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18 December 2008 Edition

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• This news feature is funded by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL)

Some progress in Poznan climate talks

ELEVEN THOUSAND delegates from 192 countries took part in climate talks in Poznan in Poland last week. The UN climate conference is seen as an important step in the build-up to reaching agreement in Copenhagen next year on the global agreement for tackling climate change in the period after 2012.
GUE/NGL MEPs Bairbre de Brún, Roberto Musacchio and Jens Holm were part of the European Parliament delegation. The GUE/NGL MEPs had meetings with representatives from other delegations, with NGOs and individuals, and with groups representing indigenous peoples.
Some progress was made but the richer countries could have shown more ambition and governments must now shift into full negotiating mode if a final agreement is to be reached in Copenhagen in December 2009.
Bairbre de Brún said:
“The EU and US must show the leadership needed. They need to engage actively in negotiations with the proposals brought forward by developing countries and to show they are willing to pay their fair share of the costs of tackling climate change.
“They must also ensure that climate change is at the heart of the rescue packages they put in place to tackle the global financial crisis.”
Delegates at this week’s conference set out a demanding work programme for the coming year and agreed to make operational an Adaptation Fund that could give vulnerable developing countries access to up to $60m dollars in the coming months.
There was also agreement in Poznan regarding reducing emissions from deforestation (otherwise known as REDD) and promoting participation by indigenous peoples, although some countries, including Denmark, made clear that they to want strengthen this to have a specific reference to the rights and not just the participation of indigenous peoples.
Roberto Musacchio said:
“It is necessary to insert into REDD the UN declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I am committed to working towards this goal in the European Parliament.”
The GUE/NGL MEPs also expressed disappointment that the climate package reached in Brussels this week isn’t stronger. Jens Holm said he considered  “unacceptable” that such a large proportion of EU emissions reductions will be done in other countries.
“This undermines Europe’s credibility as being a pioneer in the combat against climate change.”
Bairbre de Brún asked:
“If the EU sends a signal that effective actions to tackle climate change can only happen in times of prosperity, how can Europe possibly ask developing countries to act now?”


EU Parliament refuses to back Israel-EU deal

THE European Parliament has refused to back a proposed new deal which would have allowed further co-operation with Israel in areas including economic, trade, security and diplomatic relations.
MEPs instead voted to remove the item from their agenda for the foreseeable future. The move was supported by the GUE/NGL group along with the Socialist and Green groups.
Both Mary Lou McDonald and Bairbre de Brún were present to vote to delay the decision on the agreement, thereby preventing the necessary parliament’s “assent” for the deal.
The move was warmly welcomed by Bairbre de Brún:
“Ba chóir dúinn an oiread brú is féidir linn a chur ar Iosrael sa dóigh go mbeadh air a ghealltanais faoin dlí idirnáisiúnta agus faoi rúin NA a chomhlíonadh. Ní mór dúinn inniu, mar FPEanna ar fud na hEorpa, teachtaireacht láidir a chur chuig Iosrael go bhfuil ár sá againn de.
“Sa bhliain 2002 vótáil Parlaimint na hEorpa chun Comhaontú Chumann AE-Iosrael a chur ar fionraí toisc ollsáruithe Iosrael ar chearta an duine. Agus sin ráite, táthar ag caint anois ar Iosrael a bheith rannpháirteach i gclár AE a dhéileálann le hiomaíochas agus nuáil eacnamaíoch cé go bhfuil Iosrael ag scriosadh gheilleagar agus bhonneagar Gaza d’aon turas.
“Fáiltím roimh an chinneadh an vóta maidir le feabhas a chur ar chaidreamh an AE le hIosrael a chur ar ceal.”


Homelessness exhibition in Dublin’s City Hall

DUBLIN MEP Mary Lou McDonald has launched a multimedia exhibition in Dublin City Hall highlighting the issue of homelessness and the housing crisis in Ireland’s capital city.
The exhibition, ‘No Fixed Abode’, features the work of 26-year-old Fran Veale, from Dublin, who has been a documentary photographer since 2001. His work and features have been published in The Irish Times, Irish Independent, Sunday Independent, Irish Daily Mail, Sunday Business Post, Irish Examiner, Los Angeles Times and Newsweek.
The exhibition also features the work of photographer and community film-maker Brendan Dowling.
Speaking at the launch of the event, in City Hall, Mary Lou McDonald opened the proceeding with a poignant reminder of just how prevalent the problem of homelessness is in Dublin. “Perhaps one of the hardest facts on homelessness for me to accept as an MEP for Dublin is that 955 children in our capital city are facing into Christmas without a home, and half of them are living alone in state care.
“In total, there are at least 2,500 homeless people across the city of Dublin. For most of us, spending Christmas at home with our families is a given. It is time for this to change for the better for people who are homeless.”

