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Tory MEPs fail to support EU roadmap against homophobia

Tory MEPs have refused to vote for the European Union roadmap against homophobia and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The report, which has been successfully voted through by the European Parliament – despite intense external lobbying – calls on the European Commission to make proposals for non-discrimination in employment, education, health and access to goods and services.

It also calls for the Commission to make proposals for non-discrimination in the fields of: citizenship, families and free movement; freedom of assembly and expression; hate speech and hate crime; asylum and migration; and foreign affairs, whilst at the same time recognising national governments’ sole responsibility in some of these areas.

Michael Cashman MEP, co-President of the Intergroup on LGBT rights, led the Socialist & Democrats Group to support the report.

He said:

“I’m extremely proud that the Parliament chose to support this crucial report. It is balanced, sensible, and fair. We won the vote with a clear majority, and it’s now this parliament’s firm position, which we’ll advance over the next few years.

“Sadly the Tories reverted to type by refusing to support this report. They believe what happens to LGBTI people outside the UK and UK citizens travelling around the European Union has no importance for them. David Cameron’s line on ‘equality for all’ rings hollow and insincere.”

All Labour MEPs voted in favour of the Report and have signed the election pledge for LGBTI equality in advance of the 2014 European Elections.

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Labour MEPs vote against 2014 EU budget after failure to prioritise jobs and growth

Labour MEPs have voted against the planned EU budget, rejecting the overall package after it failed to redirect spending into projects to boost employment and infrastructure.

The European Parliament voted through the budget today, increasing it above the position agreed by national governments.

Derek Vaughan MEP, Labour’s spokesperson on the European budget, said:

“We support funding for jobs and growth, and oppose spending in areas where there is huge scope for savings. At a time when people in Britain are suffering from a cost of living crisis, we need to prioritise investment in the future.

“We will continue our campaign for European money to be used where it helps people and communities.”

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Cashman leads call for targetted action against caste-based discrimination

Michael CASHMANThe European Parliament united today to send the message it was serious in combating caste-based discrimination just as much as any other form of bigotry.

Victims, including in the UK, face structural discrimination, marginalisation, exclusion, limited access to basic services and slavery. Women and girls become more vulnerable to sexual abuse, and children to exploitation, solely due to their caste

Michael Cashman CBE, MEP, Labour’s spokesperson on development in the European Parliament, said:

“There is no space for any kind of discrimination within the EU, and in its external activities. No stigmatisation, no one called “untouchable” – terms that go against our core European values. We must face the reality and it is our responsibility to ensure that when we fight discrimination in the EU we also include caste-based discrimination.

“And externally, we need to encourage our international partners where caste-based discrimination is the most deeply-rooted to strengthen their legislation to protect victims of human rights abuses.”

Labour is calling for the inclusion of a ‘caste-based discrimination clause’ in all trade and association agreements.

Michael Cashman CBE, MEP, co-author of the Resolution, added:

“All trade and association agreements must include non-negotiable human rights and non-discrimination clauses. Unless we are serious about human rights, our trade policies are worth nothing. Economic development is nothing without human development.

“I believe we should look at the shirts, ties, suits that we buy and if they come from countries which do not respect basic human rights then we should boycott them – each one of us. Otherwise, individually we are also discriminating.

“We need to think seriously about the trace the EU wishes to leave in its action – it must be to promote and enable the development of human rights for all.”

The European Parliament will now work with the European External Action Service and the European Commission to draft an Action Plan along the lines set out in the Resolution to integrate the fight against caste-based discrimination into EU legislation, policies and programming documents and to adopt operational guidelines for its implementation.

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Labour MEPs vote to make British patients safer

Labour MEPs voted today to bring in a new Europe-wide alert mechanism for professionals, meaning doctors struck off elsewhere in the EU won’t be able to practise in Britain.

The healthcare professionals covered by the updated directive on language checks include doctors, nurses, dentists, vets, midwives and pharmacists.

Labour MEPs have worked to ensure the current professional qualifications directive ensures authorities are able to apply language controls after the recognition of qualifications and employers will continue ascertaining the language requirements that are necessary.

All European Union nations should alert the authorities about professionals no longer entitled to practice their profession.”

