Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Dutch 'No' would put another nail in the coffin of EU Constitution - Mary Lou McDonald

After the comments of Paisley on 'Give Ulster A Spade And We'll Bury Abominable Document', Mary Lou McDonald made also some macabre comparisons as she "said that another No vote in the forthcoming referendum in Holland would 'put to rest the argument that somehow the wounded constitution can stagger on." More here

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FG asks clarification on EU Battle Groups

FG issued this statement on the the participation of Ireland in EU battle groups: "Billy Timmins TD, Fine Gael Defence Spokesperson, has today (Tuesday) called on the Minister for Defence to, once and for all, make a decision on Ireland’s participation in EU battle groups. Deputy Timmins added that this matter is separate from any debates on the EU Constitution and must be considered so. For months now, the Government has been treading water on the issue of EU battle groups, unable or unwilling to make a clear decision regarding Ireland’s participation. The time has come for the Government to make a clear statement as to whether Ireland will participate in an EU battle group, and to clarify which other Member States we will cooperate with in our participation." More here

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Britain will not have a Referendum if the Dutch say No

According to the FT: "If the Dutch vote No, Mr Straw is expected to tell the Commons next Monday that the government is immediately suspending parliamentary passage of the European treaty bill. On Monday night a senior government figure said: “We still support the treaty and it is necessary to have the institutional changes that come with it. But we will say that we need clarity as to the constitution's future before we can proceed any further with ratification in this country.”


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De Villepin PM

According to Le Monde, Dominique de Villepin is the new French Prime Minister.

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Treaty is dead say Unionists MEPs

Yesterday's edition of the Belfast Telegraph reports that: "Northern Ireland's MEPs today (Monday) demanded that the British Government accept that the new European constitution is dead after its firm rejection in France. DUP MEP, Jim Allister, warned that the Government must not attempt to introduce parts of the constitution, which included a permanent European President and a single European Foreign Minister, "by stealth or the back door". Ulster Unionist MEP, Jim Nicholson, said: "I can see no useful purpose for the United Kingdom going ahead with its referendum because the constitution is dead." But former MEP, DUP leader Ian Paisley, today insisted the referendum should still go ahead - so that the British people can have their say and "finally bury" the constitution. Mr Paisley, an MEP for 25 years, said: "The British nation must insist on the burial of this European constitution or the Blair government, which are its most ardent supporters, will return to it again and again as they have done with the Belfast Agreement." His former Euro-colleague, Ulster Unionist Lord Kilclooney, said: "The people of Europe, including Northern Ireland, support co-operation within Europe by sovereign States - they do not approve of a totally integrated Europe."

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Irish Referendum in Jeopordy if Dutch vote No?

The Irish Examiner asks the question of the future of the Irish referendum if the Dutch rejects the Treaty. The paper reports that Dermot Ahern acknowledged that: “if the French referendum started a rolling No with the Dutch [tomorrow] and so on, it would cause us severe difficulty.” Green Party chairman John Gormley TD said that pressing ahead with ratification when the French had said No, and with the Dutch expected to do likewise, was “completely illogical.” Concerns coming from Bernard Allen, the FG spokesperson are also published: “We want the EU heads of government to make a considered assessment of the implications of the French result and of the result of the impending referendum in the Netherlands.” In the meantime SF wants to scrap the referendum: “It is all very well to say that the Government are just going to push ahead, but what are they going to push ahead with?” asked party chairperson and MEP Mary Lou McDonald. “The constitution has been rejected in France, so it does not have the unanimous support which it requires to come into force.”

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Monday, May 30, 2005

FG wants 'assesment' in the light of the French vote

An official communique from FG spokesman, Bernard Allen TD, today (Monday) 'said that no decision should be made on the timing of a Referendum on the European Constitution in Ireland until the EU Heads of Government assess the implications of the French ‘No’ Vote. Deputy Allen added that Fine Gael still strongly backs the constitution and believe it is strongly in the interest of Ireland.'

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McDonald Congratulates the French

In a SF communique, Mary Lou McDonald said: "I want to congratulate the people of France on their success in having the EU Constitution rejected. Over the last month there has been a very intense debate in France, the people have now spoken and their wishes must be respected. I have no doubt that the French 'NON' will give huge heart to all those who are opposed to the EU Constitution and the French success will be repeated in states across the European Union." Update: McDonald attacks D. Ahern on the date of the Referendum:" is it all very well to say that the government are just going to push ahead, but what are they going to push ahead with?"

