Category Archives: Group 4

European Commission should increase strictness on Environment

Nicole Cairns

Countries such as Poland are not abiding by European standards on the environment.

The European Commission’s follow through and enforcement of environmental legislation has shown to be a concern.  Many countries have not adhered to a range of standards outlined in legalisation by the European Parliament.
Poland has not been meeting a range of standards that are required of the European Union.   Eva Lichtenberger, Green Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and the rapporteur for annual report on the implementation and enforcement of EU law, showed her concern about the situation.

The European Parliament, Strasbourg

“The European Parliament is very ambitious when it comes to environmental standards” she said. “It is a major problem when less significant problems, and infringements incur consequences, and yet there is not enough respect for the environment that consequences are taken seriously.”

Lichtenberger posed an thought provoking question: “If a two year old EU legislation doesn’t get respected, we need to then ask why do we make laws for if no one respects them?”
Areas for Poland to improve

In February of this year, the Europa website released a range of press releases explaining their communication with Poland over different environmental issues.  Poland is soon to be taken to the European Court of Justice over not adhering to the EU nature protection law, where birds have not been protected.  Also according to the articles, Poland has been sent a reasoned opinion due after not complying with the standards for their quality of surface water.  They have also received another reasoned opinion over failing to protect their seas, as well not meeting requirements to reduce pollution to levels that minimise the harmful effects on human health and the environment.  If these matters aren’t responded to in the next two months, the Commission will take them to the Member State Court of Justice.
Lichtenberger recognised that the environment is not Poland’s number one priority currently.  “New countries to the EU have a focus on economic policy and growth and then with the growth, time and finances can and then will take care of the environment”.

European Commission must do more

Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter criticises the commission for not enforcing the standards.  “The Parliament puts in place very high standards, but the commission has always been very relaxed when it comes to the environment, and the council has always been the weakest” said Schlyter.
Lichtenberger agreed with this: “The environment is big reluctance of the commission”.    Lichtenberger also blamed Barroso.  “Less has been done since Barosso has been in power as the environment is not a priority to him, hence the commission don’t act”.
“It is so important that the European Parliament, and the Commission act in a transparent way.  Citizens should be able to clearly see what the issues are and how they are being enforced.  That way, concerns can be heard, and the Parliament and Commission can act on the situation for what it really is” Lichtenberger explained.

Polish MEP states Poland’s case

Polish MEP Boguslaw Sonik from the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) has seen an improvement within Poland in regards to the environment.

“Environmental awareness has increased incredibly amongst Polish people over the last decade.  People no longer look at being environmentally friendly as being forced into an annoying task, but rather an investment for the future,” says Sonik.

Boguslaw also explains that it has been an issue of the economy why more has been done.  “If we reacess how Poland’s revolution in 1989 was only 20 years ago, we can see how Poland is a young country and how our priority has been rebuilding our economy, rather than making changes to the environment that we are now implementing.”

When the Commission halted the construction of the Via Baltica (highway) through an EU Natura 2000 protected area of the Rospuda Valley, Poland learnt a lesson stated Sonik.  “Decision makers in Poland after that incident realised the importance of abiding by the European Union guidelines.  You can’t outwit such a large body,” he said.

Environment continues to fall behind in many countries

Flags of the European Union in Parliament House

Poland is not the only country with environmental concerns.  Schlyter sees Spain as the country with the most concerns within the European Union, as they are failing to meet requirements met within the Kyoto Protocol.
Swedish Green MEP Isabella Lovin, working on the fishery issues, sees the same issues with Iceland.  “If Iceland wants to be a part of the European Union, they must sign up to all of the policies.  Fisheries are part of those policies… Of course Iceland can apply for an exemption on the matter, there are exemptions to many policies, but I don’t think that EU will make an exemption for this matter”
New plans

On the 8th of March a new energy efficiency plan was introduced. In a press conference discussing this new plan, Danish EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard has been asked what is being done to enforce new and old policies on the environment many times. She has the view of looking at each country uniquely, and examining their unique situation before enforcing consequences.

“You cannot compare countries.  Richer countries like Denmark and Sweden are in a different situation to Romania and Bulgaria. In the past EU countries have not held standards for the environment. Even the most energy efficient countries can do more”.

Lichtenberger says that Poland has the resources and knowledge to make improvements now; it just has to become their priority.  “Poland has excellent technicians who should be given a chance go develop ways of becoming a more environmentally friendly society, as an alternative to money being invested further into the coal industry.”
Sonik as seen changes and believes they will continue only to get stronger.  “Slowly we are able to see the changes in the Polish mentality” he said.


