Jean at the climate change march
Jean met with Ambassador Comanescu from the Romanian Embassy to talk about Romania's progress towards accession in light of the European Parliament vote in April. On the issue of changes that still need to be made, Jean asked about environmental development as attention is currently focused on border control.
Several UK Journalists met with the Green press team at an informal dinner with the UK Green/EFA MEPs. This provided an opportunity to build positive relations with the press. Jean highlighted the Green's priorities for the next few months.
Jean met with students from Glamorgan to talk to them about the Green party and its stance on issues from working time to data protection. The feedback from the meeting was very positive and brought forward fruit for further discussion, particularly around work-life balance issues for fathers, which Jean hopes to be able to continue in the future.
Research issues were on the agenda at a meeting between Jean and the European Union Geriatric Medicine Society who wanted to talk about best practice care of the frail elderly.
At a meeting with the Swedish Minister for Asylum, Jean heard that the Swedish stance on asylum is moving in a more humanitarian direction - in contrast to the rather hard line approach pursued in the UK. Jean will be supporting the Minister in examining the issue of resettlement and educating politicians on what resettlement actually is. Discussion also focused on the problem posed by negative media coverage.
The 15th February was the Green Group's Lisbon Day which included a Conference entitled "Backlash on Environmental Policy" and a Public debate on "The European Dream - America's Nightmare?" Jean attended both and later dined with the guest speaker Jeremy Rifkin.
Jean participated in the Green Group Climate March celebrating the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol. Here she joined the demonstration with the message stop climate change now and gave an interview to the Parliament Press service warning that London has more to fear than many other places from global warming.
Jean spoke at an emotional meeting held by the Jesuit Refugee Service - “Caring for Detainees” - in order to create greater awareness of the appalling circumstances in which people are held in more than 200 detention centres in Europe. Jean talked about potentially deliberate policy where detention is used to divorce asylum seekers from society as it is difficult to defend someone you have never met.
Jean as part of the Services Directive Working Group met with other Green MEPs to discuss the Group's strategy on this important and highly controversial Commission proposal which could see key public services being opened up to foreign competition. The Greens and the Social Platform will hold a Hearing on this issue in April in opposition to the proposal in its current form as it risks lowering both quality and accessibility of service provision.
We are very sad to be saying goodbye to Liezle Barrie who has been the Stagiaire in Jean's Brussels office for the past six months. Liezle has been a highly effective member of the team and we wish her all the best in her move back to South Africa.
Opposite: Liezle at the climate change march
One of the few MEPs currently raising issues on the future of Iraq, Jean asked the Council what the European Union will do to help in the restructuring of the damage caused to Babylon, particularly by US and Polish troops? The answer received was highly unsatisfactory as it failed to address the military aspect of destruction of historic sites. We will therefore be addressing this in the Report on Iraq coming up in the Foreign Affairs committee.
In a debate with the Council on tax havens, Jean asked if the existence of tax havens makes it more difficult to track down and freeze the funds of organisations that are considered terrorist organisations; and also whether their existence makes it more difficult, for example, for the world's poorer countries, to access money that may well have been siphoned off by some of the less reputable regimes for the benefit of those in power. Again, the answer was unclear and so Jean will press the issue in the future.
Jean has been made Vice President of the Anti-poverty intergroup. She is also Vice President of the intergroups on Age and Anti-racism.
At the Group meeting on the 2005 mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy, hosted by the Luxembourg Greens, Jean spoke on the panel discussing Social Innovation and Women's Employment. The aim is to exchange information between all involved Green Members of the national parliaments and of the European Parliament to develop a common Green Lisbon Agenda and to launch a long term green MP-MEP Network on the subject.
Below you can read how Jean feels about an issue currently gaining a lot of attention in Europe - the mid term review of the Lisbon Agenda.
