Kids should know their rights

 

We’re launching a campaign today for children to design a poster to that depicts their rights.

The right of the child to protection” competition is open to children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18 and asks them to design a poster on the right of children to protection in the European Union. These rights are enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental rights and the UN Charter on the Rights of the Child and include:

  • such protection and care as is necessary for their well-being.
  • expressing their views freely.
  • Having the child’s best interests as a primary consideration.
  • maintaining on a regular basis a personal relationship and direct contact with both his or her parents, unless that is contrary to his or her interests.

 

The deadline for submitting posters is 31 October of this year and winners will be announced on 20 November, the International Day of the Rights of the Child.

 

If you’re interested in getting involved, then send an e-mail to uk@europayouth.eu

 

[Sorry about the illegibility of the home page of the website!]

 

Loving the science

As the very few of you that read this probably know, I used to be Commission Spokesperson for Science and so am really passionate about the role of the EU in helping bring scientists together, within Europe and also around the world. A big event was recently held in Barcelona called the EuroScience Open Forum, which showcased the best of European science and provided a forum for scientists to get together and talk. (I should point out that though we supported the event, EuroScience are a separate organisation.)

I was chatting with my friend Aris last night on Facebook – he’s a former colleague from DG Research and now working in Barcelona (lucky beggar) doing communications at the Fusion4energy organisation, which is the European agency for the ITER project. ITER is about finding a new way to produce energy, based on the reaction that takes place in the sun as hydrogen and helium atoms collide, fuse and release energy. In ITER, this process takes place within a doughnut-shaped (toroid) chamber, called a tokamak. So they gave out doughnuts with “Tokamak” written on them! Here’s a pic – very inventive I thought. Even got a mention in Science!

Aris shows us what a torus looks like.
Aris shows us what a torus looks like.

 

So that was a fun way of making a point, and here’s another one from ESOF. EUFIC, the European Food Information Council, launched an internet tool to help us balance our food intake and our activity. I guess we all know that at the end of the day, the best way to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to eat less and exercise more, but sometimes it’s difficult to know how to quantify that. This website helps – you can get it to tell you how much walking you need to do to walk off a bag of Tooty Frooties ( a terrifying 38 minutes – that’s the sweets relegated to the drawer for a while!). A really great initiative, I thought.

Our woman in London

I’m sitting in my office with the fan on, feeling like something from a Graham Greene novel! I lolve the warm weather, don’t get me wrong, but I do prefer it when I can lie in a garden overlooking the valley of the Neste river, or lie by a pool in Ibiza. It’s just not the same sitting in an office in Westminster!

Had a lovely weekend, with my first party at the house. Just a casual lunch thing on Saturday, with about 20 of us. No-one had met before, but everyone seemed to get on, and there were quite a few kids running around, from 7 months to 10. All great fun. A schoolfriend I hadn’t seen for nigh on 20 years turned up, which was delightful! Sunday I went to Clapham Farmer’s Market. Here’s a weird coincidence – Nafees who was on the Eisenhower Fellowship with me went to the Bonneville Primary School (where the market is held) for a short while when he was little. It’s a very small world…

It’s much more clear this week that the holiday season has started in Brussels – today has been very quiet. Still, gives me a chance to get on with some of the more long-term things we have to deal with, like helping a university that would like to give its journalism students a taste of “Brussels”, and tenders for this and that.

Also having some admin nightmares, not only on the personal front, with no-one having come back to me yet about my move, but also as I’m trying to recruit some new staff and have to wait until September for someone from Brussels to OK my choice. Given that I can only recruit people off a list drawn up after a recruitment procedure, I’m having difficulty seeing the logic in that…

Green cities

Are you living in a “green” city? Then this might be of interest to you:

The European Green Capital Award (EGCA) promotes and rewards the efforts of local authorities in improving the environment. It is to be given each year to a European city with a population of more than 200,000 that is leading the way with environmentally friendly urban living. Four out of five Europeans now live in towns and cities so their environmental performance is becoming more and more important. Most of the environmental challenges facing our society originate from urban areas but it is also these urban areas that bring together the commitment and innovation needed to resolve them. The deadline for submitting applications for the 2010 and 2011 awards is 1st October 2008.  If your city qualifies, then you can get more information on: www.europeangreencapital.eu