The UK government’s amending of the Medical Act in line with the professional qualifications directive will ensure greater safety for UK patients, and prevent fatal cases such as Dr Ubani, the German doctor who killed a patient in Cambridge.

 

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European Parliament secures strong stance on women’s rights in developing countries

Michael CASHMANThe Members of the Development Committee voted today the most progressive text on the issue of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of the development cooperation framework, despite the opposition of the conservatives and parts of the right-wing.

The text was authored by Labour MEP Michael Cashman and ensures that a human-rights based approach is taken by the EU in all its external actions, which must include a dimension for sexual and reproductive health and rights.

” These human rights are, in my opinion, the basis of any other human right as they deal with reproduction, with the right to give birth or not. They deal with life. They also deal with death as being denied such rights can lead to women dying giving birth or women and men getting infected with a sexually-transmitted disease. The vote today sets the agenda for the years to come and hopefully will close the unnecessary controversy” he said.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights mean access for all to voluntary family planning, safe abortion, contraceptives supplies and HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, again without discrimination. It also means quality, accessibility, affordability, acceptability, and adaptability to the needs of the individuals of those services.

“Better access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health services, and sexual education contribute to reducing infant, child and maternal mortality, as well as to the empowerment of women. Over a quarter of a million women still die in pregnancy and childbirth each year. Reliable studies do show that ensuring access to voluntary family planning can reduce maternal deaths by a third and child deaths by 20%. This is a highly cost-effective public health strategy and any development aid budget must include appropriate funding for it”, he concluded.

The text will constitute the external chapter of the Women’s Rights Committee Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights.

 

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Lack of progress on horizontal directive after five years is ‘deeply worrying’ – Cashman

Michael CASHMANA senior Euro MP is calling on the UK Government to honour a commitment to support EU wide anti-discrimination legislation.

Labour MEP Michael Cashman made the call after it was revealed that David Cameron’s government has ‘become less inclined to support’ on-going work around the European Commission’s proposal for a Council Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.  The proposals, also known as the Horizontal Anti-Discrimination Directive, were first published by the European Commission five years ago and received the support of the then Labour Government.

Michael Cashman expressed disappointment about the UK Government’s ‘U’ turn:

“It’s shameful that there has been no progress on the Horizontal Directive.  As Europeans we share a core set of values which seek to ensure equality for all and oppose all forms of discrimination.

“And in times of economic hardship we see that minorities are under increasing attack.  We need to be doing more to fight discrimination, not less.

“The  previous Labour Government fully  supported this anti-discrimination legislation.  Sadly, that position has now changed and the present Coalition Government now has ‘reservations’.”

Although the Commission’s proposals are supported by the European Parliament, they need to be approved the Council of the European Union before becoming law. The Council is comprised of Ministers from all EU member states and meetings take place behind closed doors.  More often than not details of their discussions remain secret.

Cashman added:

“July 2nd will mark five years since the Commission issued it’s Horizontal Anti-Discrimination Directive.  During that time it has continued to receive cross party support from the Parliament.

“The lack of progress by the Council of Ministers is deeply worrying and I am concerned that the change of position by the current UK Government will hold up progress even longer.

“That is why I have raised my concerns with the UK Ambassador to the EU and why I will be doing likewise with British Ministers in Westminster .”

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Labour MEPs win on human-rights based approached to development co-operation

Michael CASHMAN

The European Parliament today voted two key reports defining its vision for future EU and global development co-operation frameworks. The Socialists and Democrats (the group which the European Parliamentary Labour Party sits in) put human rights at the heart of the discussions.

The Parliament voted to approve a revision of the Cotonou Agreement – the deal which defines relations between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific States. However, concerns were expressed about the weak political dialogue on human rights, and in particular the absence of a specific mention of sexual orientation as a potential factor in discrimination. This reserved consent invites the European Commission to revise it further in 2015 to address these concerns.

The European Parliament also voted on its position on the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals in advance of the UN Summit in September. The strongly worded text takes an unprecedented human-rights based approach to a universal development framework. The over-arching goal is equality and the text introduces binding national legislation on committing 0.7% of GNI to development aid.

MEP Michael Cashman, the European Parliament’s negotiator on the Cotonou Agreement and S&D spokesperson on the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals, said:

“Today we have sent a strong and unanimous message to the European Commission, EU member states and citizens, third countries and their citizens that there will be no successful development without human rights as the axis of our co-operation.