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Irish Government reaffirmed its intention to go ahead with a referendum

Reuters reports that "Ireland said on Sunday it would go ahead with its own referendum on the European constitution despite France having rejected the treaty. "For our part, the government is continuing to prepare for ratification of the European constitution by the target date of November 2006," a government spokesman said. The government published a bill on Thursday in parliament which would enable Ireland to stage its own referendum. Those plans have not changed, officials said.Dublin said it very much regretted the French decision but said it was important that the European Union move forward in a "considered and united way." "We have recently published the referendum bill and look forward to the start of the debate in parliament," it said. "The government remains firmly of the view that a European constitution is strongly in Ireland's interest and in that of the European Union as a whole." Meanwhile, Reuters reports that: "Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Sunday France's rejection of the European Union constitution raised profound questions about the future of the bloc and should be followed by a period of reflection. Straw said Britain, which takes over the EU's rotating presidency in July, would respect the result of the French."

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Allister congratulates the French

Here is the commmunique from Jim Allister: "I greatly welcome the resounding rejection of the EU Constitution by the people of France. This result illustrates how out of touch Governments can be with their people on issues of key national importance. The people of France have shown great courage and insight in refusing to be browbeat into a ‘Yes’ vote by their political elite." More here

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France Rejects the Treaty

According to France Info, the French have voted at 54-56% against the Treaty. Participation seems to have been very high, between 70-80%. This 'big' no will have some consequences on French politics but also in the rest of Europe. Questions are already asked about who is going to replace J. P. Raffarin as Prime Minister (Sarkozy? de Villepin?). Chirac said that 'France will continue to take the place its deserve in the European construction...EU will continue to work on the basis of the existing Treaties...French decision makes it difficult for us to defend our interests...A new governmental impulsion will be given...I will let you know in the next few days.'Le Pen and de Villiers asked for the demission of Chirac. No supporters are partying Place de la Bastille in Paris. I got some bits of Sarkozy's speech: "French got passionate with this debate, showing a desire to be associtate with the European Construction...French said no...it is a major political event...We need to hear what the French have said...We need to stop with our immobilism and our habits...French want a more protectionist and democratic Europe...We need to research with our partner to make work a Union whose institutions are not adequate for so many countries...Europe should listened to the people...We need a major turn in our economic policies...a difficult period is in front of us." My understanding is that Sarkozy will become the next PM on Tuesday or Wednesday and that he will have an input in shaping the renegotiation of the Treaty. Hollande regrets the No and puts the blame on Chirac and the government. Bayrou also wants a more democratic Europe and asks a national consultation for getting France out of the crisis.

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Irish Labour Party in Favour of the Treaty

RTE news reports that: "The Labour Party conference has concluded with delegates deciding that the party will support the EU constitution when an Irish referendum is held. The conference in Tralee voted overwhelmingly in favour of supporting the constitution...MEP Proinsias de Rossa claimed the Constitution had left wing values, and was a 'slap in the face for Thatcherism." Ireland on Line also reports that he has also said that the Treaty "will merely ensure more accountability over decisions made in Brussels. The party has given the constitution overwhelming backing in a vote at its annual delegate conference in Tralee, County Kerry. Mr de Rossa said that a YES vote in an Irish referendum would not oblige us to sign up to a joint defence policy."

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Nicholson hits out over local red tape

Farming Life reports that James Nicholson said that: "Serious questions must be asked by DARD as to why it is that on every directive that is implemented Northern Ireland farmers lose out while other farmers in Europe gain. This is not an EU problem, this is a local administrative and interpretation of EU directives problem where the farmer is afforded no assistance or way out."

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Allister attacked the Treaty at the EP

During the debate on the motion of censure on Barroso introduced by the UKIP Nigel Farage, which he had signed alongside Mary Lou MacDonald and Bairbre de Brun, Allister said last Wednesday: "I take this opportunity to distance myself from the ritual obeisance to the Constitution that appears in recital A. Alas, this besotted committee feels it cannot speak without showing cringing deference to the ill-fated Constitution, ever peddling the lie that it will deepen democracy, when in reality it is asset-stripping every nation state of more democracy and more power."