It’s raining Euromyths

*sigh* a few days out of the office having a blast at the samba festival and I get back to find the office is euromyth central. For the general information of the world out there – we are not banning the acre, we are just not extending the use of a derogation that the UK government doesn’t make use of any more. The same legislation secures the status of the mile and the pint, so they’re not going anywhere either. Equally, we have nothing against Peking Duck, but some ovens used to make it have been found to be dangerous and so rightly removed from use – I don’t think anyone wants crispy skin so much they are willing for someone to get carbon monoxide poisoning. Let’s just recap: the EU is NOT banning the acre and the EU is NOT banning Peking Duck.

Another NOT in my life at the moment is I am NOT flying anywhere on EasyJet any time soon. We were left at Toulouse airport for more than 2 hours yesterday, so by the time we got through passport control and customs, it was too late for me to get a train back to Balham. Len and Bev very kindly let me stay at their house, but I’m really looking forward to getting back to Balham tonight and sleeping in my own bed!

The festival itself was ace though, indeed much more fun than I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be all samba dancing and women with big headresses and little bikinis, but actually it was predominantly percussion baterias and I can confirm that the rhythm IS going to get you… There was also some fantastic street art – from a troupe of musicians with bombards and drums singing in minority languages like provencal and languedocien, to a street magician, and Ens’batucada who were just outstanding – stuff for Watch This Space next year?. Plus I did stuff I love like going to French markets (3 in 5 days!) and I saw my house, which I’m so happy about. Just need to get some furniture into it now.

It’s oh so quiet…shh…shh

Sorry I’ve been off air for a few days. Crazy days…

The weekend saw the move into the new house. Well, I already live there, but I had to move rooms and the new guy arrived and Rob and Amanda left, so it was all go. My brother arrived in the middle of it alland I met him and his friends in the evening. So a nice, but knackering day and I slept like a baby. Sunday was very low-key, which was more than made up for by Monday!

We have a really busy week, with several big stories coming out, including the drive to reduce the price of text roaming that will be announced today. We’ve been answering questions, setting up interviews and so on. It’s good to have announcements like this, which prove that we’re not all about arguing over institutional issues – mostly what we’re about is getting on with using our combined strength as a single market to benefit consumers.

Another story that cropped (hoho) up today was about tobacco and the agricultural subsidies that go to it while at the same time we are spending money on combatting smoking. It’s an irony that is not lost on the Commission, which is why we have pushed through proposals to stop the subsidies from 2010. Of course they can’t just be stopped one day, as it’s about livelihoods, and they need time to adjust their farming to a different crop. But from 2010 there will be no EU budget support for tobacco growing, in spite of attempts by some in the European Parliament to extend that deadline.

I had a really interesting meeting yesterday with a woman who does communication for a variety of EU research projects. It was nice to have that link back to my old subject, which still tugs at my heartstrings, and also to hear about how the projects are working with each other to address their communication needs. She works in the field of health and nutrition, so really relevant to today’s world and something that can really resonate. I was speaking to a health journalist a few days ago  and she said that when a press release comes from the European Commission about scientific results, they are more likely to take it seriously, as it demonstrates an objectivity (ie not funded by food or pharma companies).

One of the funny sides of this job is being a “diplomat” in your own country. No, don’t worry, I don’t get diplomatic immunity or anything like that, but I am part of a community here in London, with invites to the embassies, working with them on initiatives, taking part in cultural events. It’s a really nice side to the job, and makes it feel less like I’ve “come back” to London, and more like I’m in a different place to last time.

Feeling calmer now

I didn’t post yesterday because I was having a ‘mare of a day dealing with various administrative things in Brussels and here and the entry would have been one long rant. And no-one wants that, do they! But I met a friend after work and went to Watch this Space and that went a long way to calming me down.