Libya: The Gordian Knot of EU’s foreign policy

By Jana Vrbková


During the last ten years, only three international incidents had such a significant impact as to warrant an extraordinary meeting of the European Council: the September 11 attacks, the Iraqi war and the Georgian war. However, the recent turmoils in Middle East and North Africa – especially the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya – have forced the European Union to once again call for such an emergency gathering of leaders of the 27 member states.


The result of the assembly held on 11th March in Brussels is a declaration supporting the democratic uprisings in the region, as well as vowing to ensure the safety of the civilian population of Libya under the attack of the pro-regime forces by “all necessary means”. To this end, the European Union is planning to cooperate not only with the United Nations, but also with the African Union and the Arab League. However, while the 27 European nations are unanimous in their demand for Gaddafi’s immediate demission, the opinions on what actions should be actually taken in order to achieve this goal differ greatly among the respective countries involved. Just as they seem to differ even between the various institutions of the European Union itself, too.


The Libyan rebels themselves are absolutely clear in their request for international help, though. “We need all kind of assistance,” stated Mahmoud Jebril, a delegate of the self-appointed Libyan Interim Transitional National Council, during his brief visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Pleading the cause of the anti-government rebels a day before the parliament’s voting on a resolution concerning Libya, the Head of the Crisis Committee has briefed the members of the European Parliament as well as a group of media representatives on the core areas of EU’s potential assistance: official international recognition of the rebel-led Council as the representatives of Libyan people, humanitarian aid and limited military support. “For the no-fly zone – if that’s the way for us to stop this killing machine, then so be it. But under one condition. No physical presence of any foreign soldier on Libyan soil,” the delegate resolutely drew the line for any possible further international military intervention.


The fight over a no-fly zone


Yet while the very idea of an internationally imposed and externally maintained no-fly zone over Libya, supported mainly by England and France – as well as being backed by the United States and the Arab League – seems to perfectly fulfil the Council’s conditions, in reality, the same demands might turn the establishing and upholding of such a demilitarized air zone, which would prevent the pro-government armed forces from launching air attacks on civilians, into an unfeasible goal.


“This is a non-starter,” argued Steve Clemons, the founder and senior fellow of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation in his analysis for BBC. “The systems required to maintain on-going surveillance and interdiction of aircraft are considerable and cannot all be run from near-docked ships and from NATO’s military base in southern Italy,” he pointed out, adding that a no-fly zone is also a “very high-cost, low-return tactic” with only a limited military impact, while simultaneously carrying potentially enormous political risks.


Nevertheless, in its voting on 10th March, the European Parliament has adopted a resolution supporting a potential no-fly zone with an overwhelming majority of 584 votes (compared to the remaining 18 votes against and 18 abstained). The subsequent extraordinary meeting of the European Council, which took place only a day later, however, was far from being as unequivocal in its discussions about Libya.


While only one of parliamentary political groups – the rather small European United Left/ Nordic Green Left group – has expressed itself against the notion of any external military intervention in the discussion preceding the parliamentary voting in Strasbourg, in Brussels, leaders of several European countries have voiced their reluctance to take such a step. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that she would reconsider the establishing of a no-fly military zone only if a legal base for it were to exist. Václav Klaus, the president of Czech Republic, went as far as to liken the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya to a “declaration of war”.

The fight over the future


The Czech leader, otherwise well known for his sceptical view of the European Union, has also expressed his disagreement with another of the steps of EU’s newly adopted policy towards Libya. Even with the European Parliament and the European Council both agreeing on Interim Transitional National Council becoming European Union’s new “political interlocutor” in the region, Klaus has called this decision a “complete mistake”.


“As we, Czechs, would say among ourselves – some kind of a national council has basically formed itself in Benghazi, in the east of Libya, and declared itself a government,” Karel Schwarzenberg, the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs, elaborated on the critical nature of the Czech stance towards the rebel-led Council. He also pointed out that two of the Interim Transitional National Council members used to be members of Muammar Gaddafi’s government, with Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the Chairman of the council himself, being the former Libyan Minister of Justice and the Commander in Chief of the council’s armed forces, Abdul Fatah Younis, being Gaddafi’s former Minister of Interior.


In the light of European Union’s ambiguous past relations with Muammar Gaddafi, as well as the recent calls for the EU to support democracy instead of stability in the North African and Middle Eastern region, the statements made by the Czech president and Minister of Foreign Affairs take the shine out off the newly formed partnership between the European Union and the anti-Gaddafi movement, which should have symbolized the beginning of a new era in EU’s neighbouring policy.


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A Mother’s Way Into High Politics

A Mother’s way into high politics

By: Anne-Cathrine Jensen

While the European Parliament pledges the businesses of Europe to use quotas to enforce more women on boards, no quotas has been introduced to ensure women on boards within the European Parliament. But that does not mean the topic is left unattended.

