Newsletter from Europe Issue 5/2003
Bashir Khanbhai MEP
(Norfolk and Suffolk)

 

 

BRITISH AGRICULTURE STILL STRONG

 

Despite the many set-backs Eastern Region farmers have suffered in recent times, it is great to see that British agriculture is still thriving.

 

The Suffolk Show, attended by about 90,000 people, offered an excellent display of farm animals, agricultural produce, farm machinery and rural life. Agricultural businesses in Suffolk continue to make a big contribution to the economic and social life of the County. I am grateful to the Chief Executive, Chris Bushby and my host, for the warm hospitality extended to me.

 

The East of England Show in Peterborough was also spectacular. Apart from a wide variety of displays, there were musical events suitable for families. I was honoured to meet the Duke of Gloucester, who is a great patron of the Show. Thank you also to the Chief Executive and my host, Steve Harris.

 

The Norfolk Show also offered the public a good opportunity to see the wide variety of crops grown in East Anglia and the range of food produced by businesses in the Region. Thanks to John Purling, the Chief Executive, and my host Peter Seaman, for their kind invitation and hospitality. 

 

MID TERM REVIEW OF CAP

 

I am pleased to report that in response to my letter to Commissioner Franz Fischler asking him to consider basing future farming compensation on the growing period 2000-2002, so that fruit and vegetable growers would not be excluded from receiving subsidy (see In Touch Farming 2003) Fischler has said "...should Member States continue to see the problem of

 

 

competitive disadvantage for producers of fruit and vegetables as unavoidable, then the possibility of excluding the cultivation of fruit and vegetables from the areas eligible for the Single Payment, would have to reconsidered" .

 

This is obviously great news for the many fruit and vegetable farmers who have filled my post-bag with complaints that they would have been unfairly disadvantaged by the original MTR proposals for CAP reform.

 

BIOTECHNOLOGY IN AGRICULTURE

 

I hosted and chaired an event at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, to give farmers and members of the general public an opportunity to question a panel of leading experts on the science of GMOs.

 

The panel was made up of scientists from our academic and research institutions such as the British Society of Plant Breeders, the NFU, Broom's Barn Research Station, the John Innes Centre and the University of Cambridge. The event was attended by over 90 delegates including conventional and organic farmers, environmentalists and members of the public.

 

This is a highly emotive subject, yet the debate produced a successful and informative discussion and both participants and panellists left with a better understanding of the issues associated with the introduction of GM technology into farming.

 

One thing remains clear, however - there are many misconceptions on both sides of the debate and these will persist until the Government provides farmers and consumers with more information based on science and the experience of farmers in countries outside Europe, so that they can make informed decisions on the subject of GMOs.

 

THE UK AND THE EURO

 

The Treasury's recent analysis on non-compliance of Gordon Brown's Five Economic Tests has been presented in millions of words on hundreds of tons of paper. Yet interpretations of past data by economists cannot offer an accurate prediction of how the UK economy will fare if it adopts the Euro now, or at any time in the future. The Chancellor has no magic wand that he can wave to determine when and for how long the UK economy will "converge" with the economies of major countries like Germany and France.

 

The economies of the 12 Eurozone countries did not "meet" or "converge" when they adopted the Euro. Belgium and Italy continue to breach the maximum limits of public debt as a percentage of GDP. Germany, suffering from high unemployment, would benefit from a lower Euro interest rate. This same Euro interest rate is inflationary for Ireland and Portugal. The significantly poorer and relatively unstable economies of the ten new accession countries, also fail to meet the criteria for joining the Eurozone, yet they will adopt the Euro soon after they join in June 2004.

 

The economic tests are presented as a smoke screen by Blair and Brown to buy time to reach a political settlement. It seems that Blair will have his Euro if he offers 10 Downing Street to Brown. The Euro will be a political decision, driven by personal ambitions, made irrespective of British interests. It will not be an economic assessment, but an historic compromise of Blair and Brown that will abolish the pound, adopt the Euro and irretrievably tie us to the European umbilical cord!

 

TEMPORARY WORKERS LEGISLATION

 

 

The UK, German, Irish and Danish Employment Ministers have blocked damaging EU legislation from being implemented which could have cost the UK 160,000 jobs.

 

The proposed legislation, which was backed by Labour MEPs in the European Parliament and voted against by Conservatives, would have laid down damaging rules giving agency temps the same pay and conditions as permanent staff. This would have made employment more expensive, restricted the labour market and undoubtedly resulted in a huge rise in unemployment.

 

The Council's decision is great news for the thousands of British employees, like students and parents, who rely on the flexibility of temporary work as their main source of income.

 

EU FRAUD & MISMANAGEMENT

 

The UK's National Audit Office (NAO)- Britain's spending watchdog - this month published a highly critical report on financial management practices in Brussels, after the European Court of Auditors declined for the eighth year in succession to pass the European Unionís accounts as reliable.

 

The NAO called on the European Commission for urgent action to deal with the persistent weaknesses in its accounting systems following the Auditors report, which found that some 5,455 cases of fraud and irregularity, involving Ä516.7m of EU money, were reported to the Commission by member states in 2001.

 

EU Commissioner Neil Kinnock has clearly failed to deliver on the mandate on which he was appointed - to clean up the EU's accounts and stamp out gross incidents of fraud. Mr Kinnock sacked Marta Andreasen, the only Chartered Accountant ever to have been employed by the Commission. She was sacked because she questioned the accounts and refused to approve them unless she was given all the facts. Mr. Kinnock should have supported such a diligent worker and he must re-instate her or resign for failing to answer to the European taxpayers he was appointed to serve.

 

Furthermore, any future European Constitutional Treaty must empower elected MEPs to question any EU official and secure access to any information. The Commission continues to block MEPs from execution of their duties by denying them access to vital information. Also, the New Treaty must alter the role of the European Commission so that it no longer initiates legislation. This power should be designated to elected MEPs in the European Parliament. Until the EU realises such reform, it will remain unaccountable and inefficient.

 

 

 

 

 

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