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Sunday Times attacks pro-EU politicians

An anti-elitist article in today's Sunday Times, by Alan Ruddock, attacks Dermot and Bertie Ahern. On Dermot: "when he says blithely that whatever happens in France or the Netherlands, we will plough on with our own referendum, he may get plaudits from Brussels but he will win few friends at home." On pro-EU politicians: "Politicians who know how to be humble on a domestic issue have no problem lecturing their voters pompously about the great future they are building for all of us, if only we could see."

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

SF launched a two day conference on the Treaty

SF has started this Saturday a two-day conference on the Treaty. Speeches of Mary Lou McDonald and Bairbre de Brun are already available on Sinn Fein website.

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Ahern defends the Treaty

Reuters reports that the Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, is "eager to defuse "No" campaigners, on Friday (and) denied (that) the constitution would bring neutral Ireland closer to being involved in a military alliance. "The existing prohibition in the Irish constitution on Ireland's participation in any EU common defence will remain," Ahern wrote in the Irish Times. "There is nothing in the European constitution that affects our policy of military neutrality or the triple lock," he added. The so-called "triple lock" means that a government decision, parliamentary approval and U.N. authorisation would all be needed before Irish troops are committed to any overseas operation. No date has been set yet for the referendum in Ireland, which has been a major benefactor from EU cash to update its poor infrastructure... Pitching a "Yes" vote to his compatriots, Ahern said: "The constitution reflects Europe's values, extends new rights to Europe's citizens, strengthens Europe's role in the world and simplifies decision-making in the enlarged EU."


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Rabbitte agrees with the Referendum bill

Ireland On-Line reports that Labour leader Pat Rabbitt 'agreed to the EU Constitution Bill...but only after it got assurances on the triple-lock mechanism on defence policy and that major changes in the Treaty would need the backing of a national referendum.'

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Success story for the Cruise Belfast Initiative

An article on the Travel Daily News reports that 'the award-winning Cruise Belfast Initiative, a partnership between the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau (BVCB) and the Port of Belfast is looking forward to a successful 2005 cruise season with the announcement that 16 cruise ships are visiting Belfast this summer...BVCB is a partnership organisation funded by Belfast City Council and the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation administered by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and sponsored by Diageo NI.'

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Friday, May 27, 2005

Germany Ratified the Treaty

Germany is the ninth member state to have ratified the Treaty reports the EUObserver. The other member states who have already ratified the Treaty are Lithuania, Hungary, Greece, Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Slovakia and on all of them, only Spain has put it to a referendum.

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‘False’ Anti-EU Campaign in France Offers Lessons to Ireland said Bernard Allen

An official communique from FG said that: "Bernard Allen TD, Fine Gael Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, has today (Friday) expressed concern that much of the debate on the EU Constitution in France has focused on matters that are not relevant to the treaty, and has called for the Government to ensure that a debate on the provisions of the Constitution alone takes place in Ireland." More here

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Mary Lou McDonald asks for a date for the Referendum

In a communique, Mary Lou McDonald, reacting to the publication of the government's referendum proposals, said: 'Now that the proposals have been published, it‚s time for the government to set the date for the referendum on the EU Constitution. Sinn Féin is calling for the referendum to be put before the people this Autumn.' SF is hosting a conference this week-end on the Treaty.

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Minister announces £1.2m early years services package

4NI news reports that the 'NIO Health Minister Shaun Woodward has announced an additional £1.2 million to maintain frontline early years services. Services which will benefit, include provision for mother and toddler groups, crèches and pre-school groups. The Peace II measure – Investing in Childcare - has already seen the creation of 238 projects and around 10,600 childcare places and 400 jobs in disadvantaged areas across Northern Ireland.'