As a politician the way into the European Parliament is simple. You will have to be voted in in your own country. That does not mean that the task is easy, but the way to the Parliament lies in the hands of the voters of the member states, not the Parliament.

Currently 35% of members of the European Parliament are women. This number is the highest ever, but the work is not nearly done.

The way in is the longest

According to Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Christel Schaldemose from the Socialists and Democrats, the difficulty does not lie in climbing the ranks but in simply entering the Parliament.

“In order to be voted into the European Parliament you will have to work hard in your party in your own country.  The voter rarely has deep knowledge about the Parliament and sometimes it comes down to where on the voting list your name is placed,” she says. But Schaldemose also fears that the time consuming tasks and trips will hold back many women with children and families back home.

This issue is a grand reason for lack of female candidates confirms Vivian Reding, European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental rights and Citizenship:

“Motherhood certainly affects the candidacy of women. When men become fathers they enter he workforce more strongly, and when women become mothers they leave the workforce,” she says.

Taking into consideration that 60% of the European University graduates are woman, a hole occurs when women leave politics to become mothers. And with all the travelling and long sessions within the Parliament, there is no guarantee for women coming back to high politics, once their maternity leave is over.

Numbers do not lie

Within the Parliament six women out of 14 vice-presidents have been appointed in a large-scale attempt to ensure gender equality. Also in the different parties, more women are granted high positions. But the efforts differ within the parties.

Parties who defend gender equality like ALDE, The Greens and The Socialist and Democrats divide the top positions almost equally between men and women.

But the Parliament’s biggest party, the European People’s Party (EPP group) is falling behind on gender equality. Within the board, vice-presidents, chairmen and national leaders only one out of six politicians are a woman.

Are quotas necessary?

Female Vice-President of the Parliament and member of the EPP group Rodi Kratsa informs that the Parliament will look in to more areas than just the businesses, and that female politician leaders are just as important as female business leaders. But as a member of the EPP group she does not feel that her party lacks equality. 

“We have not within the party considered quotas, but we will of course notice how well the Parliaments suggestion is received by the European businesses,” she says.

So far no control has been introduced to monitor the gender equality within the parties of The European Parliament.

The pay gap

According to Rodi Kratsa, Vice President of the European Parlament, we can not just look into women’s rights when trying to maintain women in high positions.

Men as well are being mistreated in a manor that will affect women’s chances in politics. Latest have the Parliament ensured maternity leave for both men and women. But where women are given 20 weeks maternity leave men are only granted two weeks. This prevents fathers from being able to help out, if the mother is in a high political position. Furthermore the pay gap in Europe does not make things easier. Men earn averagely 18% more than women. Rodi Kratsa explains that in the specific circumstances of a child birth, not even equal options for maternity leave will help the inequality.

“The logical choice when one person in a family needs to stay home and take care of a child is that the person with the highest income keeps working,” she says and continues: “And returning to a time consuming job is for many women out of the question once they have settled into motherhood.”

Vivian Reding is deeply concerned with the major pay gap in Europe. She states that it is not even a question of genders, but a question of equal pay for equal jobs.

“Right now women have to work 66 days more per year to earn the same amount of money as their male colleagues. But the female year is not 66 days longer,” she says and agrees with the women staying at home while the men continue to work. It is obvious that the highest income should continue working.

Nothing is impossible

MEP Christel Schaldemose made her way to the Parliament with three children at home. But she admits that it would not be possible if her husband did not take care of the kids and worked only 30 hours a week.

“If you are active, hard working and able to create alliances you can make your way anywhere including the EU,” she says. She made her own way and has not felt any need for quotas after entering the Parliament.

“Within the European Parliament I don’t believe in legislation but in the good example. We just need to create an environment where women CAN advance,” she states.

The consequences of not instating gender equality are many and hard to achieve. But as the MEP’s describe they do not only affect the women within the European Parliament. Men as well can be given more choices in family life, if they are ensured equal rights to maternity leave, and are not the main income.

President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek emphasizes that the member states are responsible of bringing more women into Parliament positions, in order for the Parliament to put them into high positions.

“The needs to narrow the gender pay gap and bring women into decision making positions are adopted in a new resolution,” he announced at a press conference on the of March. The resolution was adopted with 366 pro-votes, which proves that not only women voted in favor of the resolution.

 After all gender is a business issue, not just a woman’s issue.

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The UN is in no urgency to implement a no-fly zone on Libya


Although both the European Union and the Arab league stressed the need for a no-fly zone on Libya, the UN is still standing still concerning this particular subject.

Zainab Al.Dabbagh

On Wednesday, March 2nd, there was a warplane attack on Libyan rebels causing up to 6000 casualties reported Al-Masry Al-Yom, and Egyptian newspaper. MSNBC reported that the Libyan rebels are training to use anti aircraft weapons to stop the air attacks that ends lives upon lives of civilians and rebels in Libya. Those attacks went for three days in a row, which led the rebels to request a no-fly zone.

