Links between New Zealand and the European Union will be strengthened following the approval  today by MEPs of a comprehensive partnership agreement.

Piloted through the European Parliament by Conservative Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Tannock MEP, the agreement formalises co-operation in a range of areas including trade, education, culture, climate change and counter terrorism.

It will come into effect once ratified by MPs in New Zealand and EU Member States.  Separate talks  on an EU/New Zealand free trade deal are due to begin shortly.

Dr Tannock said: "New Zealand is one of the EU's closest partners, a country with which we share common values and interests. This agreement cements and develops those links, allowing for closer co-operation and more regular ministerial dialogue.

"I strongly support the emphasis placed on combatting climate change, international terrorism and supporting sustainable development. The agreement also reaffirms the arrangement for New Zealand to contribute militarily towards EU common security and defence missions. As our resolution notes, New Zealand plays an important role in contributing towards peace and international security, a role that is all the more impressive considering its size and geographical location.

 

"There is no doubt that the relationship between the EU and New Zealand is a force for good in the world."

Conservative MEP Amjad Bashir has secured an extraordinary debate in the European Parliament into the ongoing persecution of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims.

The crisis, described by Prime Minister Theresa May as the "inhuman destruction of Rohingya people", will be discussed by a full session of the Parliament on 12 December and a resolution for further action voted on by MEPs.

Mr Bashir is delighted to have secured the debate, which he called for yesterday in an  impassioned plea to Parliament President Antonio Tajani. He hopes it will lead to the European Union arranging an inter-governmental summit in a bid to end the slaughter and persecution.

Mr Bashir said: "I am very grateful that the parliament's authorities have heeded my request and granted time for a debate.

"This reflects the urgency of this crisis and the seriousness with which the EU must respond. I sincerely hope that this can quickly bring about an inter-governmental summit because in my mind that is the only way to halt the bloodshed."

In September Mr Bashir travelled to refugee camps in Bangladesh to meet Rohingya survivors. His latest call for action has been prompted by a Sky News report revealing continued suffering in Myanmar.

"Hundreds of thousands have escaped Myanmar, hundreds of thousands are still trapped," he said. "Babies are being born on the beach. The lucky ones will be put on a boat to Bangladesh, the rest will be left to die.

                      

 

"For the sake of humanity, we should lead the way forward."

Steps to improve co-operation between national consumer protection authorities have been backed by Conservative MEPs today.

 

The European Parliament approved new measures to ensure scams shut down in one country cannot simply be started again in another country by fraudsters. One example of a repeated illegal practice is the directory scam in which scammers demand businesses pay for a listing in a directory that doesn't exist. Directory fraud has often reappeared in a different country after being shut down in another.

Conservative Consumer Protection spokesman, Daniel Dalton MEP, said: "For years now we have seen a familiar pattern: a scam takes off hoodwinking thousands of people in one place and when authorities shut the operation down it is simply started again in another country.

"Fraudsters don't stop at the border. Today's vote is a step in the right direction to ensure that national authorities are one step ahead of scammers who cause deep distress and misery to innocent victims.

"This is the sort of people focused cooperation that the UK should seek to continue post-Brexit."

Friends of Zimbabwe are closely watching the surprising turn of events in Zimbabwe.

Currently forces backing Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former Vice President who recently left the country for South Africa and is now back, are negotiating with Mugabe over the possibility of Grace Mugabe leaving the country.

The immediate future of Mugabe himself is still not clear, as the precise allegiances of all military units and the intelligence services remain uncertain.

British Conservative MEP, Geoffrey Van Orden, who chairs the European Parliament’s informal Friends of Zimbabwe group, commented: “For decades now we have been struggling to support democratic change in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has such enormous potential and yet the lives of its people have been blighted for decades by a corrupt leadership. Every political development has seen hopes raised and then dashed.

“In spite of the background of those that have seized power at the moment, they do have an opportunity now to introduce fundamental democratic change. But we do not hold our breath.

“Elections are again on the horizon - due next August. There was little confidence that the necessary arrangements to guarantee democracy would be put in place. Now there is a real opportunity if Zimbabwe’s politicians rise to the occasion.

“I would like to see the international community, including the southern African nations, offering their assistance to help the process of change in the right directions”. 

Commenting on today's proposals from the European Commission for new vehicle emissions targets, Conservative Internal Market spokesman Dan Dalton MEP said:  

"Reducing vehicle emissions is key to meeting the EU's 2030 carbon dioxide reduction and air quality goals.  An effective policy is needed to complement legislation which I am in the final stages of negotiating to ensure existing vehicles meet emissions limits.

"The European Commission is right to follow the UK Government's policy of encouraging manufacturers to speed up the development of clean electric, hydrogen and plug-in hybrid cars.

 "In particular, I welcome the proposal to incentivise car makers to increase sales of such vehicles, rather than introducing penalties that would take no account of the differences between manufacturers and hit some disproportionately."

Mr Dalton piloted the EU's legislative response to the vehicle emissions scandal through the European Parliament and is currently in negotiations with the European Council and Commission.