AN END BY 2015
Earlier this year, McDonald and four other MEPs secured majority support for Written Declaration 111 to end street homelessness throughout the EU by 2015. The Declaration is now policy of the EU Parliament, enabling MEPs to actively pressure the European institutions and member states to deliver on the 2015 commitment.
This achievement was significant as written declarations are regularly sought but rarely get a majority of MEP signatures required to enable the declaration to become parliamentary policy.
Written Declaration 111 is not simply an aspiration of the European Parliament. It is an objective that must be achieved.
As Europe heads into winter, provisions for those without homes must be a priority of all member state governments.
The Dublin MEP also noted that the Irish Government’s homeless strategy, ‘The Way Home’, launched earlier this year, and its imminent implementation plan must also put a renewed impetus on meeting its objective of ending long-term homelessness by 2010.
“The Government needs to deliver the implementation plan for its Way Home strategy. This is an urgent priority. Government also needs to ensure the right policies influence the right legislation. It must oversee stakeholders working together to a shared objective. The necessary funding must be in place to help the right people the right way.
“But such solutions must be set against the lack of progress by central government in adequately funding social housing provision and the acknowledgement that homelessness if the most acute form of housing need.”
Mary Lou McDonald ended:
“To date, the Irish Government has a poor record of meeting social housing needs in general and homeless housing, failing to meet social and affordable housing targets by as much as 40 per cent in recent years. But this can change.”
McDonald has called for a conclusive and rights-based approach by government, noting that such an approach could be achieved by “simply enshrining into law a legal right to housing for those in need”.

McDonald commended the record of Dublin City Council (DCC) of housing homeless people describing it as an example, to both central government and Dublin’s three suburban local authorities, of what can be achieved. It has ensured that 24 per cent of its housing allocation has been made to homeless people each year over the last three years. The hard work and dedication of DCC front line staff and voluntary service providers is to be applauded, she said.
“Ending long-term homelessness in Ireland and throughout all of the EU’s member states can be achieved. The European Parliament has agreed to this objective, as has the Irish Government.
“The talk has been done. Action is now required.”

Lisbon Treaty: Smoke and mirrors

ON 12 JUNE, the Irish people rejected the Lisbon Treaty. Throughout the campaign, concerns were raised on the impact of the treaty on workers’ rights, public services, democracy, neutrality, Ireland’s voice at the EU table and the country’s voting strength, tax sovereignty and the loss of key vetoes.
Trade unions, farming organisations, communities and student groups the length the breadth of the country voiced these concerns at public meetings, local media and, ultimately, at the ballot box.
The people spoke yet the government did not act. Taoiseach Brian Cowen sat on his hands, refusing to even open up a discussion with his EU partners.
In the intervening six months, the Irish Government stalled at every stage.
When President Sarkozy visited Ireland in July, the Taoiseach refused to open up a dialogue on the issues of concern to his people. In September, the Government published a research document into the ‘No’ vote. Much was made of the document yet all it did was simply outline the issues of concern as articulated by the people before and after they rejected Lisbon.
The Government then set up an Oireachtas sub-committee on Ireland’s future in Europe in an effort to coalesce the ‘Yes’ camp in the parliament in an effort to set the scene for a re-run of Lisbon. The committee, like the Government, refused to engage directly with the people. Instead, it delivered a report that paid lip-service to the people’s concerns whilst in the same breath threatened them with Ireland’s isolation from Europe and economic payback for rejecting the treaty.
This is the backdrop against which last week’s EU Council meeting in Brussels took place during which the Government announced its intention to re-run the Lisbon Treaty.
Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald described the Lisbon re-run deal as announced by the Taoiseach as “an exercise in smoke and mirrors”.
The Irish people want to remain at the heart of Europe.  They want to see Ireland’s political strength maintained. They want neutrality protected. They want to see a social progress clause that will protect the pay and conditions of workers. They want public services to be protected from private interests. The people want the Irish Government to deliver on the mandate that they were given on 12 June.
Last week’s announcement by the Taoiseach has not delivered on these concerns.
Claims by the Government that Ireland will automatically lose its commissioner under the terms of the Nice Treaty are simply untrue.
Whilst the Nice Treaty does commit the EU to reducing the number of Commissioners when the number of member states reached 27, it does not specify the size or system of rotation. These decisions were left to the Council acting unanimously.
Therefore under the present rules, it would be possible for the Council to agree to leave the Commission at its present state until the broader issue of the reform of the EU institutions is resolved.
The Irish Government has the power to veto any efforts to reduce the number of commissioners and, given the strength of public feeling on this issue. It has a democratic imperative to do so.
The question is whether the Irish Government is willing to use this veto while the broader issues of the EU’s democratic deficit, workers’ rights and public services, neutrality and Ireland’s influence in the EU institutions are being addressed.
The agreement of legally binding guarantees is an empty promise. What is a legally binding guarantee? Why can’t the Government  outline to the people what such a guarantee is and how it is legally binding?
If these guarantees are not to be enshrined in EU law until the Accession Treaty for Croatia - that is not due to take place for another two to three years - what are the Irish people going to be voting on next October?
Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald noted:
“Declarations are not worth the paper they are written on, as they are not legally binding. Unless ‘protocols’ are secured and ratified by all members states, ‘guarantees’ (as described by the Government) are worthless.”
The Government is again under-estimating the deep anger out there at its arrogance and high-handed approach. The people voted for a better deal and they rightfully expected that the Government would make that better deal happen. Not only has he failed to get a better deal for the people, he failed to even open up negotiations.

ON 4 December one of our articles mistakenly referred to the Radical Left Party (Parti Radical de Gauche), whose logo also appeared. The article was about the recently-launched Left Party (Parti de Gauche). We apologise to the parties concerned and to our readers for any misunderstandings this may have caused. 

Lisbon - Council conclusions do not give credible guarantees 

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