmund Burke, in his Reflections on the French Revolution, 1790. But he could just as well have been writing about the European parliament, 2006!

LISTEN TO THE BAND -- April 10th, De Montfort Hall, Leicester

Sponsored by the Royal Leicestershire Regiment, the Minden Band of the Queen's Division, supported by a massed male-voice choir, will be giving a concert in aid of the Tigers Museum Appeal, at 7:30 p.m. on Monday April 4th. I am delighted that Colonel Robinson, of the Regiment, has invited me to donate a raffle prize for the event, and I am very happy to do so. Tickets from £10 to £18, Box Office 0116 233 3111. John Phillip Sousa once said that a military march was "Music to make a one-legged man step out". Come and hear it, and support the Tigers Museum Appeal.


That's it for this Strasbourg session. Please remember to check this website more background on current parliamentary business, full details of proposals being voted at the Strasbourg plenary session, and a host of other issues.