This week in Europe: 21-24 May

Yes, we’re back in Strasbourg, apparently, for another week of drama and excitement. Alright, perhaps I exaggerate a bit… and apologise for being a little behind.

Yesterday saw the first debate on the new EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which will include a provision for visa-free travel to Canada for all EU citizens, something the Americans could perhaps learn from, as well as a series of short debates on, amongst other things, the EU’s internal security strategy and strengthening the rights of vulnerable consumers.

Today, debates on SME access to structural funds, homophobia, bluefin tuna and trade with China, Colombia and Peru dominate the session, sandwiching a series of votes on reports, but possibly the most interesting item this week will be Wednesday’s debate on a report on a common system for taxing financial transactions. There is at least a realisation that Europe cannot ‘go it alone’, although I deeply suspect that HM Treasury will be keeping a very close eye on developments.

Finally, Friday sees a debate on human rights abuses in Azerbaijan, just in time for the Eurovision Song Contest, due to take place in Baku the following day. President of the European Liberal Democrats Sir Graham Watson is stepping up his campaign to raise awareness of the plight of pro-democracy activists there, coinciding with the broadcast of a BBC Panorama documentary entitled Eurovision’s Dirty Secret.

Earlier this year, Sir Graham launched the Douze Points for Freedom campaign, urging everyone to sign his petition demanding an immediate release of government opposition members who have been jailed for expressing opposition to the regime. Coincidently, he also predicted Humperdinck to be the UK entrant in a press release hours before his announcement so that his UK No. 1 Please Release Me could be used to highlight the plight of political prisoners in the country.

Watson commented:

UK entrant Engelbert Humperdinck’s hit song Please Release Me is quite an irony. Eurovision is a chance for Europe to come together, now more important than ever, given these difficult and testing times. But the question we should be asking is why is a country that continues to imprison people because they said something against the government hosting the world’s largest music competition to an audience of hundreds of millions of people?”

‘‘I urge everyone to sign my petition and make it clear to the BBC that one half hour documentary is not enough. Presenters on Saturday night should raise this point during the live show so that everyone is aware of the crimes being committed against innocent Azerbaijani people.

The petition can be found here.

* For more information on this week’s business in the European Parliament, follow this link to the Parliament’s agenda.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International, News and Parliament.

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