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Irish Government paves way for EU Constitution referendum

Ireland on-line reports that the Irish Government published yesterday "a revised Bill paving the way for the upcoming referendum on the proposed EU Constitution. Launching the document, Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said the Cabinet would be moving quickly to establish a Referendum Commission with a budget of €5m to publicise the issues involved. Announcing the publication, Dermot Ahern said that Fine Gael and the Labour Party were consulted and gave their approval in the drafting of the wording." More Here

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

EU grant package for Northern Ireland food sector

Agriculture minister Jeff Rooker has announced details of a £2.79m (US$5.1m) EU award package for the Northern Ireland food-processing sector. The awards, totalling £2.44 million from EU funds and £0.35 million from Invest NI national funds, assist eight projects submitted by Northern Ireland food companies under the EU Agricultural Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme. The scheme is designed to improve the economic performance and international competitiveness of the food processing sector. The story says that these projects are estimated to create a further 91 new jobs and should safeguard existing jobs as the project applicants currently employ a cumulative total of 1,680 staff.More here

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Fine Gael welcomes legislation to allow for Referendum on EU Constitution

Here is an official communique from FG: "Bernard Allen TD, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, has today (Thursday) welcomed the publication of the Twenty-Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2005, drafted to allow for the ratification of the EU Constitution through Referendum. “The publication of this legislation has been anticipated for some time. Fine Gael supports the EU Constitution and believes that it is clearly in Ireland’s interests to ratify this Treaty. The EU Constitution brings greater transparency, democracy and efficiency to the enlarged EU of 25 States and well over 400 million people. “I broadly support the approach being taken by the Government on this important issue, and I look forward to the Dáil debate on this legislation and to a detailed analysis of these proposals. “As a matter of urgency, I believe the Government should lose no time in establishing the Referendum Commission to assist in bringing the debate on the EU Constitution to the people. In addition, the Government should ensure that other bodies, such as the National Forum on Europe and the Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs, are adequately resourced to promote a wide-ranging public debate on the EU Constitution. “I also believe that the question of the timing of the EU Constitution Referendum in Ireland should be kept open until the results of the upcoming Referenda in France and Holland are known.”

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Ireland and the Rapid Reaction Force

Ann Cahill in the Irish Examiner has this interesting piece about the Ireland the Rapid Reaction Force. For some background on the RRF, check the report from the Institute for Europan Affairs.
Ann Cahill observes that: 'No matter what battle group Ireland ends up in, they will have to be considered as surplus to requirements and something of a luxury since the triple lock may prevent them participating in crises that require rapid responses. This is a pity because the Irish defence forces have a good reputation when it comes to peacekeeping. They have earned a great name in setting up sophisticated communications systems essential when operating in many of the areas in which the battle groups are likely to eventually end up. The Government has no problem being part of the European Defence Agency, designed to streamline Europe's defence industry for its own armies and for sales to others. As the NATO general secretary recently pointed out, the EU has neutral states as members, but none claims to be pacifist. Maybe it's time Ireland decided to work out what neutrality means.'

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Austria ratified the Treaty

The upper house of the Austrian Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Constitution. Demands for a referendum have not been taken up.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

McAleese on Ireland and the EU

Speaking at the University of Washington (Seattle), Mary McAleese said "Ireland entered the EU as the poorest country to do so ... a pathetic basket case of a country," she said. "It would strike me as immoral to close the door behind you and [deny] that opportunity to other countries with the ambition to become members. ... It is not just for economic reasons, but crucial for solidifying peace."

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Mary Lou McDonald accuses FF and FG to run away from the debate on the Treaty

In a SF communique, 'Mary Lou McDonald has accused Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael of running away from a debate on the proposed European Constitution after key figures in both parties refused to participate in a keynote debate on the proposed EU Constitution. The debate was due to take place at a major conference, which is taking place in Dublin city this weekend. She challenged both parties to stop hiding on the issue and attend the weekend conference.' More Here

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Nicholson urges Jack Straw to defend the rebate

Here is the communique from the UUP from James Nicholson: Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has called on the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw not to ‘shy away’ from using the UK’s veto to defend its European Union rebate."
In a statement Mr Nicholson said, “The UK’s rebate is fully justified and the Foreign Secretary should not hesitate to use the UK’s veto if it is necessary to protect it. Looking at the fact it is clear to see that the UK’s rebate is justified as the UK is the country, which has had the lowest net receipts from the EU because of the size and nature of our agricultural sector and also because we have had less EU structural funds than other comparable countries. Without the rebate, the UK in the last ten years would have been spending between 12 and 15 times more than France and Italy. Even with the rebate we have been paying two and a half times more. Concluding Mr. Nicholson called on the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary “to come clean and state categorically that they will defend the British rebate at all costs.”

