My letter to Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament
Dear President Schulz,
I am writing to you regarding the growing refugee crisis in Europe. Like many of my colleagues from across the European Parliament, I have been appalled by the harrowing images and news stories that have emerged from across the EU in recent days, as desperate individuals continue to flee persecution and terror in their home countries in the hope of finding sanctuary.
The plight of these refugees is on a scale we have not witnessed since the end of the Second World War and EU member states bear a responsibility to act decisively to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. While many member states have and continue to respond generously to requests for asylum and humanitarian assistance, much more can and needs to be done by all.
As Members of the European Parliament prepare to gather at the plenary session in Strasbourg next week, I wish to request that the agenda affords ample time for a full and comprehensive debate on the refugee crisis.
Furthermore, I would like to request the presence in the debate of the President of the European Council on behalf of EU member states.
The EU has a proud history of working together and standing by those in greatest need. In the face of this great challenge, we must continue to work together to stand by those in desperate need of our help.
Last year the European Union renewed its commitment to cross-border education and skills development by combining all of its training, youth and sport programmes into Erasmus+ which has secured funding until 2020. The Erasmus programme has been running since 1987 and now has a budget of nearly £11 billion for the next five years.
For most people it is best known for allowing university students to spend a year studying in another European country without paying more fees than they would have in their home country. But in fact the scheme does far more than just that, as many students in Derby found out this summer.
Students in further education colleges and vocational training have also been feeling the benefit of exchanges to other EU countries. Over 70 students from Derby College have gained Europass work mobility certificates by taking part in overseas projects using funding from Erasmus. Some have travelled to Lapland, Estonia and Denmark, and others to Osnabruck, Derby’s twin city in Germany. Of course the arrangement works both ways and students from Estonia and Germany have experienced the brilliant further education opportunities available in Derby.
This is another example of cross-border co-operation which benefits everyone involved. The students from Derby are able to broaden their horizons and may even be inspired to work abroad. The colleges can also gain an insight into how their counterparts in other countries are delivering high quality courses.
With increasing competition from developing economies such as Brazil, India and China, it is essential that the UK plays a central role in developing a high-skilled workforce of the future. We produce some of the world’s finest research and development which will surely only advance with further collaboration in Europe.
I am delighted that the Erasmus+ scheme will continue to enrich the education of thousands of students, regardless of whether or not they choose to go to university. It goes to show that the EU is far more than just a single market which is something we should welcome and work to secure in the future.
More good news for iconic British food came this summer with the announcement that the classic filling in Bramley apple pies will be given protected status by the EU. This will put it on a par with the likes of Cornish pasties and Melton Mowbray pork pies meaning only filling produced with apples grown in Southwell, Nottinghamshire will be able to carry the Bramley name.
Britain’s food and drink, often the butt of many a self-deprecating joke, is globally recognised and frequently mimicked and reproduced. The timeless Bramley apple pie is popular far beyond Britain but most pies advertised as such are not made with the variety originally grown by Mary Ann Brailsford and still cultivated in Nottinghamshire today. Thanks to this new EU protection, imported fruit won’t qualify meaning only the original recipe of fresh Bramley apples, sugar and water will be labelled as such. This will undoubtedly give a huge boost to the Bramley apple growers at Starkey’s Fruit Farm in Southwell.
Not only does EU protection for unique foodstuffs enable producers to reclaim the connotations of quality and authenticity associated with their brand, it also enables consumers to buy authentic products with certainty, and therefore to support local producers. Look out for the EU’s ‘star’ logo which can be red and gold, to indicate a product is prepared, processed and produced within a designated area or blue and gold which indicates the product has been at least partially produced within the area. Regardless of which designation is used, all products carrying the logo will have specific qualities or characteristics unique its geographical origin.
Agriculture and food production is a vital part of the East Midlands economy and the region boasts some of the nation’s favourite delicacies. Aside from the ubiquitous Melton Mowbray pork pies, the East Midlands is also home to Red Leicester cheese, Bakewell tart from the Derbyshire Dales and the Lincolnshire sausage. I hope that much more unique produce from our region will get EU recognition in the future. If you know of any that do not currently have protection, then you can read more about the criteria and process at the European Commission’s website.
An East Midlands MEP today welcomed news that the UK would not be seeking an opt-out on EU employment protections, but called for continued vigilance against threats to workers’ rights.
Glenis Willmott, Labour MEP for the East Midlands, said:
“Any attempts to axe or water down British people’s employment rights through EU opt-outs will make it harder to persuade working people of the importance of our EU membership.
“It is thanks to our EU membership that we have major employment rights, including a minimum four weeks’ paid holiday, a right to parental leave, and the same protections for part-time workers as full-time workers.
“Over the coming months those who know that Britain’s membership of the EU is best for Britain must not only address the business case for the EU, but the case for working people as well.”