New measures to improve the sharing of criminal records information  between EU Member States strike the right balance between security and individual rights.

The legislation, which is being piloted through the European Parliament by UK Conservative MEP Dan Dalton, was approved today by the  Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee.

It will establish a database of third country nationals whose criminal record details are held by an EU Member State.  At present legal authorities across the EU exchange information via the European Criminal Records Information Service, but if, for instance, the UK were to arrest and prosecute an individual from outside the bloc they currently have no way of knowing if they might have a criminal record in Spain. The new database will close that loophole by providing details of where such information is held and identification details such as fingerprints and facial images.

Mr Dalton said: "The fast, reliable exchange of information is key in the fight against crime at all levels. This measure aims to make it harder for criminals to slip through the net.

"The inclusion of facial images on the database will improve the accuracy of searches and help prevent cases of mistaken identity.

"However,  strong safeguards must be built in whenever personal information is held centrally. Therefore I have included guarantees that requests for correction and deletion are dealt with swiftly.

"I have also agreed that EU citizens holding dual nationality with a third country should not be included on the database to avoid creating two classes of EU citizenship."

The database will also provide criminal record checks when third country nationals apply for jobs working with children or vulnerable persons.

The legislation now moves into trilogue talks between the Parliament, the European Council and European Commission before being voted on by all MEPs.

 

 

Today Conservative MEP Rupert Matthews launched Projekt Hansa to promote trade, tourism and develop cultural links across northern Europe.

 The new initiative builds on the legacy of the medieval Hanseatic League which established trade links across the British Isles, Scandinavia, northern Germany, and the Baltic.

Mr Matthews MEP, who chairs Projekt Hansa, said: "We are using an old idea to bring new life to northern Europe's trade and cultural connections which I hope will strengthen the economies of all our countries.

"As Britain leaves the European Union we will be seeking to build new trading alliances, expand our businesses and develop cultural links across the world. Fortunately, we have done this before, and the old Hanseatic League can act as a chart to guide us.  

"Although we have largely forgotten the old league in the UK, for many of our neighbours it is still a vibrant part of their heritage and I believe it can help us boost the links between our countries today.

"Projekt Hansa will create a network of businesses across Europe, putting them in touch with trade experts and each other. Hand in hand with this will come a deeper understanding of our cultural connections as we involve communities and tourist bodies."

Projekt Hansa is a European Conservatives and Reformist (ECR) Group initiative, founded by Mr Matthews with the support of ECR MEPs from across northern Europe.

German ECR MEP, Ulrike Trebesius, said: "The Hanseatic League is an important part of Germany history. I am pleased to support an initiative that reinvents it for the 21st century to provide tangible economic and cultural benefits for all our countries."

Danish ECR MEP, Anders Vistisen, said: "Projekt Hansa is a very practical way of promoting links across northern Europe. Introducing Danish companies to businesses in, for instance, the UK or Germany can only be positive."

 Projekt Hansa's first event will be held on the 15th February in Nottingham were local businesses will be encouraged to export and connected with trade experts.

 

 

A major conference exploring how grassroots projects can provide lasting solutions to world poverty is taking place in London on Friday.

Organised by London Conservative MEP Syed Kamall, the Global Poverty Summit aims to galvanise support for non-governmental solutions to helping the world's poor.  It is backed by international figures including former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who have both recorded video messages.

Mr Kamall said: "The centralised, top down approach has failed the poorest in our society. Globalisation's riches do not always trickle down to their level and while welfare may help recipients get through the day, it does not provide a route out of poverty. In too many communities there is an absence of hope.

"International aid and large NGOs have a role to play, but I passionately believe that there are solutions to be found in local communities across the world. Empowering people to tackle some of the toughest issues in their communities is incredibly inspiring."

The Summit, held under the auspices of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, will hear from speakers from around the world who have put these principles into action.