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Former French Premier on the role of the EU in Northern Ireland

Michel Rocard, a former French Premier said in the Bangkok Post 'that Catholics and Protestants in Ireland were killing each other for a century, but now that they are in the EU, they have recognised the idiocy of their conflict and the inevitability of reconciliation.'

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Allister lobbies for Special Status of Northern Ireland

A press released from Commissionner Danuta Hubner on regional policy shows that 'Evaluations of the 1994-99 programming period suggest that GDP was between 1.3 and 4.7 per cent higher than it would have been in the absence of EU-funded programmes in Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, eastern Germany and Northern Ireland. Preliminary results from the current programming period (2000-2006) suggest a similar impact." In the meantime, Jim Allister has released a statement where he reminds his lobbying "in Brussels to try and secure for Northern Ireland a special status under Commission proposals for Regional Aid guidelines.As the proposals stand, Northern Ireland would be unable to continue to offer Selective Financial Assistance in order to attract inward investment from 1st January 2007, as such would then fall foul of anti-state aid provisions." More here

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Mary Lou McDonald on a re-run of the Irish Referendum

MEP Mary Lou Mcdonald refuses a re-run of the referendum in case of a No vote: "When the Irish Government re-ran the NICE referendum, it was clear that they were more interested in pandering to the elites in Europe, than to the will of the people in this state. This Constitution will have far reaching ramifications for all of Ireland; the people must be sovereign, and not sacrificed for political expediency by this government. "Sinn Féin will be campaigning for a NO vote on the EU Constitution but if the people vote for the Constitution then we will respect their will. Unfortunately the Irish Government is unwilling to make such a commitment." More here

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Jim Allister on the motion of Censure against Barroso

Alongside with Bairbre de Brun and Mary Lou MacDonald, Jim Allister signed the motion of censure against Barroso proposed by the UKIP Nigel Farage. Speaking in advance of the debate on the motion on Barroso at a press conference with other sponsors in Brussels, Jim Allister said:
"Just like Caesar's wife President Barrosa and all Commissioners must be seen to be above reproach.The diffidence until now to declare private gifts, which only breeds suspicion, must be replaced with clear and emphatic information and the putting in place of a proper system of transparent accountability. Hopefully today's debate will produce commitments to bring transparency to how Commissioners behave in their public office. If it does it will be thanks to the compulsion of this Motion rather than the sycophantic, grovelling speeches of the leaders of the main groups in this House, which we will doubtless hear this afternoon. I welcome the fact there are sufficient people in this Parliament prepared to stand up and be counted in demanding basic and transparent accountability."

The motion has very little chance to be approved as on 13 May, a joint statement was issued by the four largest groups in the European Parliament on the motion of censure: Hans-Gert POETTERING (EPP-ED, DE), Martin SCHULZ (PES, DE), Graham WATSON (ALDE, UK), Daniel COHN-BENDIT (Greens/EFA, DE) and Monica FRASSONI (Greens/EFA, IT).
"As chairs of our political groups, which account for 597 of the 732 members of the European Parliament, we express our opposition to the motion of censure tabled yesterday in Strasbourg. "We consider this initiative to be unjustified and disproportionate and principally designed to seek publicity for its authors."

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Mary Lou McDonald opens conference on homlessness at the EP

Mary Lou McDonald has this morning gave the opening address at a major conference on homelessness at the European Parliament in Brussels. Ms McDonald said that Sinn Féin "regards the delivery of adequate levels of appropriate social housing as key to the resolution of the homelessness crisis". More here