“The EU is the biggest aid donor in the world and it should be at the forefront when defining the future framework. We should not be complacent and never forget that that which happens to them is as if it were happening to us.

“We need development for the people along with the economies.”

S&D vice-president Véronique De Keyser added:

“We are disappointed to see the right-wing are still failing to see that sexual and reproductive health and rights, which include the right to abortion and contraception, are universal human rights and are key to achieving all the Millennium Development Goals.”

S&D co-ordinator on development co-operation Ricardo Cortés Lastra said:

“The S&D Group believes that the new framework should be universal and global, with ambitious and measurable goals that hold the EU accountable in achieving real development and poverty eradication. We must ensure sustainable development and human rights remain a priority on our political agenda after 2015.”
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My message to the Turkish Prime Minister: “Listen to the people!”

The violent crackdown on anti-government protests in Turkey and curbs on fundamental rights and freedoms, including freedom of speech and freedom of the media, was in the spotlight during yesterday’s debate between MEPs and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

This was my contribution:

YouTube Preview Image

 

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Historic vote on new transparency rules for the extractive industry

Publish what you pay demonstrationFollowing today’s vote in Strasbourg, European oil, mining, gas and logging companies will have to disclose the payments they make to governments for access to natural resources.

Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for the new Transparency laws, said: “The vote today is history in the making. The new rules will be a major new weapon in the global fight against corruption, ensuring that citizens of resource rich countries can hold their governments to account for the exploitation of their natural resources.”

In 2008 alone, African oil, gas and mineral exports were worth nine  times the value of international aid (296 billion Euros  vs.  33 billion Euros ).

Arlene said:  “After today’s vote 70% of the world’s extractive industry will  now  be covered by tough transparency rules and the European Union has led the way in setting a new global standard for transparency.  The adoption of these laws is a watershed moment in the global drive for greater transparency.”

Michael Cashman MEP, who is Labour’s representative on the Parliament’s Development Committee added: “Disclosure of key information can discourage corruption, reduce conflict and improve stability in resource-rich countries – benefits that pay dividends to all: governments, developing countries’ citizens, investors and EU citizens alike.

“We can no longer accept that the people living in developing countries are being exploited and do not receive the benefit of the development of their resource wealth.

“Through this legislation we will know in all openness whether the products we buy are conflict- and corruption-free or not and it will be a matter for us, responsible citizens, to take the right decisions. I know we will.”

 

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Cashman calls for more transparency in EU decision-making

The European Parliament today adopted a resolution calling for the other 2 EU institutions to join the Parliament at the negotiating table and find an agreement for more openness and transparency in the EU decision-making process.

The legislative revision of the Regulation on Public Access to Documents started back in 2008 but there has been stalemate in the negotiations for almost a year. That stalemate has been brought about by the refusal of the Commission, and to a lesser extent of the Council, to move towards the European Parliament’s position for better and wider access by the EU citizens to EU legislative documents.

Michael Cashman, Slead negotiator for the Socialists & Democrats Group (S&D) in the European Parliament on this dossier hopes the Parliament’s resolution will serve as a wake-up call for the other institutions.

“This is about empowering citizens to hold “Brussels” to account; not only the European Parliament, but also the Commission and the Council of Ministers.

Meetings of the Council of Ministers currently take place behind closed doors. If we knew how our Ministers voted in their secret meetings, we would be able to hold them to account, in all national parliaments across the EU!”

Michael CASHMAN“I trust, however, that the Commission and the Council will stop their backstage collusion on this dossier and will actively follow up on this resolution to kick-start negotiations again as soon as possible. We are standing ready”, he concluded.

The S&D initiative was supported by all major political Groups in the Parliament, except the right-wing EPP.

Supporting the resolution, Sylvie Guillaume, S&D Vice-President said:

“A lot of people feel detached from ‘Europe’. By opening up to the citizen what goes on in Brussels and by making things more transparent, we can take the first steps in combating the apathy and mistrust which a lot of people feel towards the EU and its institutions.”

I regret the fact that the right-wing EPP fails to see how crucial this issue is just one year before the next European elections and that it continues to support the Commission’s secrecy approach. We are all here working on behalf of EU citizens, it is high time that the Commission understood that it cannot act as a private business”

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