Today marks the launch of my new end of week roundup of Liberal Democrat EU news. In particular, I'll be looking at what our Lib Dem MEPs, who sit in the influential ALDE group, are getting up to in the European Parliament.
Edward McMillan-Scott, Lib Dem MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, and a Vice President of the European Parliament, welcomed the adoption of a strategic framework on human rights and democracy by the EU’s 27 foreign ministers, saying:
“As the world’s biggest aid donor, the EU has so many tools at its disposal actively to promote human rights and democracy. It is an overdue step in the right direction to increase their effectiveness and visibility through better coordination and a coherent implementation of our policies.”
On International Day Against Torture, Edward McMillan-Scott MEP put the spotlight on China's human rights record and raised the case of Zhang Lianying, a Beijing accountant who was imprisoned for her religious beliefs, who was subjected 50 escalating torture steps used to persuade her to recant and who now lives in the USA.
Another former prisoner of conscience whom McMillan-Scott met in Beijing, Cao Dong, was then imprisoned and tortured until his release in November 2011. However, on June 8 2012 he was re-arrested and McMillan-Scott fears that he is again being tortured somewhere.
“China continues to be the worst perpetrator of torture of its own people. Most of the victims are entirely innocent and are punished for their religious or political beliefs.”
Sharon Bowles, Lib Dem MEP for the South East of England and Chair of European Parliament’s powerful Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, called on the UK government to support a deal on the location of the European Patent Agency - which is the final obstacle to the 40 year long effort to implement a European patent that covers the whole of the single market rather than the current system which requires patents to be registered in European countries separately and at greater cost.
“The European Parliament has long supported the creation of a single European patent to boost innovation and business opportunities across the EU.Constitutional expert and Lib Dem MEP Andrew Duff added:
“It is time for Member States to stop blocking the single European patent. We managed to break the stalemate over the language issue. Now it is time to end the deadlock over the European Patent Court’s potential location.
“The proposed compromise to split the new court across three different countries and cities – namely Munich, Paris and London – is a workable solution and will ultimately be a big boost to all involved."
“Agreement on an EU patent has been held up for several decades by linguistic quarrels. We must not prolong this block by geographic jealousy. The interests of British-based science will be well served by reaching agreement on this controversial dossier tomorrow.”On Friday EU leaders agreed on a location deal at a special summit and, as a result, London will become the home of the life sciences section of the new European Patent Court.
Fiona Hall, Lib Dem MEP for the North East of England, welcomed the coming into force on the 1st of July new EU caps on roaming charges, negotiated this year.
The new prices caps (excluding VAT) are: 23p per minute to make a call (compared with 28p previously); 6p per minute to receive a call (rather than 9p); 7p to send a text message (compared with 9p); 56p per megabyte (MB) to download data or browse the internet whilst travelling abroad (no previous cap).
Sarah Ludford, Lib Dem MEP for London, called for the EU to clamp down on the trade in torture instruments following an Amnesty International report today showing that torture instruments such as electric-shock belts are being marketed by EU companies while spiked batons are being promoted for sale in the EU and the sale of thumbscrews and leg irons is not banned.
The report follows a successful campaign, co-led by Sarah last year, which closed loopholes under which legitimate ‘dual-use’ pharmaceuticals were also being exported for use in lethal injections in countries like the USA.
“If the EU’s lead on human rights is to be preserved, the current review must result in changes. The European Commission and EU states need to both enforce existing law effectively and if necessary strengthen it.”
“The only way to fully ensure an end to this shameful trade is to introduce a ‘torture and death penalty end-use’ clause so that even a product not listed can be banned from sale to a particular end-user who intends torture or execution.”