Coalition on Europe

It’s amazing what you find if you read everything in your inbox! An e-mail with the coalition’s reponse to comments on its programme has languished in there all day, and I just got round to reading it. Pretty interesting stuff! Of course my main interest was the Europe section and it’s good to see a pretty straight-down-the-line defense of our EU membership. Also glad to see it wasn’t with foreign affairs, but was a stand-alone issue. I’m looking around to digging about in some of the other sections. Haven’t watched the video yet, I must admit.

Here’s the full set of links (let me know if you have any problems making them work – it may not all have made it with the cut-and-paste!):

The Coalition: Our programme for government

 http://programmeforgovernment.hmg.gov.uk/response/

 Our response

We thank all of you who engaged with this historic Coalition agreement by taking the time to read and comment on our programme. We promised government departments would read and respond to all comments that fall within their policy areas, and they’ve now done so.

 Below you can find a response to each section of The Coalition: our programme for government. These responses focus on the main themes raised in each section.

 You can also watch a video of Oliver Letwin and Danny Alexander discussing your feedback on the homepage.

 Links to responses

 These links take you to the websites of different departments, where the responses have been published.

 Banking

Business

Civil liberties

Communities and local government

Consumer protection

Crime and policing

Culture, Olympics, media and sport

Defence

Deficit reduction

Energy and climate change

Environment, food and rural affairs

Equalities

Europe

Families and children

Foreign affairs

Government transparency

Immigration

International development

Jobs and welfare

Justice

National security

NHS

Pensions and older people

Political reform

Public health

Schools

Social action

Social care and disability

Taxation

Transport

Universities and further education

Women in UK politics

The Robert Schuman Foundation have recently published some research which compares the level of ministers and members of parliament across the EU and show how many are women. The UK comes in below the EU average on all three indicators that they use:

Women ministers – EU average: 25.75%  //  UK: 17.39%

Women in national parliament – EU average: 24.32% // UK: 21.88%

Women in European parliament – EU average: 34.92% // UK: 33.33%

Which countries came top? You won’t be surprised to hear it was Finland for ministers, Sweden for national parliamentarians and Finland for women in the EP. Bottom? Hungary for ministers, Malta for the national parliament and Malta again for the EP.

Bullfighting – another Euromyth

On the day that Catalonia bans bullfighting, I just thought I would make clear that whatever you might have heard, the EU doesn’t subsidise bullfighting, either directly (which it never did) or indirectly (through subsidies for raising bulls). Farm  payments are no longer linked to production, so farmers don’t get money for the bulls they raise, but for respecting standards such as environmental legislation.

Links 27 July 2010

No! Stay! Put in the call, and make Cosmetic Uprise keep blogging!

As my EU-ambassadorial role in the UK has come to its end, I would like to thank everyone for reading this space and being immensely supportive. The feedback and the positive response I got for this blog made me seriously even consider taking a tattoo with the words cosmetic uprise on it. (I didn’t)

A sensible piece from Dennis McShane in the Guardian on Cameron’s position on EU membership for Turkey, which raises some interesting points

…Cameron has pledged a referendum on any major new EU treaty and a final decision to let Turkey in will require a significant new EU treaty. If that is submitted to a referendum, as Cameron and William Hague have pledged, the chances of it being passed are slim.

If you can’t even trust the TV columns… [from Media Monkey in the Guardian]

Has Mike Ward, the Daily Star’s TV critic, got one of the toughest jobs on Fleet Street? In the immediate aftermath of Richard Desmond’s purchase of Channel Five, it wouldn’t be surprising if Ward felt under some pressure to draw readers’ attention to the channel’s roster of shows. Indeed, his “What’s hot to watch today” column in today’s paper features no fewer than four Five programmes out of a total of six recommended: Neighbours and three episodes from CSI and franchises, one of which is at least four years old. Over at the Express, meanwhile, Ward’s opposite number Matt Baylis reflects on last night TV, penning a lengthy piece in praise of Neighbours, above a fact box detailing several things you might not have known about one of its former stars, Stefan Dennis.

And finally, a thought from Jacqueline Novoa Rodriguez via E-blogs about something we could all be doing – handing in medicines we no longer need.

Over a month the authors, who belong to the Mariñamansa Health Centre in Orense, collected all the medicines and medical supplies discarded by patients, doctors and nurses for proper recycling and to avoid disposing of it with general rubbish. They looked at the contents in detail and calculated their cost, which for only in February 2008 was 119 units with a value of 2,740 Euros.

-Donated by patients (and we must thank them for donating there and not throwing away) 78 containers, 47% complete and 56% not expired: 1444 Euros. Three containers were from hospital diagnosis for 645 Euros.

-Free samples given by visitors: 22 complete and 16 not expired: 208 Euros

-Returned by patients: 13 glucometers (4 unused) and tubs of blood glucose strips (3 out of 4 containers complete and all expired): 908 and 108 Euros

Working in languages

One of the things that attracts most of us to working for the EU is the possibility of using the languages we have studied hard to acquire. In this office we do a lot of work to make people aware of the opportunities that come with speaking languages, not just working for the EU, but in many other ways. Languages do open doors. Two of my colleagues took part in a live q&a on the careers guardian website last week looking at the possibilities of language careers.

