With less than six months to go until the end of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, access to decent water and sanitation for all is still a distant prospect.
Back in 2000, Britain joined many other developed countries in a global drive to eradicate extreme poverty. They committed to eight clear goals including universal primary education, reducing child mortality and combating diseases like HIV and malaria. Nearly 15 years on, so much has been achieved but there is still an enormous amount to be done. It is simply unacceptable that 768 million people still lack access to clean water and basic sanitation.
The EU must contribute more to global efforts to make the eight Millennium targets a reality for all. Our progress on climate change has shown what we can achieve when the 28 members of the EU work together for a common purpose. We must have the same ambition when it comes to the Millennium Development Goals.
The EU has already played an important part by providing more than half of all aid in recent years. Since 1990, 2.1 billion people have gained access to clean water, but we know that more must be done. An urgent debate on this topic will start in the next few months before the UN post-2015 summit in September next year.
As Labour’s European health spokesperson, I am appalled that 1,400 children die every day from waterborne illnesses. I am also concerned about the wider consequences of the lack of access to water and sanitation. For example, we are seeing more and more conflicts for scarce water supplies, while the horrific rape and murder of two girls in India earlier this year highlights how a lack of sanitation is placing women and girls in danger.
Faced with these challenges, my Labour colleagues and I will push for the EU to improve water and sanitation access in the coming months. My fellow Labour MEP Linda McAvan will raise this issue as the Chair of the International Development Committee of the European Parliament in international meetings, starting with a meeting of EU development ministers. I look forward to tackling these issues with renewed energy this year.
We all know what a welcome break a holiday can be, but also what nightmares it can cause if things don’t go to plan. From flight cancellations to medical emergencies, so many things can threaten your trip abroad. Luckily there’s a raft of EU rights and benefits to put your mind at ease.
For example, if you’re planning to jet off but your flight is cancelled, you can claim a full refund or alternative transport from your airline. You can also claim compensation worth up to £475 if you’re delayed by more than 3 hours. Longer delays entitle you to food and drink, and overnight accommodation if necessary. Similar rules apply if you’re travelling by train or bus, and compensation for lost, damaged or delayed luggage is also available.
Sneaky hidden charges should be a thing of the past. Airlines must now state the full prices of flights right at the start, including taxes and charges, so you can compare prices easily.
Once you’ve made it to your destination, staying in touch with loved ones is now cheaper than ever as roaming charges have fallen once again thanks to action by Labour MEPs. Phone calls will be no more than 15p a minute, texts are just 5p, and we have voted to scrap roaming charges completely by 2016. Shocking post-holiday phone bills should be a thing of the past as data costs have been slashed by over 90% since 2007.
Britain’s membership of the EU also entitles you to free medical treatment with a European Health Card, a whole host of shopping and other consumer rights, as well as protection against timeshare sharks.
Even so, things can still go wrong. If you are unfortunate enough to become a victim of crime abroad, EU rules ensure you have access to the police and courts, that you’re protected from further victimisation or intimidation and can access compensation and information in your own language.
If you need police, ambulance or fire services, just dial 112 from any mobile or landline anywhere in the EU. There’s no charge.
Hopefully your holiday goes smoothly and you won’t need any of this. But it’s good to know the support is there just in case.
Labour MEP expresses concern at Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle which shows he is in complete disarray over the issue of Europe.
Glenis Willmott, Labour MEP for the East Midlands, said:
“Yesterday’s reshuffle shows that Cameron is completely confused on which direction to take his government in Europe. Moderate voices at the top table have been replaced by MPs that have repeatedly spoken out against the EU. At the same time he has appointed a pro-European to be Britain’s EU commissioner. He is trying to be all things to all wings of his party. This is not a Prime Minister who has a clear direction on Europe.”
After promising to make his cabinet represent modern Britain, Cameron continued to promote far more men than women.
Glenis Willmott MEP added:
“Despite grand promises, Cameron only promoted three women to the cabinet leaving a not-so grand total of five out of the 22 at his top table. Having a cabinet that is over three quarters male hardly reflects modern Britain.”
“This ‘new’ cabinet represents more of the same. The same isolation in Europe and the same lack of representation for women. Labour MEPs will continue to work positively for Britain in the EU and to campaign for a government that will be truly representative.”
Glenis Willmott, Labour MEP for the East Midlands, called on David Cameron to learn from his failure to stop Jean-Claude Juncker after MEPs today voted him in as the next European Commission President.
The vote, in which Mrs Willmott opposed Mr Juncker, followed his nomination by the Council of Ministers, with no other candidates put forward after David Cameron’s failure during negotiations.
Glenis Willmott MEP said:
“The success of Jean-Claude Juncker is another EU humiliation for David Cameron, an abject failure of leadership. His poor judgement and diplomatic own goals have let Britain down. Over the past few years, instead of building bridges with key European allies, he has been burning them, and putting the interests of his party ahead of the national interest.
“Britain needs to be building alliances to deliver meaningful reform.”
On Mr Juncker’s record, Glenis Willmott MEP said:
“I have long said we do not support Mr Juncker for President of the European Commission. When he was put before the European Parliament today, I voted against his appointment.
“We need a Commission that will deliver changes and reforms to boost jobs and economic growth, and to show leadership on climate change and clamping down on tax avoidance. We also need a European Commission that will close the loopholes that have enabled employers to undercut workers’ pay and conditions, leading to feelings of insecurity at work.
“Mr Juncker’s record shows he is not best placed to deliver these changes.”
And looking ahead, Glenis Willmott MEP added:
“Now he has been confirmed as President, we need to work constructively with Mr Juncker. It is vital that Mr Cameron also works with him, and has more success with the Commissioner negotiations. The UK needs Cameron’s nominee Lord Hill to have a strong portfolio to drive forward change and ensure Europe works better for Britain.”