I was at the Spanish Embassy this morning for the awards to the schools in the UK that teach Spanish best. I went along because quite a few of the people involved in the Arsenal Double Club were there. That project is winning its own award next week, so we have been thinking about how to get word out about it. I tried some different angles – Observer Sports Monthly, Times Education – but I’m not hopeful. Shame, because I think it’s a great story on many levels. They were saying at the awards today that Spanish is rising in popularity as a foreign language, partly because of cultural things such as seeing big stars like Antonia Banderas, Penelope Cruz and J-Lo working and talking in both languages, and the growing role of Hispanic culture in the US. I think the number of Spanish sportpeople here is an issue too – is it a coincidence that 2 of the schools are from Liverpool, where both the red and blue teams have Spanish players? We have a report out from the Commission tomorrow about languages and business, and apparently it is a big issue here in the UK – the business community often complain about the UK’s lack of language skills. I know from personal experience that having those skills was a huge advantage for working while I was at college – I did telemarketing in German and worked as receptionist at a language school and got both of those jobs because I spoke foreign languages.

By the way the salt cellar story was definitely a Euro-myth – though not a total myth. Apparently Gateshead Council came up with the idea and Rochdale are trialing it during Salt Awareness Week. The article from the Daily Mail was pretty positive about the idea, as were the vox pops they talked to. I can’t imagine it would have been like that if the suggestion had come from the EU…would you like double standards with those chips, sir?

Women in the world

Interesting debate going on over on the Guardian website, about the position of women in society and especially politics. I was astonished to be told when I took on this post that I am the first woman head of media in London. I never thought to be the first woman anything in my life – I kind of assumed that the generation before had done all the trail-blazing that had to be done. I’m kind of proud of it, but also slightly appalled that it’s taken to 2008 to get there.

Margot Wallstrom was over in London a few weeks ago and during an interview she made an interesting point – is it any wonder that people feel out of touch with the EU when you see the “family photo” from the summit and it is overwhelmingly middle-aged white men? How can you expect young people, people of colour or women to associate themselves with that when they don’t see anyone that could possibly represent them. I’m not a fan of tokenism – I don’t agree that “women” vote a particular way or “young people” – of course there are differences of views across our gender and within different ethnic groups. But if they see *no-one* that seems to have the slightest clue where they are coming from, it’s off-putting at best, disenfranchising at worst. Are we ever going to get to a stage where people don’t comment when all the people representing the Commission at an event, from Commissioner down, are women? I was at an event like that a weekor so ago – would it have invited comment if we had all been men?

The role of on-line media

An extremely interesting piece by Paul Mason of Newsnight was brought to my attention yesterday, looking at the future of the tabloids as on-line media gain ground. I believe that in this job I need to be looking at the media in its entirety and not just the traditional press, whether broadsheet or tabloid. People get their news and views from many different sources nowadays and it’s important that we are aware of what is being said, and being available for those that want to ask questions or cover our issues. The glory of the new on-line media is that you get two-way communication, so you can quickly see what audiences/viewers/listeners think.

This all ties in with what I heard at the National Association of Broadcasters when I was in Vegas – lots of head-scratching going on there about how new technologies would affect the traditional news media. We at the Commission could be accused of hardly having got to grips with the advent of television, so I’m keen we don’t make the same mistake with the on-line world.

I had a call a few days ago from an English-language newspaper in Spain, who wanted to know how many people we had here and what we do. There are currently 4 of us working in the media team (a fifth is away on maternity leave and there is no cover). The overwhelming part of our work is answering questions from journalists on whatever it is they want to know about. These range from political desks at national newspapers to specialist trade press, or local newspapers, or on-line media. We are often asked to defend the Commission’s position on an issue on radio or television. We also feed information back to Brussels about what is in the press here and liaise with them to have the correct information so we can answer the questions we get. Of course we maintain the website with a flow of up-to-date information on the big stories relating to the Commission. We organise briefings for the press on issues that they are particularly interested in, such as the recent proposal to allow people to get healthcare in another EU country. We handle the press angle of events in the UK organised or supported by the Commission – such as the recent refugee camp in Trafalgar Square. And when Commissioners come, we are required to deal with their press programme. So more than enough to keep four of us busy!