20th March 2013: Today at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons spoke during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the compulsory provision of information by institutions offering opportunities for investment.
"My first reaction to the substantive content of this Report was favourable. Purchasers of investment 'products' need protection from suppliers, who should explain clearly and accurately the features and risks of these investment opportunities.
"I would prefer that protection to be provided by member states, because their understanding of what providers and members of the public need to be explained would be better.
"The Rapporteur prefers this to be in the form of a regulation*. If the legislation must come from the EU, I would prefer it to be in the form of a directive*, which would allow the members states greater flexibility in crafting the legislation.
"This proposed measure appears, at first sight, to be simply a consumer protection measure. However, when the fourth paragraph of the short justification is examined, it says:
"a regulation will contribute to establish(ing) a more uniform system in the Union, thereby facilitating the comparison of products within the Union".
"It is clear from this that the measure is not primarily to protect consumers but to facilitate the operation of the Single Market in financial 'products'."
* A regulation of the EU comes into force without the member states having any power to change its wording. A directive is written in more general terms and is in effect an instruction to member states to bring in their own legislation which must adhere to the general principles and objectives of the directive.
20th March 2013: Today at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons voted in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on a Visa Facilitation Agreement between the European Union and Moldova.
Andrew is only a reserve member of LIBE, which means that he can speak but he cannot usually vote. However, if one of the Non-Attached* full members of LIBE should be absent either he or the other reserve member of LIBE will take the vote of that full member. The two full members of LIBE from the Non-Attached are invariably present, so he does not usually have a vote but this morning one of them was absent, so he did have a vote after all.
The vote was about the proposed new agreement between the EU and Moldova "to further facilitate the issuance of visas to the citizens of the Republic of Moldova for an intended stay of 90 days per period of 180 days and to foresee (sic) a visa waiver for Moldovan citizens under certain conditions".
The report continues to say: "Moldovan authorities should organise information campaigns in order to allow people to take advantage of the new possibilities, . . . including information on rules relating to access the EU labour market".
What does this mean?
1. It will be easier for Moldovans to obtain visa and they will be for longer periods
2. Sometimes they will not need visas at all.
3. This will make it easier for Moldovans to visit the EU, overstay and work illegally.
3. Just in case not many Moldovans want to come to the EU, the Moldovan authorities will be told to encourage them.
4. They will be told how they can obtain permission to work legally in the EU.
Andrew told his website this afternoon:
"I have nothing against Moldovans. Indeed I do not remember ever having met one. The Roma element in the country's population is less than 2%. However, the Gross Domestic Product per capita is about one seventh (14%) of the UK's GDP per capita. Moldovans working in the UK on the minimum wage or less than the minimum wage (if working illegally) will be much better off than they were at home. This means that Moldovans will have a clear incentive to enter the EU and work legally or illegally and take the jobs of British people.
"I and the other Non-Attached MEP voted against the Agreement. The forty other MEPs on the Committee voted for it."
* The Non-Attached are those MEPs who are not members of any of the formal political groups of MEPs. About half of the Non-Attached are Nationalists of one kind or another.
23rd January 2013: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons spoke during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the Priorities of the Irish Republic's Presidency of the Council of the European Union*.
"I found it reassuring that data protection was one of the Irish Republic's priorities. However, the threats to data protection grow faster than the measures to secure it. Indeed, we should not imagine that all the threats are from commercial organisations and that public bodies are protecting our privacy. There is legislation planned in the United Kingdom that will ensure the recording of all websites visited and all e-mail addresses to which messages have been sent - allegedly in the interests of security.
"I am glad that the Irish Presidency is concerned about fundamental rights. Vulnerable groups whether defined by ethnicity, religion, sexuality or, for that matter politics, must be protected from violence. However, this perfectly justified concern must not be used as a pretext for clamping down on freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is also a fundamental right.
"Rights held by different individuals or groups can sometimes be in conflict. The right of people to conduct their lives in accordance with the tenets of their religion might be seen as offensive or discriminatory by others.
"Political speeches, statements and debate are almost certainly going to offend people who disagree with them or whose interests are incompatible with them. However, disagreement or offence is not a reason for curtailing democratic debate.
"I believe that the Irish Presidency is concerned about the refugee crisis that resulted from the conflict in Syria. Perhaps, the European Union countries that have expended so much of their energy fomenting the conflict in Syria and earlier in Libya should consider the consequences of their actions. One does not have to be a defender the present regime's tactics in suppressing the rebellion to ask whether regime change is worth the 607,000 Syrian refugees (23,500 seeking refuge in the EU), the estimated 60,000 deaths or the prospect of militant Islamists replacing the secular, if ruthless, Ba'ath Party.
"The Deputy Prime Minister, earlier this month (12th January) revealed that the Irish Presidency was preceded by eighteen months of consultation with the Commission. How much of each country's Presidency is drawn up by that country's government and how much is scripted and choreographed by the Commission?"
Response by the Irish Republican Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter:
He said that the Irish Republican Presidency would not be controlled by anybody, including the Commission. This was the first point to which he responded so it appears that I touched a raw nerve.