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Jim Allister on Fisheries

Jim Allister made this statement today at the European Parliament fishery committee, here is the official communique:
"The Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament has been engaged in detailed consideration of a proposal from the Commission for a European Fisheries Fund, which will supersede existing funding arrangements and set the funding framework for 2007-2013. MEP Jim Allister, who serves on the committee, has regularly contributed on this subject and, today in Brussels made further representations on five key issues. Mr Allister said:-
"With three quarters of the funding designated for "convergence objective" regions, this proposal, as it stands, will do little for Northern Ireland. As part of a nation which fails to meet the convergence criteria, we won't qualify for most of the available aid. Yet, in fishing terms, Northern Ireland lags very far behind much of Europe.
With an average fleet age of 33 years, our industry is showing all the signs of under-investment and the British government's failure to draw down EU funding because it is not willing to co-finance the necessary investment. Our fleet is down to approximately one third of what it was some years ago. We cannot have a sustainable industry with a non-sustainable fleet.
I therefore strongly support the rapporteur in saying that the fund should also provide for the specific needs of the fisheries sector in each Member State, irrespective of its convergence status. It is not good enough that in the Commission's proposal, its vision is hidebound by a slavish attachment to the convergence objective. This will do nothing but succeed in managing further decline in our fishing industry.
Secondly, I very much support the rapporteur in identifying the suppression of construction and modernisation aid as unacceptable aspects of the Commission's proposals. The capacity to secure such aid is imperative to the survival of the industry in a region such as mine.
Thirdly, I also support the call to decouple aid for temporary cessation from permanent capacity reduction and the desirability of extending it to seasonal cessation of activity.
Fourthly, in the processing field, I oppose the exclusion of aid from all but the smallest companies. We have a number of processors in Northern Ireland who would not qualify under this regulation as presently drafted, because they employ more than 50 people. Thus, I support a substantial raising of the threshold.
Finally, I support the call for proper support for young people entering the industry. A new entrants scheme is essential if the industry is not to die of old age. Old boats and old fishermen cannot secure the future."

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The two campaigns of Sinn Fein

As spotted on Slugger and on Everything Ulster, West Belfast is in the process of becoming a euro-friendly area. This development highlights the more pragmatic stance of northern SF on the EU. In his 1999 manifesto, SF was fiercely against the EMU: ‘Sinn Féin has been highly critical of European Union economic policies and in recent years have voiced our opposition to Economic Monetory Union and the EURO. We believe EMU will limit the right of Irish people to control their own economy. If implemented EMU will represent a backwards step with potential costs for Ireland, north and south. EMU is contrary to our socialist, republican objectives of national sovereignty in political, economic and social terms’. As it was analyzed in a conference at QUB last week on the Treaty, there is at least a perception that the No SF stance is driven by the South rather than by the North. The goal of SF Southern campaign against the Treaty would be to raise the profile of the party while the Northern one is expected to be pretty low-key.

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The first and last Irish soldier in Cyprus

The Cyprus Sunday Mail has an interview with Lieutenant Colonel Paul Quirke who is the last Irish soldier to leave Cyprus, but was also one of the first to arrive. He leaves Cyprus with the belief that 1974 will not be repeated: "“The world has changed and changed for everybody, and I think it’s inevitable since Cyprus joined the EU that conflict will never raise its ugly head here ever again,” he said...“What I did notice was the parade commemorating the martyrs and the 1960 Republic. On all the walls of all the schools in Larnaca, ‘Enosis’ was everywhere. There was also a very strong current on the streets and people were encouraged to show the Greek flag. We saw no other flag except the blue and white everywhere. That was all transparent and I saw parallels with Northern Ireland in 1969.”" The paper recalls that: "Tuesday heralds the end of a 41-year era in Cyprus-Ireland relations when the Irish military contingent IRCON will at sunset, finally lower the flag it first raised in 1964 as part of UNFICYP’s peacekeeping mission."

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"Sound like double Dutch to me": Sammy Wilson

In his maiden speech last Wednesday, at the House of Commons, Sammy Wilson made a fierce attack against the Treaty and in the same time arguing in favour of a referendum: "Our relationship with Europe is one of the huge foreign policy issues about which we have heard today and that will face Parliament and our country in this Session. I welcome the commitment to a referendum on the EU constitution. Those who fought to free the House from the tyranny of the monarch in the past would be bewildered by the enthusiasm that some Members have displayed in their desire to hand over a wide range of powers from this House to the tyranny of a commission in Europe or European bureaucrats. The party to which I belong will oppose ratifying the intrusion of Europe into the House. We shall seek to ensure that the terms of the referendum are designed to provide a fair test of public opinion both through the wording of the question and the arrangements for its conduct. I firmly believe that the people of this country will not permit their country to become a sub-part of a European superstate or allow this mother of Parliaments to be reduced to a county council with a consultative role. The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Kenneth Clarke) wondered whether we should have a referendum if the French turned down the European constitution in theirs. I did not understand his logic. He seemed to suggest that, if the French said no, we would not need a referendum, yet if the Dutch said no, we would need one. That sounded like double Dutch to me. He seemed to take an illogical view of the matter. I believe that the people of this country should have a say on whether we are absorbed into a European superstate. If the French put those who wish to enlarge the powers of Europe on to the canvas, it would be all the better to keep them down on the ground with another referendum. That is why, regardless of the outcome of the French referendum, there should also be one here."

