Jonathan Fryer

Posts Tagged ‘Charles Tannock’

Montenegro’s EU Aspirations

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 12th January, 2013

Montenegro flagAleksandar Andrija PejovicWhen the former Yugoslavia broke up in the early 1990s,  the immediate concern of the new states created was to secure their boundaries and to establish the apparatus of a national government. But most also dreamed of the day when they could complete the transition from Communist province to full member state of the European Union. Slovenia — which has always thought of itself as being in central Europe rather than the western Balkans — was the first to achieve that goal, in 2004; Croatia will follow suit this year. But the next is likely to be tiny Montenegro, which only declared independence (from a rump Yugoslavia made up mainly of Serbia) in 2006. Last night, the tiny republic’s chief negotiator for Montenegro’s accession to the EU, Aleksandar Andrija Pejovic, joined London Tory MEP Charles Tannock — who is the relevant rapporteur in the European Parliament — at Europe House to give a presentation on Montenegro’s progress. The government has managed to put together an impressive array of committees and structures in Podgorica to manage the adjustment of Montenegro’s laws and practices to fit in with the EU’s massive acquis communautaire. Interestingly, a sizeable majority of the key people in that process are women. Moreover, local NGOs have been integrated into the deliberations, which is a first. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that Montenegro will complete the accession process before the end of the decade. This is partly because the EU is going through a difficult time at present but also because there is general recognition that Romania and Bulgaria were unwisely fast-tracked into membership in 2007 before they had sorted out some serious deficiencies. As Charles Tannock warned, Montenegro also needs to tackle some issues around corruption and organised crime. But it should become the 29th EU member state one day — or the 30th, if Iceland gets its act together and races past on the inside track.

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London’s Portuguese Gala

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 28th April, 2012

Among the many newspapers that serve London’s multicultural community, the Portuguese language As Noticias is something of a leader. There are reputedly around 400,000 Portuguese in Britain — not to mention the large numbers of Brazilians, Angolans, etc. — a substantial proportion of whom are in London, notably in the Vauxhall area of Lambeth. But it was in Battersea, at the Portuguese-owned Pestana Chelsea Bridge Hotel, that Joao Noronha of As Noticias hosted the fourth Portuguese community Gala dinner last night, with splendid live entertainment flown in from Lisbon. The guests of honour included the Secretary of State for Portuguese Communities, José Cesario (pictured), who is one of four members of the Portuguese parliament elected by expatriates: two for Europe and two for the rest of the world, the latter being Mr Cesario’s constituency. That means a huge amount of travelling for him, from Brazil to Goa to Macau and points in between. It’s an interesting system of representation which I suspect Britain will one day have to consider following. There are hundreds of thousands of Brits who live abroad — notably in Spain — who become disenfranchised after 15 years away. Moreover, the concept of a Diaspora helps maintain a nationality’s sense of identity and community, as many of the ethnic groups in London demonstrate. The Portuguese community in Britain originally consisted largely of people working in the hospitality business and low-skilled jobs but these days they are of all types, including bankers, as was illustrated by the sponsorship of last night’s event by four of the leading Portuguese banks with operations in London. I was there as a guest as a Portuguese-speaking LibDem, alongside the similarly lusophone Conservative MEP Charles Tannock.

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Sakharov Prize 2011

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 9th December, 2011

Next week, at a formal session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought will be awarded to five representatives of the Arab Spring movement: posthumously to the Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation partly triggered the whole new Arab Awakening; Asmaa Mafouz (Egypt), Ahmed al-Zubair Ahmed al-Sanusi (Libya), Razan Zeitouneh and Ali Farzat (both Syria). The Prize is named after the Soviet physicist and political dissdent Andrei Sakharov and has been awarded annually by the European Parliament since 1988 to individuals or organizations who have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy. Last year’s laureate was Guillermo Farinas from Cuba, whose government refused to allow him to travel to France to collect it. Here in London, the European Parliament representation hosted an event at Europe House on Thursday, to mark the prize, though the subject was not the Arab Spring but rather the broad issue of human rights, and in particular attempts in Britain to get rid of the Human Rights Act and thereby disassociate ourselves from some of the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR, which is a product of the Council or Europe, not the European Union, of course). The Conservative MP Robert Buckland and Conservative MEP Charles Tannock, from slightly different perspectives, argued how they thought Britain would be better off with its own legislative provisions, but Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, fiercely defended the Council of Europe and the ECHR, and from the rumblings in the audience, including from some pro-Euro Tories, the majority were on her side. Incidentally, had we known what David Cameron was going to do at the EU Summit in Brussels subsequently, I suspect the rumbings would have been more like howls of outrage.

Link: www.sakharovprize.europa.eu

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