The EU and the UN as well as NATO started dealing with the Libyan affairs since the mid-February. They started with implementing sanctions and placing embargos on weapons. Nevertheless, those actions were a few of the many they said that they are willing to take, which led Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a French MEP, questioned the credibility of the plans of the EU saying, “Let’s be frank, for years we were in fact with the dictatorship, supporting Gaddafi because we had an agreement with him. Now we stopped talking to Gaddafi, Mazel tov, congratulations, but what else?”


All Talk and Finally Action

On March 9, 2011 a debate was held in the European Parliament discussing the current issue in Libya and the importance of imposing a no-fly zone. Opinions varied after Commissioner Catherine Ashton opened the session with the speech saying that immediate action needs to be taken. The priorities, for Commissioner Ashton, were; providing aid to the civilians in need, stopping the violence and the crimes against humanity. Another concern of Ashton was the expected number of refugees that might escape to the EU Mediterranean states. She stated: “ending the violence is a prerequisite to everything”. C            ohn-Bendit on the other hand disagreed with Ashton, supporting the possibility of the many refugees saying that Europe should stand to its own values.

Martin Schulz agreed with Ashton saying that in order to achieve peace in the region, there needs to be a marshal plan by the EU. He said, “If we really want to stabilize the Southern region, they should get what we already have”

Miguel Portas disagreed with the no-fly zone saying, “This is a general historical movement that will bring democracy to the Arab world”. He mentioned that in order for Libya to follow Tunisia and Egypt’s steps, it should create its own destiny and the EU should not Militarily interfere.

Bruno Gollnisch agreed with Portas adding that the EU should give Gaddafi another option. EU should offer Gaddafi the option of keeping his assets and moving to another country, maybe then he will step down and put an end to the violence in Libya, said Gollnisch.

Whereas, Charles Tannock stated blatantly that he disagrees with MEP Gollnisch and he is for the no-fly zone and for the military intervention for the EU has no other choice to end the crimes against humanity that are taking place in Libya.

In a press conference on the same day that received two of the former Libyan ministers; Dr. Mahmoud Jebril and Dr. Ali Al-Esawi, that altered sides. It was mentioned that Libya would prefer the EU to recognize the Libyan rebels as a legitimate government and refrain from any military interference.

The next day, on March 10th, 2011 a voting session was held to decide what action should the EU take concerning Libya. The majority voted for the no fly zone hence it has been adopted and recommended to the UN.

Requests for action

On Saturday, March 12th, 2011, the Arab League asked the “United Nations to shoulder its responsibility … to impose a no-fly zone over the movement of Libyan military planes and to create safe zones in the places vulnerable to air strikes.”

The UN nevertheless is prudent in approving and recommending the no-fly zone to NATO in fear that it will have to be drawn into the internal conflict of Libya. If the no-fly zone was implemented, there will be a necessarily to eradicate the anti-aircraft capabilities, reported the Associated Press.

Also, in the European Parliament debate about the issue, many expressed the need to implement the no-fly zone to stop the mascaras and regarded Gaddafi as a maniac and in denial. “He brings to mind a figure such as Saddam,” said Amr el-Shobaki, an Egyptian political analyst told the Associated Press.



Over to the UN

After the recommendation from the EU, the UN is still standing still and ignoring the stress of immediate action that is to be taken towards Gaddafi and Libya.

Imposing a no-fly zone over Libya is “perfectly deliverable” said the UK prime minister, David Cameron to the BBC. He emphasized the importance for the UN to take instantaneous action.

France and the UK are leading the movement of the no-fly zone amongst the EU member states, while other countries are being vigilant to the idea and the aftermath of imposing it, Reported CNN.

After the invasion of Iraq, bruised feelings at the U.N. also exist. This time, it is the United States that is taking a conscious advance while the Arab League is requesting immediate military action on one of its own suspended members.

Mr. Cameron reasoned that that the world has seen several uprising against dictator, and it would be a bad message if they were crushed, reported BBC.

So far there’s no urgency concerning the vote on the no-fly zone by the UN, which is causing controversy between different EU member states.

What Now?

Hillary Clinton, the secretary state of the United States of America said that executing a no-fly zone is a decision made by the UN and not by Washington. Clinton mentioned that the United States is not looking for another debacle like the one they faced in Iraq. She stated that the fact that the movement came from the people of Libya is very important, reported Al-Jazira.

As opinions differ, there are no specific measures in play at the moment, costing more lives of rebels and civilians in Libya. The humanitarian aid on the other hand is continuing its way through the Libyan boarders from many countries, including several EU member states.


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