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Referendum will go ahead even if the French vote No said Dermot Ahern

In an interview with the Sunday Business Post Dermot Ahern, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, reassured that a referendum will be held whatever the outcome of the French vote: it 'will have absolutely no bearing on the timing of the Irish poll, he said.' Ahern made also a strong attack against 'the same hoary old shibboleths (who) pushed out every time we had a referendum that never came to pass. We heard all these stories about our troops going to war and it never happened. It won't happen until the Irish people decide themselves.'

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The Confusions of the British No Campaign

If the French vote No, that will boost the British No campaign analyses The Observer. Even in this situation, the No campaign wants to pressure the government to launch a referendum on the Treaty. According to the article, the tactic of the No campaign is to rally beyond the traditionalists Tory eurosceptics and attract figures of the left: Labour MPs, Trade Unionists, and Greens . They already claim that a majority of British is against the Treaty. However, It could rapidly appears that this kind of alliance ends up in being unworkable: 83 of the 86 European Trade Unions are in favour of the Treaty, the majority of the European Union Green parties are also pro-Yes as well as the environmental pressure groups working in the European Parliament, moreover the credibility of Labour MPs hanging around with Conservatives (without talking about Kilroy and his friends) might be affected. Therefore, the dynamic of the No campaign could stop as soon as the divergences in the motivations will be put into the light.

Update: Interesting enough, Christopher Booker from the Sunday Telegraph had more or less the same analysis over the No campaign:

"At the head of the No camp is an uneasy alliance between the Tories and a cross-party group set up by the people who formed Business for Sterling, which campaigned effectively against the euro. The weakness of their platform is their almost comical determination to show that they have nothing against Britain's membership of the EU as such, but only oppose the constitution. This will involve them in wondrous contortions, as they try to distinguish between those bits of the constitution that are new and those that are simply carried over from previous treaties. The result can be as embarrassing as the young No spokesman's reply to Jeremy Paxman, when he stammered: "I don't think anyone in the No campaign is against there being a constitution.""


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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Debating the rebate

The whole debate is to put in the context over the disputes on the EU budget, Barroso said that he was highly disappointed by the proposition of EU member states, and therefore opened fires on the EU budget battle. The Times reports that Senhor Barroso believes that "a good solution can be found if there is goodwill on all sides. I think British taxpayers will understand that the rebate has to go if people have the courage to explain that it is not fair for Bulgarians and Romanians to be paying more than the British.” This is obviously not the opinion of Dr Liam Fox, shadow Foreign Secretary, reported in the Independent that 'there must be no question of any change to the rebate. The Prime Minister should never have let this come on to the agenda. The rebate was hard-won by Margaret Thatcher and saves British taxpayers billions of pounds a year.'' Even if Britain is highly isolated at the moment, Blair can certainly counts on a failure of the renegotiation process. A weakened France after a victory of the No and a victory of the Yes in Britain will bring a more positive environment to arm-twist the Commission. Moreover, Blair (or Brown) as a President of the Council, will have all the tools in his hand to defend the British rebate.

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Blair and the French No

More speculations in these morning papers on the consequences of French No over the future of Tony Blair which are summed up in The Guardian. Half Young in the Glasgow Herald believes that it will affect Tony Blair's remaining time in power.Steve Richards analyses in the Independent that "Mr Blair would have to take the lead in putting the pieces back together again. As he attempted to do so, the future of Europe would once more become a raging debate in Britain. It would be more straightforward to have the focus of a referendum." But Blitz saw things differently in yesterday's FT. A French no would entail Mr Blair, as EU president, becoming, "the EU's broker and conciliator - and that would give him a significant new role as a statesman". The editorial of today's FT also gives advice: 'Perhaps the best thing that French and Dutch supporters of the treaty can do at this stage is to refrain from overselling the benefit of a Yes vote as well as the cost of a No vote. They should instead stress that the constitution is a compromise between big and small states, and between Anglo-Saxon free marketism and continental industrial and social policy. This is why its provisions can be interpreted various ways, but also why it is probably the best bargain that 25 member states are likely to strike.'