On the question of freedom of expression, he made it clear that freedom of expression must always take second place to opposition to 'racism' (a Trotskyist term that does not have a definition), 'hate speech' (a pejorative term for reasoned debate about immigration) and 'discrimination'. He continued to say that freedom to practise the tenets of one's religion must take second place to opposition to 'discrimination'.
He said that elected representatives who argue against immigration - particularly Third World immigration - can be demonised as pedlars of 'hate speech' and 'racism' and must be 'confronted'! - a euphemism for suppressed.
* The Council of the European Union is a body containing a representative of each member government. The presidency of this Council is held by the government of a member state that changes every six months. The Irish Republic has held the Presidency since the 1st January and will relinquish it on 30th June. The Council of the European Union (often called simply 'the Council') shares legislative power with the Commission and the European Parliament. It must not be confused with the European Council.
22nd January 2013: Yesterday afternoon at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on Media Freedom in Hungary.
"There are approving references, in the Working Document 3, to the promotion of the right to freedom of opinion and freedom of expression. I am in complete agreement with that sentiment.
"I am not here to defend recent legislation in Hungary. I am sure that representative of Hungary's ruling party are capable of doing that. I want to point out that other countries in the European Union could be accused of infringing the precious right of freedom of expression.
"France recently proposed and passed a law to the effect that anybody refuting the description of the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Turkey as genocide would be guilty of a criminal offence. The fact that Turkey has a mirror image of that law (making it an offence to say that it was genocide) only shows that both countries have mad, anti-academic laws on their statute books.
"There are many other countries in the EU in which the expression of opinion, without any suggestion of incitement to violence, can be a criminal offence.
"There are EU countries, such as the one in which we now are (Belgium), in which political parties can be banned and are banned.
"When are we going to put those countries in the dock or do these strictures about freedom of expression apply only to Hungary."
7th November 2012: Yesterday, in his final speech of the day at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made his second contribution to the hearing in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on Freedom of the Media in the European Union.
Andrew told the hearing:
"We have heard about the plight of poor journalists and newspaper proprietors and the need to be free from restrictions. They certainly need to be protected from repressive governments and from laws passed by repressive legislatures.
"We also need to have freedom of the powerless who are the victims of press and broadcasting media licence. We have heard this morning about the role of newspaper industry financed ombudsmen or complaints bodies. However, they are partisan and powerless against particular titles.
"Defamation laws are expensive and offer protection only to the very rich.
"State broadcasting media, with their obligations of non-partisanship, are supposed to be a counter balance to the private media barons. However, the BBC has its own partisan agenda and tick list of subjects to be covered in every programme. The BBC has its list of favourites who are given unlimited access and its list of demons who are excluded and attacked. Flagship programmes like Question Time and Any Questions change their criteria for inclusion on whim, and make up their rules as they go along.
"The nearest thing that we have to an equaliser is the internet, which is why there are constant attempts to restrict it. Earlier this year Commissioner Reding advocated legal action against the Dutch Freedom Party's website, because she did not like its content."
7th November 2012: In his third contribution of the day, Andrew Brons spoke during a debate in a Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) hearing on Media Freedom in the European Union.
"France, only this year announced a law making it a criminal offence to deny that the killing of Armenians by Turkey in 1915 was genocide. Turkey, an applicant country, has a law making it an offence to say that it was genocide.
"Several other EU countries have laws criminalising heretical opinions on history. Such laws are not consistent with media freedom.
"There must be restrictions on those who expressly incite violence or advocate genocide or atrocities (as distinct from simply refuting the official facts), such as the late historian Eric Hobsbawm who sought to justify Stalin's mass murders. Restrictions on political opinion are not acceptable.
"Reference has been made to'internet governance' and the 'open internet'. How many EU countries prosecute owners of internet websites based in other countries for expressing political opinions or views on academic subjects, including history, that are deemed to be heretical.
"We cannot have a debate about media freedom without reference to such laws. The absence of such references throws doubt on the seriousness of this debate.
"Restrictions on freedom of expression are not only restrictions on the rights of the speaker or writer. They are restrictions on the rights of all of us to read and to see, to hear and to listen.
"Freedom of the media must include freedom of access to the media. Earlier this year there was a debate in Germany about the banning of a political party, because of the activities of a quite separate murderous gang. I saw the debate on German television and heard the views of all the parties on the proposal. When I said all of the parties, I should have said all of the parties except for the one that the German Government wanted to ban.
"Most problematic are anti-free speech laws, including those in the United Kingdom, in which the truth is no defence."
7th November 2012: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons asked four questions during debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the Annual Report from the Asylum Support Office.
"I have a number of questions to ask (to Mr. Robert Visser), its Executive Director.
"What proportion of asylum seekers claim to have been singled out for ill treatment in their countries of origin and what proportion are claiming asylum simply because they come from countries that are dangerous or repressive of the populations generally?
"What proportion of those claiming asylum are refused asylum status?
