Strasbourg Diary – 10/11/2008

Teaching children about basic finance, moves to introduce the EU’s own naval operation off the Horn of Africa and changing the rule about discarding cod caught involuntarily are this month’s topics.

A GOOD IDEA

Teaching children about basic finance so they can avoid getting into debt at a later age seems like a very good idea. One of the main causes of the current financial crisis is the indebtedness of millions of citizens, both in Europe and the US. The culture of our parents and grandparents of being “canny” with their money gave way in the last twenty years to one of relying too heavily on credit for many people. A surprisingly high number of families are not sufficiently aware of the dangers and responsibilities of over-reaching themselves in terms of mortgages and other major commitments. Another worrying phenomenon is that children can sometimes take out loans over the internet without their parents’ knowledge. Safeguards are being built in and regulations tightened around borrowing as a result of the current economic crisis but teaching the next generation to learn from the mistakes of the past seems like a sensible measure. The European Parliament will vote on proposals this month to set aside a budget of 1.5 million euros (£1.2 million) for financial education in schools across the EU. Let’s hope there will be a good return on that modest investment in future years.

A certainty that history has shown us is that a heavy reliance on credit can have long term negative effects. Getting back to the safety of being more frugal and less dependent on credit is something to aspire to. Budget well and set aside a designated portion of funds that you can spend at internet casinos in Australia in hopes of winning big!

PLAYING PIRATE WITH OUR NAVY?

In spite of a NATO maritime group and a coalition force actively combating piracy in the seas off the Horn of Africa, the EU has decided it wants its own copy-cat naval operation. The EU, which has no ships of its own, will draw vessels from the same over-stretched navies already engaged in the operations. The resolution has received the full backing of the European Parliament in Strasbourg – but not mine, nor that of a minority of my colleagues. There are very serious concerns about piracy on the high seas, especially off the Horn of Africa. This requires coherent, sustained international naval action, with an unambiguous chain of command and political control. NATO is best able to mount such an operation on behalf of the UN. We also need clarity about dealing with arrested pirates so that international law can be applied robustly. The EU has no useful military role to play in this and their involvement will just complicate matters. All EU countries planning to contribute frigates and destroyers to the “EU military mission” are already members of NATO, and contributing ships for anti-piracy operations. Piracy is a serious issue but we should rely on NATO and international co-operation instead of unrealistic EU ambitions.

COD STOCKS – WHY DISCARD?
Throwing away cod caught accidentally under the cod stock recovery rules prevents proper scientific evaluation of existing stocks. That’s why, In their response to the European Commission’s latest cod recovery plan, MEPs have called for all cod caught to be landed, rather than discarded. We also agreed to the inclusion of the Celtic Sea (south of the Irish Sea ) in the cod recovery plan. In a second vote, on fishing in outermost regions of the EU, we also proposed extending until 2011 the deadline for fishing vessels receiving national state aid to enter the fishing fleet. The purpose of the proposed changes in the cod recovery plan is to see cod stocks restored within five to ten years. But there is still a problem of illegal fishing which was aired in the debate in Strasbourg. MEPs called it a disaster for fishing stocks, a disgrace for the fishing industry and an outrage against society as a whole – a position that the European Parliament has emphasised many times.