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Friday, May 20, 2005

British leak slates French campaign

The EUobserver reports that: 'A leaked letter by former UK Europe minister Denis MacShane slammed the French yes campaign, however, the British papers report. Mr McShane suggested that a French no vote would be caused by inept leadership and the unpopularity of President Jacques Chirac, criticising the yes camp for "incoherence", "mixed messages" and a "lack of enthusiasm or positive argument", saying it has resorted to "crude UK-bashing arguments" instead. The British government announced it will introduce legislation into the lower house next Tuesday to pave the way for a referendum on the EU constitution next year, reports FT Europe. The paper adds that if the French result is negative, UK leader Tony Blair could see himself playing a significant role as an EU broker and conciliator under the upcoming British presidency of the union. ' The Guardian just recalled Chirac's argumentation: "What is the interest of Anglo-Saxon countries and, with strong reason, of the United States? Naturally that we stop this European construction that likely will lead tomorrow to a Europe that will be clearly much stronger,'' Chirac said in a televised debate."

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'Rebel' Tories MEPs under pressure

The England Expects blog published the letter sent to the 'rebel' Tory MPs who have signed a motion of censure on Barroso. Their crime is to have signed the motion alongside SF MEPs, however, where things get funny is that Jim Allister signed the motion as well. The letter was dated last Saturday, May 14th and co-signed by Philip Bradbourn, Conservative chief whip in Brussels and Timothy Kirkhope, Tory delegation leader: 'This resolution could be very damaging to the Conservative Party in that it is also co-signed by individuals from groups and parties such as Sinn Fein who are alien to and hold views incompatible with our beliefs, and your signature on the resolution could indicate your support for these groups and parties. Therefore we must insist that you urgently remove your name from the list of signatories, in any event at the latest by 12 noon on Thursday 19th May. Failure to do this will result in very serious consequences for you.'

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How many Frenchmen does it take to change a light bulb?

'One. He holds the bulb while the rest of Europe revolves around him' tells Martin Arnold reporting in leftist meetings in France for the FT. (Full story)

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Ireland knocked out from Eurovision

Bad luck for the Irish who have been ejected from the Eurovision contest during the semi-finals. As the BBC reports: 'Eurovision is one of Europe's major TV events, with more than 150m people expected to watch the final.'

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Britain will go ahead even if the French say no

The FinancialTimes reports that 'despite growing signs that France might vote No to the treaty in its referendum on May 29, the government announced yesterday that it would introduce legislation into the Commons next Tuesday that will pave the way for a plebiscite to be held next year.' The Daily Mail also wonders if 'our referendum will become superfluous if - still a very big if - France and Holland spurn the constitution. 'The Independent writes about 'Europe's heavy political artillery - with the notable exception of anyone from the British Government - (which) has (been) deployed in France in an attempt to bombard voters into supporting the EU constitution in nine days' time.' The Times reports on the latest debate which is raging in France: is there really no plan B?

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'Britain in Europe' becomes the 'Yes campaign'

The Guardian reports that the campaign group Britain in Europe 'is already preparing to transform itself into the Yes campaign and will begin serious fund-raising as soon as the French vote yes'. But Nick Cohen in The New Statesman asks 'how on earth they expect to turn round popular hostility in this country?'

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Mary Lou McDonald on the Constitutional Treaty

Ms McDonald said, "The debate is not about whether we are pro-European or anti-European it is about the nature of the EU as a political project. It is a project that must be closely attached and in line with popular wishes and demands. The constitution brings us to a fork in the road. I believe another Europe is possible. More on here.

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Residents Groups got £240,000 grant

The Belfast Telegraph has this story about 'North West groups (which) have been given a cash injection through a cross-border initiative. Riverview Residents' Group and Coshowen Residents' Association have each been selected as one of 12 groups to benefit from a funding boost worth a total of £240,000 from the Changing Places Transforming Communities programme. '


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