"Is there a check on the number of failed asylum seekers who return to their countries of origin or at least leave the European Union? A few months ago, the Executive Director of Frontex said that illegal migrants and failed asylum seekers were not forcibly removed but simply given a written order to leave, which of course they obey immediately or of course fail to do so. The representative of the Commission only yesterday said that there had been a shift from what he called obligatory removal to voluntary removal.
"One final question: do you see a final limit to the number of asylum seekers coming to Europe or is there an unlimited commitment to accept all who qualify?
"I am concerned about the number of asylum seekers coming from conflicts caused by Western countries, including EU countries and in particular the United Kingdom. I am even more concerned about asylum seekers from countries in which democracy has been restored or introduced.
"If I were a Tunisian, I would want to return to Tunisia to enjoy the democracy that had been implanted and to support it. I see that 24,000 Tunisians (present in the EU) do not agree with me, because they have remained in Europe."
Response from Mr. Visser:
He ignored most of Andrew's questions but did answer the last one. He said that there was no upper limit. There were, he said, no limits to humanity.
7th November 2012: In the first of four speeches at the European Parliament in Brussels yesterday, Andrew Brons spoke during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the plight of unaccompanied minors who are refugees.
"The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 3 is quoted with approbation: "The best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration". This is referred to as though the words were set in stone or perhaps even the words of a deity. Words that are written by mortals can be changed by mortals.
"I am rather sceptical about the hypothesis that unaccompanied children were able to find their way to Europe unaided. I suspect that lack of accompaniment is sometimes a strategy rather than a condition. It is possible that many were trafficked by malevolent people, as well as by some well meaning but misguided people.
"If we are talking about the economic or material interests of the child, the answer is clear-cut: the child will be better off, better fed and, in later life, better paid in Europe. That we rob the child of his roots can apparently be disregarded.
"Once we accept that unaccompanied children are better off in Europe and that that is more important than their origins or cultural background, we must ask ourselves whether we an accept unaccompanied or even accompanied ones being allowed to remain in the Third World. When are we going to gather them all up and bring them to Europe. Can we tolerate any children remaining in the Third World? We can always feed them on our self-righteousness.
"We were warned earlier of the danger of making facetious remarks to border guards, who are likely to take them literally. Perhaps a similar warning should be given against making such remarks to civil libertarians."
6th November 2012: In his second contribution of the day at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons asked the following question during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the European Refugee Fund.
"I would like to know on what the Return Fund is spent.
"A few months ago, we heard from the Executive Director of Frontex that illegal migrants (or irregular migrants if you prefer that euphemism) are not detained for long and are not forcibly returned to their country of origin. They are simply handed a piece of paper asking them very nicely to leave the EU if they wouldn't mind awfully. There is no compulsion and no checking.
"The Return Fund is one of four funds that are part of the Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows. I have asked about whether each of these funds is ring-fenced or if they can be used flexibly between the objects of the other funds. I have received contradictory answers."
The Commission responded by saying that the Return Fund was spent on:
1. Return actions which, he admitted, were more likely these day to be voluntary rather than obligatory.
2. Training and information to migrants telling them of their rights.
6th November 2012: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the integration of migrants, its effects on the labour market and social security.
"It is true that the nations of Europe have ageing populations. That is partly the result of increasing life expectancy, which is obviously a cause for celebration but it is also because of falling birth rates. Why? Because national and EU policies - many excellent in themselves, like home ownership and removal of gender barriers in the workplace - have had the unintended consequence of reducing birth rates.
"Policies that have unintended consequences can be modified and refashioned though not abandoned, to avoid those consequences. It is not necessary to leave those policies unaltered and to adopt extreme remedies that will bring additional unintended and unwanted consequences in their train.
"If there really are shortages of particular occupations, we can train our own peoples to fill them. In the words of the Commission in their 2010 document, Europe 2020, page 7: "Europe has many strengths and we can count on talents and creativity of our peoples". The Commission has never written truer words. It should not be the policy of Europe to plunder the less than overwhelming supply of professionally-educated health and business workers - a policy that will plunge those countries back into economic stagnation, disease and despair.
"Bringing into Europe young Third World immigrants to be substitute, Ersatz, Europeans will not work.
"The cultures of immigrants are not like outer garments that can be discarded at the port or airport of entry and replaced by European outer garments. Their 'cultures' - so-called - are rather more indelible than garments. When Third World immigrants come to Europe in large numbers, they turn parts of Europe into the Third World.
"Of course, the host countries might think that they are at least deciding on the numbers to be admitted. However, as the Rapporteur identified, for every one adult male, the nations of Europe find that they have to admit several others including dependent children in the interests of family reunification - a euphemism if ever there was one!
"The description students is a sort of laissez-passer. It admits the holder of the status entry without having to justify their presence. Some of the educational institutions simply do not exist and even those who do attend bona fide course frequently gain rights to remain and work on the conclusion of their courses.
"The idea of freedom of movement to work is absurd enough when there are unemployed people among the member states' own nationals. The idea of a freedom of movement to claim is nothing short of lunacy."