MEP’s to have more Dáil time

A SMALL paragraph in the new draft programme for government that has gone largely unnoticed by the media was being welcomed by Irish MEP’s this week. The short clause states that MEP’s should “regularly attend” relevant Dáil committees, presumably in a bid to improve communication between the domestic and EU political arena.

A SMALL paragraph in the new draft programme for government that has gone largely unnoticed by the media was being welcomed by Irish MEP’s this week. The short clause states that MEP’s should “regularly attend” relevant Dáil committees, presumably in a bid to improve communication between the domestic and EU political arena.

Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness said while there might be difficulties for MEPs in scheduling Dáil meetings around their obligations in Brussels, it was “very significant” that the incoming government seemed committed to improving awareness of what goes on in both parliaments.

“A lot of the time the Dáil and the European Parliament are having discussions in parallel about similar issues, but there is no joined-up thinking.

“If, for example, the Dáil’s Environment Committee wants to hear the latest developments on food labelling, the nitrates directive or on turf-cutting legislation, we will be invited to attend so that we can inform opinion,” said Ms McGuinness.

“It is important that our work is better reflected in Leinster House, and the concerns of our constituents are better reflected in Europe,” she added.

Leinster teens win Strasbourg Rotary trip

TWO Leinster teenagers spent a day in Strasbourg recently as part of their reward for winning the Rotary Youth Leadership Competition. Diarmaid Hickey (Kilkenny) and Louise Mahon (Wexford) were among 24 teenagers from all over Ireland selected to take part in a week-long Leadership Development Programme in Belfast and Dublin.

The week concluded with a visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg last Friday week, where a total of 600 students from all member states got to experience what it’s like to work as an MEP.

The pair were chosen for the programme on the basis of their leadership skills and after completing a rigorous interview selection process. At a ceremony in the European Parliament Office in Dublin before they travelled to Strasbourg, all the students received certificates recognising their achievement in getting through to the final stage of the competition. Speaking ahead of their EU trip, the students said they were looking forward to sitting in the European Parliament chamber and debating topical issues with other young Europeans.

The Rotary Youth Leadership Competition is an all-Ireland annual event aimed at helping young people prepare for their future careers. Rotary International is an organisation aimed at advancing global understanding, goodwill and peace through a fellowship of business people united in the ideal of service.

EU must not sell out Irish beef farmers

MEP’s in Strasbourg have urged the European Commission not to sacrifice the interests of Irish and EU beef farmers for the sake of reaching a trade deal with South American countries during the latest round of negotiations taking place this week.

In an unusual move signifying a rift between the two EU institutions, the Parliament has issued a report strongly condemning the Commission’s decision to resume talks with the Mercosur group of countries (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) without publishing a full impact assessment on the effects of a trading bloc deal.

Irish farmers, some of whom staged a sit-in at the Dublin offices of the European Commission last week, fear a deal would allow Brazil to flood the EU market with cheap beef exports and thus decimate the Irish farm sector.

Ireland East MEPs Liam Aylward and Mairead McGuinness, both members of the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, said beef imports from Mercosur countries do not meet the high standards of Irish and EU meat.

Ms McGuinness, who helped draft the report, called on the Commission to keep the Parliament and member states informed of any developments in the negotiations.

Mr Aylward meanwhile put it to the Commission that it must not use the Irish beef industry as a “bargaining chip” for greater market access.

“I’m seeking a stronger commitment from the Commission that is actively defending the European agricultural and food sector,” he said.

Industry wins out in low carbon plans

THE publication of plans to transform Europe into a competitive low carbon economy by 2050 has been greeted with disappointment by environmental campaigners and some Irish MEPs.

The roadmap by the European Commission outlines a “cost-effective pathway” to reach the EU objective of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. It also recommends that EU governments cut their national emissions by 25 per cent by 2020.

However environmentalists have warned that deeper emissions cuts must be made much earlier - at least 40 percent by 2020 - in order to avoid dangerous climate change. In a statement, Friends of the Earth said even if governments cut emissions by 25 per cent by 2020, it will almost certainly lead to a dangerous two degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures.

“This is the ‘tipping point’ that scientists say should be avoided to prevent the worst impacts of climate change such as more frequent severe weather and the loss of species and habitats,” the group warned.

Leinster MEP Nessa Childers said the 2050 Roadmap had again failed to make energy efficiency targets binding on national governments. “If these efficiency targets aren’t binding, how will governments achieve even a 25 per cent cut in emissions by 2020, and how can businesses draw up investment plans on such targets?” she said.

Ms Childers said that lobbying from “the industries of the past” had won out over the green industries of the future, and that more ambitious and certain signals needed to be sent to our emerging green business sectors.