Euro News Monthly October 2009

Alyn speaking at the SNP conference, Inverness 15-18 October

October has been a busy month to say the least!

The 75th Annual Conference of the SNP took place in the new Eden Court Theatre in Inverness. This year's conference proved just as stimulating, enjoyable and eventful, as ever. At conference, I announced that I have been confirmed as the sole Scots voice on an influential Committee of Inquiry established by the European Parliament to look into the causes of the global financial crisis. The Committee will provisionally exist for a year, and has a remit to explore the reasons behind the financial crisis, and recommend what measures should be implemented, and where, to remedy any regulatory failings it finds. I'm absolutely delighted to have secured a place on this Committee. There are so many lessons to be learned from the financial disaster that befell the Scottish, European and world economies, and this Committee will be at the heart of that work in Europe.

October also saw Ireland vote yes to the Lisbon Treaty. I see this as a signal for the EU to streamline and move forward but as an opportunity missed for Scotland. The power to decide was in the hands of the Irish population and I hope it will not be long before Scotland also can play its part in shaping the future path of the EU.

There has been a lot of promising, policy moves forward this month, but also a few disappointing steps backwards. I hope you enjoy reading about these in this month's newsletter.

Light at the End of the Transmission Tunnel - Smith Welcomes EU Moves Against Transmission Charges

Smith welcomed the news that the European Commission (EC) has sent a letter to the UK government about the UK transmission charges methodology being discriminatory against the development of renewables in the North of Scotland.

OFGEM, the UK organisation which regulates the gas and electricity networks, operates a pricing structure that ensures electricity generators seeking to connect to the grid pay increased charges the further away from "the market" they are. This leads to electricity generators in Scotland paying considerably higher charges than others further south.

The letter from the European Commission is a direct result of a Parliamentary Question (PQ) lodged by Smith on September 7, calling for the EC to take action against the UK government on the issue.

Smith has the backing of the entire renewables sector, and has identified the charging regime as one of the biggest hindrances to the development of the renewables sector in Scotland. The battle to do away with this discriminatory regime has been long-running and the letter signifies the first big step towards changes.

In the letter, the EC asks the UK government to explain the system and to show it does not discriminate. The letter is not public and it is not clear when the UK government has to send a reply. Only following such an investigation can the Commission determine whether or not infringement proceedings are appropriate. Smith said:

"This is excellent news for Scotland and I am delighted to hear that this issue is being tackled head on.

"With the new Renewables Directive in place, the Commission now has muscles to flex and clearly they are not scared to show these off; highlighted by the fact that the EC has gone to the unusual lengths of issuing a letter to the UK government asking them to explain their actions

"I am confident the Commission can fix this problem once and for all, so the often talked of broad "energy potential" becomes a reality."

Smith Calls on Scottish Government to Follow Finland

Smith applauded Finland for being the first country to make Broadband access a legal right this week and hopes it will set the benchmark for other countries, like Scotland, to follow suit. Smith said:

"Scotland as a whole has to stay connected with the modern digital world and I'm sure the Scottish Government will to do everything to ensure we do"

EU Milk Crisis Turns Sour

carton of milkSmith reacted with dismay when the Parliament backed European Commission proposals to include milk and dairy products in the 'Common Market Organisation.' This gives increased powers to the European Commission to intervene in the milk market, as a condition for an additional 280 million euro to be returned to member state governments ostensibly to assist milk producers through the current downturn, though without any guarantees this will actually be the purpose. The Commission proposal also now replaces the previously agreed Milk Fund, which was due to come into force in January and was designed to directly assist producers. Smith, and the Green European Free Alliance Group, voted against the proposals on the grounds that the Commission has in fact created the crisis by a combination of misguided or tardy action and inaction in the face of clear data the sector is in crisis. Smith said:

"This was blackmail of the worst sort from the Commission, and it is a shame that a number of my colleagues happily caved in for the sake of a quick headline. There is no doubting that Europe's dairy farming is in crisis, but 'we must do something, this is something, therefore we must do this' is a bad logic which we see all too often in EU politics."

Recap Of Recent Events

01/10/09- Smith Nominated In MEP of the Year Awards Again

Smith, the only Scot in the awards this year, has been nominated the previous two years, for his work in the energy field in 2008 and on regional development policy in 2007. The shortlist of three MEPs in each category will be voted on by fellow MEPs, and the winner announced in Brussels on 3 November.

03/10/09- Smith Urges Sport Clubs to Have Their Say in Europe

Smith has called on Scotland's sports organisations to help him influence EU policy on sport by participating in an online survey which has been launched by the European Commission. The survey comes as part of preparations for the European Year of Volunteering in 2011, and seeks to find out what barriers exist to volunteering across Scotland and the EU and what measures are needed to help clubs flourish. To take part in the survey follow the link below:

22/10/09- Smith Hails Real Achievement on Farm Prices

The full Parliament in Strasbourg backed Smith's proposal for the creation of a "European Farm Prices and Margin Observatory" with a budget of 1.5 million euro to report upon the gap between the prices consumers pay for food and the price the farmer receives. Smith said:

"I was hopeful this would go through and it turns out I was right to be. This is great news and real action over an issue we have been talking about for too long without really addressing it."

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