I was putting this up on Twitter and thought, maybe I should be writing about this in another language. So I’m going to start an idea to have anyone who blogs about EU issues writing a post in another language on the European Day of Languages, 26 September. Who is in with me?

[This is a post that got caught in my draft folder, so the idea won’t be new to some of you]

EU Girl Geeks – UK chapter

I have the immense privilege ( is there is tongue-in-cheek emoticon?!) to be considered as an EUGirlGeek. It’s another example of that particularly female phenomenon of finding strength in joining together – see also the GetSET network for women in Science and Engineering, the network of UK women in the EU institutions or even parent networks like Mumsnet or Netmums. So we might be a niche group – women who use technology to develop their interest in EU affairs – but we can’t only be Brussels-based. So this is a shout out to anyone who would like to start a UK Chapter of the EUGirl Geeks. Sign up and we can try to get together occasionally.

Update 4pm: This is the Facebook page that Lino refers to in the comments below, a good starting point for any potential interested parties.

Links on 27 July 2010

A return for my occasional series :)

Emergency Exit Fail: have you ever felt like this?

An article about Holyrood TV could apply to the EP, I reckon. There is something of a paradox, with lots of talk about openness and transparency, but little interest in such channels. Why should that be? Is it in the execution, or the principle?

Most likely, you will not feel culturally enriched or in any other way transfigured for having watched events from the Holyrood parliament on a live internet feed. Nor will you, in years to come, remember where you were when you heard the news, revealed last week, that these proceedings receive only 7,000 hits per month. Yet this is about 5,000 more than the entire number of people who watched Kirsty Wark’s $1m docudrama about the making of the Scottish parliament when it was first released.

And if you have ever, by chance, watched the Welsh parliament unfolding you may feel that Holyrood TV, in comparison, is being directed by Quentin Tarantino. Unsurprisingly, such a paltry number of viewers has led to loud calls for the service to be discontinued.

Yet this would be an unwise course of action and betrays an ignorance of what Holyrood TV is for. There are many countries where an unaccountable executive and corrupt judiciary daily subvert democracy. For these enslaved people the existence of a kingdom where politicians and their actions are scrutinised daily on the internet may feel like the land of milk and honey.

That is not to suggest though, that live coverage of Holyrood cannot be improved. Indeed, perhaps what is required is for coverage of parliamentary debates to be broken up with little programmes that show our elected representatives in a more human light and make the business of politics more accessible to the punter in the street and the chiel on the croft.

A Guardian editorial on the shift in British diplomacy makes some interesting points about the UK’s EU policy:

A fairer and more transparent way to promote UK business interests is by influencing and enforcing global trade rules through multilateral institutions. That means a closer relationship with the European Union. Britain’s EU partners are relieved that the more rampant strain of Tory hostility to Brussels is not reflected in government policy. Mr Hague, flanked by the usefully polyglot Nick Clegg, has charmed European audiences.

But civil neighbourliness is not the same as constructive engagement. For most of this year the eurozone has been in crisis. This is a problem of existential proportions for the UK’s most important trading alliance, and yet the government has said nothing of substance about it. Many Tories feel smug at having opposed UK membership of the single currency; some Lib Dems are abashed at having advocated it. That might make it an awkward topic within the coalition, but it doesn’t erase the fact that Britain lacks a coherent European policy.

Science+Europe=accuracy fail

I went to a very interesting event about science journalism in the UK last year at the Royal Institution which I blogged about about the time. One of my conclusions was that many of the issues faced by science journalism reflect very closely issues faced on coverage of European issues. Science isn’t covered well by the general press. Neither is Europe, on the whole. So when you put the two together, as the Daily Mail did this morning, then you can imagine what comes out.

Needless to say, the Daily Mail over-simplified, if not to say ridiculed, the real situation. The project has found ways to improve fruit storage, reduce waste, cut pesticide use and  encourage children to eat fruit instead of sweets. These are important things. An interesting fact: The EU produced 7.7 million tonnes of eating apples in 2008.  So if research like this can cut costs so that apple prices fall by just one penny per kilo that will mean annual savings for consumers of £64 million – or more than five times the cost of the project. Never mind the health benefits of reduced pesticide use, and the suffering caused by allergies (I know alot about that one!) This was the first project to quantify the cholesterol-reducing properties of apples, which can have a direct effect in reducing medicines taken – saving health services money.

Of course, we could have told the Mail all of this if they had bothered to ask us…

A new era for the London rep

I’ve been away on holiday for a week, so this is old news, and you’ll probably have seen that we have a new head of rep, Jonathan Scheele, who will take office on 1 August. I have known Jonathan since I moved to Brussels in 1995, as we were in the same theatre group, and I’m really pleased he will be my new boss. It really will be a new era for this office, because his first main task will be overseeing the office move to its new premises in Smith Square. So by the end of 2010, we’ll be in new shinier premises with much better public facilities, and with a new man at the helm. Let’s see what happens!

Update 11.30: Have just found out that our new head of office is a blogger!

Links:

Announcement of new head of rep

Jonathan’s blog

PS: I did a course on writing for the web recently and there was a discussion on whether links should be embedded in the text, or listed at the end. Which do you prefer?