Newsletter from Europe Issue 1/2004
Bashir Khanbhai MEP
(Norfolk and Suffolk)

 

 

HALLMARK VICTORY

The EU Directive on Precious Metals would have allowed manufacturers and importers in Europe to self-certify their jewellery and sell it in the EU without submission for testing by an independent third-party Assay Office. This Directive would have been a dangerous threat to consumers making it impossible to trace the origin and reliability of any set of marks and depriving consumers of any independent guarantee of quality.

 

As a direct result of my intense lobbying, supported by Conservative MEPs, nine EU member governments, including the UK, now oppose the proposal to harmonise hallmarking practices. It is likely that such opposition in the Council of Ministers will result in the proposal being rejected.

 

I shall continue to monitor this issue and will fight  to ensure this Directive is completely withdrawn from the list of legislative proposals.

 

HERBAL MEDICINES VICTORY

Britain has its own rules on access to herbal medication. Our right to such access was at risk under proposals from the EU Commission which threatened to remove from the market herbal products sold in the UK for less than 15 years.

 

Last month, the European Parliament voted to protect the use of traditional herbal medicines in the EU. MEPs opted for a special dispensation for remedies with a proven safety record. Those of us who buy Echinacea and Rescue Remedy can be sure that these safe and effective herbal remedies will continue to be available in the UK.

 

The proposal also stipulates that labels and packaging leaflets should contain simple and

 

clear indications regarding potential toxicity and possible interactions with food, drinks and other drugs taken simultaneously.

 

BIOMETRIC IDENTITY CARDS

Currently, the 15 EU nations, each with their own ID cards and passports, have their own regulations on the necessity to carry such a document. These ID cards, valid at every national border within the EU, are difficult to verify and this task will become even worse when a further 10 nations join the EU in June 2004.

 

In the wake of September 11, the US Government has adopted a wide range of security measures. From October 2004, all EU passports without biometric data will no longer benefit from the visa waiver system that allows EU nationals to enter the US without a visa.

 

Obviously, the EU  needs to establish greater co-operation in order to facilitate travel, improve security and combat the entry of illegal immigrants. The European Commission has tabled two new draft Regulations requiring all visas and travel documents issued to non-EU nationals to contain biometric data in digital form that will uniquely identify the individual carrying the documents.

 

The EU proposal, if unanimously approved by all  Member States, will require photographs on visa and residence permits for non-EU nationals by 2005, and biometric data by 2007. A microchip will need to be inserted in both ID cards and passports, including fingerprint and iris characteristics. At all border posts throughout the EU, high tech equipment will check and compare data digitally to determine and confirm identity.

 

I believe that the UK needs a policy of controlled immigration based on national manpower requirements and supported by efficient border vigilance. Such a policy will diminish the importance of extreme political parties, reassure the public, and preserve the fabric of our harmonious society.

 

 

EUROPEAN SUGAR REFORM

Sugar beet is indispensable not only for East Anglia's rural economy but also its environment. Almost 7,000 farmers and 20,000 workers, involved with growing and transporting sugar beet, allow our sugar factories to save the economy  1bn per annum in imports.

 

The forthcoming reform of the EU's sugar regime must not penalise the UK. We are a substantial net importer of sugar from African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries since domestic production of sugar is insufficient to meet UK demand. Excessive production on the continent (France produces twice its requirement) creates a crisis for the least developed ACP countries.

 

The European Commission must formulate a proposal that is equitable such that the UK, a net importer at higher EU prices, is exempt from any cuts in quota. We must not accept any proposal that will disadvantage or threaten East Anglian livelihoods.

 

Three options are being considered by the European Commission:-

Option 1 will introduce modest cuts in quota and price.

Option 2 will involve a cut of 40% in price that  would make our sugar beet farmers unprofitable.

Option 3 abandons all price controls and will allow subsidised Brazilian farmers to dominate world markets, harming both ACP and UK farmers.

 

l shall fight hard in Brussels to ensure that the Commission proposal is based on Option 1 with no quota cut for the UK. I urge constituents to defend our sugar industry and lobby their local chamber of commerce, councillors, MP, MEP and write to both the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for DEFRA. The UK Government can and must stand up for its farmers at the top table in the EU.

 

FEWER MEPs FOR UK

Before June 1999, each County in East Anglia elected its own MEP on a first past the post system. In 1999, despite Conservative Party opposition, the Government chose to switch to proportional representation and extended the constituency from one county to an 'Eastern Region' comprising six counties (Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire). Our Eastern Region, with 5.5 million people, is represented by 8 MEPs.

 

In the 1994 European Elections, the UK turnout  was 36%. Not surprisingly, with proportional representation and a larger constituency in 1999, giving less choice to the electorate, it dropped to 23% - the lowest in the European Union.

 

57 MPs represent the six counties of Eastern Region in the Westminster Parliament. How can only 8 MEPs hold surgeries, respond to the needs of constituents and distribute Newsletters to brief you all?

 

In 1999, the four Conservative MEPs decided to divide the Eastern Region into four areas (Norfolk & Suffolk; Cambridgeshire &  Bedfordshire; Hertfordshire; Essex) offering each MEP the chance to serve in one Area in particular and the Region in general.

 

I chose to focus on the needs of Norfolk and Suffolk, although I regularly respond to and serve constituents in the other counties. I am always ready to attend any event throughout the six counties and I publish a regular Newsletter (In Touch) that is available to anyone registered on our email database. Please send us an email and secure your name on our list for future copies.

 

In the European Parliament, I sit on the Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy Committee as well as the Committee for International Co-operation and Development. I participate actively in shaping EU legislation relating to health, the environment, agriculture, fisheries, financial services and EU fraud and mismanagement.

 

The next European Elections will take place on June 10 this year. With the EU enlarging from its current 15 to 25 Member States, the UK allocation of MEPs will be reduced from 87 to 78 and our Eastern Region will have only 7 MEPs. A high turnout of Conservative supporters is essential to ensure that we win most seats. We can and must win!

 

 

 

 

 

 Promoted & Printed by Conservative MEPs in the EPP-ED Group in the European Parliament, Brussels: Khanbhai, Sturdy, Beazley & Van Orden