Euro News Monthly May 2010

Now the election dust and atmospheric ash has temporarily settled, normal Parliamentary business has resumed. Well, relatively normal! May was very much pre-occupied with the Westminster elections. We have tilled the soil for the Scottish elections and should remain optimistic for the impending elections but we need to put our foot on the accelerator and work hard.

This week I visited Carbrain Primary School in Cumbernauld. I was delighted to be able to talk to the pupils and I was impressed by the level of interest in the subject, and the quality of the questions asked.

This month, I called on the European Parliament to pass the final version of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive calls on Member States to set s out that by 2020, all new buildings must be nearly net zero energy. When this piece of legislation was passed last year in First Reading, I expressed my concern at the fact that what it was asking local authorities to do was perhaps a wee bit too ambitious. So, I'm delighted that the final agreement reflects key COSLA concerns - particularly the need for national governments to fully involve local authorities in all stages of the implementation of the Directive, and to provide them all kinds of assistance as required. Next week I am in Sweden but I will fill you in on that in next month's newsletter!

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Smith Urges Westminster to Steer Road Safety in the Right Direction

Smith is calling on newly appointed UK Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond to end years of UK foot dragging and implement an EU system that could save thousands of lives each year across the continent by enabling cars to report their own crashes. Most other EU countries are implementing the system but the UK has, so far, refused to make it mandatory for new cars.

The eCall system is an extension of the e112 scheme, which automatically provides geographical information when an emergency call is made using 999 in the UK, or 112 anywhere in Europe. The device automatically calls the nearest emergency centre and transmits the exact location of the accident. The system can potentially halve emergency response times; reduce the severity of injuries and save the lives of around 2,500 people every year. The MEP has the backing of a number of Road Safety experts.

Andrew Howard, Head of Road Safety at the AA said:

"The AA supports eCall and is involved in a number of private initiatives to bring it to UK cars in the near future."

Animal Transport Raised in Agriculture Committee

SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Mr Alyn Smith received an assurance from the EU's Health Commissioner John Dalli that there will be no new rules on animal transport until at least mid 2011, and that the Commission is currently focussing on finding better ways to enforce the current rules rather than, necessarily, seeking to impose wholly new ones. Smith was not alone in raising the thorny issue of transport with both Scots, as well as a number of British and Irish MEPs emphasising the point that there is little need for new rules when the problems which are regularly brought forward centre invariably upon poor enforcement by some member state authorities.

After the meeting, Smith said:

"This was a useful session with the Commissioner, which has shed a little light into the Commission's thinking on a number of dossiers.

"On animal transport, I'm heartened, but only a little. Mr Dalli was clear that the Commission is indeed assessing the state of enforcement of the existing animal transport rules, and we can expect this report, according to him, in mid 2011 so we do have a degree of breathing space. However, we'll need to keep an eye on it."

Smith Congratulates Euro-Quiz Champions

Smith congratulated St Mary's (Duntocher) Primary School after their victory in the Scotland-wide Euroquiz.

400 schools and 1,600 pupils competed in the local heats and St Mary's battled it out with Drymen for the top trophy.The annual Euroquiz is a competition for P6 pupils and has been run by the Scottish European Educational Trust (SEET) since 1993. The final was held in the main chamber of the Scottish Parliament on May 10.

Smith said: " Euroquiz covers a broad range of curricular areas such as history, geography, culture and politics and is a fantastic experience and learning curve for P6 pupils.

"I have visited the school before and was impressed by the level of interest in the EU, and the quality of the questions the pupils asked. Their high level of knowledge on European matters is staggering at such a relatively young age and puts many adults to shame. It is extremely refreshing to find youngsters who are interested in the democratic process; young people like them are democracy's hope for the future.

"I suspect I will bump into some of these talented Euro-experts either in the corridors of the EU Parliament or the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament in the future."

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