Bob Woodson is a former civil rights activist whose Woodson Center is helping to revitalise urban neighbourhoods in the United States. Dorothea Arndt will explain how the Hand-in-Hand organisation fights poverty in the developing world by training small groups of women how to use their own pooled savings to start businesses and providing access to micro-loans. Hand-in Hand aims to create 3.7 million jobs worldwide by 2021 and is already 80% of the way there.

There will also be representatives from a retraining and education programme in rural Romania and a cycling scheme delivering food prepared by refugees in Cairo.

Closer to home, the London Community Foundation connects those in need with people willing to give. It has distributed more than £55 million over 22 years to projects such as Streets of Growth, which helps young people out of a life of drugs and gangs and into training and employment.

The Cato Institute's Michael D. Tanner, one of the United States' most influential thinkers on innovative solutions to tackling poverty, is a keynote speaker.

Mr Kamall said: "All these schemes have one thing in common. They work from the bottom up, are not necessarily reliant on the state or trickle down economics for their survival and offer hope to those who have little or none.

"The event's aim is simple. To produce a report providing clearly defined steps for community organisations, philanthropists and all the charitably minded amongst us to tackle poverty and exclusion within our local communities."

 

 

Labour MEPs were under fire today for potentially jeopardising jobs and the drive for renewable energy at Yorkshire's giant Drax power plant.

They faced criticism after supporting Green MEPs in moves to impose severe restrictions on use of one of the generator's prime sources of biomass fuel, roundwood.

The fuel is produced from off-cuts as a by-product of the timber industry and at Drax is sourced only from sustainable forests to strict criteria.

But in a vote in the European Parliament in Strasbourg today on a new framework for renewable energy, Labour supported a Green amendment effectively banning use of roundwood as bio-mass fuel.

Despite the support of UK Labour and their colleagues in the Socialist and Democrat Group of the European Parliament, however, the amendment was voted down.

Yorkshire and the Humber's Conservative MEP Amjad Bashir MEP said: : "Roundwood makes up some 40 per cent of the fuel used at this ground-breaking power station. Drax is targeted to produce 16 per cent of the UK's renewable energy, but that will be undermined without roundwood as an important part of the fuel mix. To ban it would be crazy. It flies in the face of all the evidence about sound ecology.

"Drax has been hailed a poster child for renewable power and green electricity. It supports 6,000 jobs in our region at the plant, at docks on the Humber and the Tyne and across the supply chain. Fortunately for the Drax company, for its workforce and for our energy mix, they did not get their way."

 Fellow Yorkshire and the Humber Conservative MEP John Procter added:  "Labour MEPs are fully aware that Drax has spent millions of pounds converting the power station entirely to biomass, yet today they put the project at risk by backing this needless ban. They have let Yorkshire down by undermining the company by supporting moves that would have cost our region jobs and damage the UK's renewable energy sector."

 

 

European Union negotiators must decide whether they want a Brexit deal that prioritises people or the EU project, the UK's most senior MEP said today.

Conservative MEP Syed Kamall, co-leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, told the European Parliament that voters were watching to see whether politicians were capable of putting the interests of ordinary people ahead of their own.

He said: "Voters, citizens and workers don't care about legal technicalities, they don't sit at home hoping the UK is made an example of. They simply want both sides to sort it out.

"They want to keep making a living, keep selling their products, keep their jobs, keep travelling and keep safe.

"So, quite simply, the EU needs to decide whether - is this a deal for the European people or a deal for the European project?"

Mr Kamall was taking part in a European Parliament debate on last month's EU summit at which it was agreed to move Brexit talks onto the second phase, when the withdrawal agreement and the future UK/EU trade relationship will be discussed.

He insisted the goal of both sides must be to secure a  unique, mutually advantageous deal.

"While the UK asks for a bespoke deal, EU negotiators are asking which template. But we all know that while a specific trade deal may act as a template for others, no two trade deals are exactly alike. After all, the Canada-EU agreement was bespoke."

He added: "The ECR Group believes that this is a question not limited to Brexit but a fundamental question about the very future of the EU.

"Is the EU serving the needs of its peoples? Is the EU offering solutions to the core challenges its member states face? Could the EU do less, but do it better?