Euro News Monthly March 2011

Alyn with pupils from Stirling High at his DVD launch

This month the campaign trail has taken me all over bonnie Scotland: Dumfries and Galloway, the Highlands, Stirling and East Dunbartonshire. It's good getting out and about and supporting some great candidates.

In other news, I launched my DVD in the Grosvenor cinema in Glasgow's West End. I enjoyed showcasing the DVD to Facebook friends and catching up with some of the stars of the film - students from Stirling High - at the launch (pictured above). I'm frequently asked what do MEPs do and what can the European Parliament do for me? Hopefully the DVD will eliminate confusion and combat some of the myths that surround the EU.

This month I warmly welcomed the passage of the Papastamkos Report on Agriculture and International Trade through the full Parliament. This report gives a clear message to Europe's farmers that the Parliament is on their side when it comes to ensuring that trade negotiations do not sell out agricultural interests.

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MEP Condemns 'UK' High Speed Rail Network

Alyn has written to UK Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, expressing his disappointment that the proposed High Speed Rail Network would fail to reach Scotland and suggesting that the UK government could access EU funding for a more appropriate rail line linking Scotland, through England, with the European mainland through the Channel Tunnel.

Mr Hammond contacted all MEPs, inviting them to respond to the government's strategy in a consultation titled: High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain's Future, which sets out the case for the network, the details of the government's strategy, and the proposed route for an initial phase from London to the West Midlands.

Alyn said:

"Other European countries have proper train investment and proper train services, this document shows that the UK is still lagging behind in ambition.

"Clearly, we want to see Scotland independent, but trains cross the EU's borders every day, and our trains are still going to cross the border and we'll still access the European mainland through the Channel Tunnel. I want to see proper European trains making that journey."

Arguments Aired on Alcohol Labelling

Alyn has played host to the European Parliament seminar 'What is not on the bottle?' this month Politicians, public health experts and the alcohol industry met at the European Parliament in Brussels to discuss labelling of alcoholic beverages, what labelling would be effective and why legislation should be done at the EU level.

The European Parliament is currently debating the Commission's proposal on the "Provision of Food Information to Consumers." Unlike soft drinks and juices, beer, wine and spirits have been exempted from the obligation to list ingredients and provide nutritional information. This is despite the fact that alcohol is high in calorie content, carbohydrates and certain ingredients used in its production can cause allergies or intolerances.

An overwhelming majority of Europeans want to be informed about consequences of drinking; 79% support warning health messages on bottles and 82% are in favour of such warnings on advertisements (Eurobarometer 2009).

Alyn said:

"Pick up just about any beverage on store shelves and you'll find on the packaging information about the calories and ingredients but not if you're picking up an alcoholic drink. It seems bizarre given that alcohol is one of the leading risk factors for death and ill health in the EU, especially among young people.

"Scotland's relationship with alcohol is no secret, and this is where the EU has a particular role to play.

"No one can deny that we have the right to know what is in our drinks and should be informed about the risks we are taking while drinking. One could argue that the industry's strong resistance to labelling alcoholic beverages really should make us all wonder, is the product so bad that it cannot even be labelled? There is certainly a case to be answered. I'm glad this seminar has provided a forum for discussion."

EU Parliament Sued by France Over Strasbourg Circus

Alyn hailed legal action by France against the European Parliament over the ruinous Strasbourg commute, which MEPs voted to slightly curtail in a vote over next year's calendar.

France has reportedly lodged papers with the European Court of Justice claiming the move is illegal, commencing a legal case which will, for the first time, bring the scandalous implications, not least the 200,000,000 euro cost, of the ruinous commute into the open. MEPs must, by EU law, meet 12 times a year in Strasbourg even though a clear majority are opposed and would rather be based full-time in Brussels.

Alyn said: "Strasbourg- the town- is a bonnie wee place, I've nothing against it, but for a modern legislature to be based in two places (as well as the secretariat in Luxembourg!) is inefficient, wasteful and quite indefensible."

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