The much quoted Lisbon Agenda social goal of the EU is "to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion." The Agenda was designed to enable the conditions for full employment by 2010. However it is becoming clear that the EU is well off target at this half way stage. Understandably, questions about how to rectify this are being asked. José Manuel Barroso gave us an indication of his answer in February of this year:
…”it is as if I have three children – the economy, our social agenda and the environment. Like any modern father – if any one of my children is sick, I am ready to drop everything and focus on him until he is back to health. That is normal and responsible. But that does not mean I love the others any less…” José Manuel Barroso
This is possibly the closest to work-life balance and gender politics that the President of the Commission came in his recent reassessment of the Lisbon Strategy and why the Greens have work to do. Yes, you want to pay attention to a sick child, but maybe the others have symptoms you have not yet seen – you need to keep them all healthy.
The Green response to the Lisbon Agenda sees social inclusion being about more than simply being in work. The UK has high employment rates and a flexible labour market but it also has one of the largest gaps between rich and poor within the OECD.
The Greens look at how work fits in with society with flexibility of benefits to match the flexibility of work. We look at more than just meeting employment targets but at quality of work, pay, hours, health, safety and training.
I would like to see the Member States implement what we already have on equal pay and anti-discrimination legislation. In addition, a coherent Green training strategy needs to be developed now. The environmental component of regeneration programmes need to be strengthened. We must defend Services of General Interest and defeat this current Services Directive. We also need to publicise the Black and Minority Ethnic dimension of entrepreneurship and quality of life. It is important to develop the concept of a basic minimum income and more flexible social security and benefit systems which are positive not punitive. The Commission recognises that there is a loss of confidence in Lisbon, but if we sacrifice quality and innovation for short term growth policy then we surely can't create an inclusive Europe.
Press highlights this month include a spot for Jean on the national BBC1 lunchtime news up against Tessa Jowell, talking about the flaws in the Olympic Bid. This was also covered on London radio. Jean also participated in a BBC panel discussion on terror and civil liberties. Regional news coverage included publicity for Jean's views on the Olympics, phone masts near a school in Harrow and a 'Day in the Life' style piece for The Church Times.
Jean spoke alongside George Monbiot and a representative from the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Science at a London public meeting on climate change. The meeting mobilised for the 12 February demonstration, to mark the Kyoto Protocol coming into force, despite US intransigence.
Jean spoke at a public meeting in Walthamstow to address concerns in East London about the London Olympic bid.
Jean met with the Rector and other representatives of London Metropolitan University.
Jean spoke at a public meeting at a school in Harrow, to oppose the siting of mobile phone masts which would impinge on the school grounds. The school has already successfully stopped three proposed masts. Jean also made a submission to the planning inspectorate objecting to the proposals.
Jean’s assistant attended a meeting for parliamentarians on the Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline at Portcullis House on Jean’s behalf whilst she was in Strasbourg. The briefing revealed the human rights and environmental problems associated with the project, and how the UK’s Export Credit Guarantee Department had come under ministerial influence to weaken its corporate accountability standards, maintaining public subsidy of this highly controversial project.
Jean’s office has continued to develop her ‘Access to Justice in the EU’ campaign and has got more UK NGOs to sign up to a letter of concern on this issue.
Jean spent a half-day with young people from Hackney and Richmond, as part of the ‘Eurolearners’ project to bring European issues closer to London’s young people. The session was filmed and will become part of an educational DVD for use in colleges. Jean also met organisers and young people to prepare for a major youth event to be held at the TUC headquarters in March. Jean will play a major role in the event, focusing on young peoples’ attitudes to European and other political issues.
Jean has been continuing her support for the community campaign to oppose the development of an ‘Innovation Centre’ on Southmere Green in Bexley. Permission has now been granted for the development and funding secured from the EU and from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) Sustainable Communities fund. Jean’s office has requested information about these funding applications, especially the information regarding environmental impact, as requested by the community campaign.
Jean attended a meeting of the Bangladeshi Council of Europe in London to help develop a Europe-wide strategy to address issues of concern to the Bangladeshi community.
Concerns of constituents
Jean responded to constituent’s concerns on a range of issues, from asylum cases and human rights abuses to night flights, mobile phone masts and dolphin deaths through trawling. We are receiving a strong lobby from health care organisations concerned about the Commission's new proposals on working time due to be voted on in Plenary in the May session. We have also been inundated with letters asking Jean to sign the Written Declaration on the Hijab. Jean was one of the first MEPs to sign.