With Ukraine about to launch ‘Ukraine Tomorrow’ in response to the success Russia has had with ‘Russia Today’, the power of the media in controlling and shaping the opinions of millions is very clear.

This power is unlikely to go unnoticed. A plethora of new media organisations have already emerged to broadcast news with the twist their sponsoring state wishes it to have. Russia Today is the most famous, but there is also Euronews, France 24, Deutsche Welle, Japan’s NHK World, Al Jazeera and CNN, to name but a few of the other global providers shaping the narrative. ...continue reading

Following a first-reading agreement, the European Parliament formally approved yesterday (11 February) the draft directive facilitating cross-border exchange of information on road safety related traffic offences, which has now a new legal basis, as required by the European Court of Justice, which annulled the previous directive on the grounds of an incorrect legal basis. This ruling has overturned the UK opt out and the Government is being forced to accept the proposal replacing the annulled directive. The Council is set to approve the proposal this spring so it can officially enter into force before 5 May 2015. ...continue reading

In his City A.M.'s Opinion, Bill Cash wrote "SELF-DELUSION seems to be spreading. First the CityUK’s Chris Cummings, in an article in last Tuesday’s City A.M., appeals for the City of London to lead EU reform. Next, Labour’s Douglas Alexander takes up the call in Monday’s Evening Standard. “It has”, he informs us, “been Britain’s stated policy objective for the past 30 years to heavily influence decisions on EU financial regulation.”

Right. Good. So why has Europe Economics, in a report for Business for Britain, found that the UK would not have introduced half of all major EU financial laws if we had been outside the European Union? Why has one UK government legal challenge to these laws after another been rejected by the European Court of Justice? Why has the EU introduced 4,751 laws that affect British businesses since 2010, when even Peter Mandelson, former EU trade commissioner, admitted in 2004 that regulation cost 4 per cent of EU GDP?" Please read the article here.

Following Bill Cash’s amendment passed unanimously by the House of Commons, David Cameron was able to successfully negotiate the EU’s long-term budget for the 2014 – 2020 period (€960 billion), which, for the first time, was cut in real terms. David Cameron is fighting hard to protect British’s financial interest in Brussels yet British taxpayers will continue to pay substantial amounts of their money to Brussels. The Office of National Statistics’ 2014 Pink Book clearly shows that the UK contributions to the EU have risen from 2007 to 2013. Whereas in 2007 the UK’s net contribution to the EU was £4,123 in 2013 it has reached the substantial figure of £10,465. According to figures published by the European Parliament the UK contributed, in 2013, €14.51 billion to the EU budget, after a rebate of €3.8 billion. ...continue reading

Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): Yesterday, my Committee deeply deplored the fact that the Prime Minister, despite promises given, provided a mere written statement regarding the most recent European Council. That is greatly to be deplored, but another matter of grave concern to my Committee is the failure to schedule debates on the Floor of the House and to carry those through. I recently asked a similar question of the Leader of the House and he said that he would try to do something about this. We have only recommended 11 debates, including on matters as important as the free movement of persons—that has not been debated, despite the fact that we made the recommendation one whole year ago. It simply will not do. In the circumstances, will he agree to appear before my Committee to explain the situation, because, frankly, we have just about had enough? ...continue reading

The Balance of Competences report on Police and Criminal Justice has been published today. Based on the evidence submitted the report reached the following conclusions:

“The majority of respondents pointed to the benefits of practical co-operation mechanisms (such as the EU Organised Crime Policy Cycle).

There is a broad consensus that more time is needed for the current legislation to be fully implemented and bedded down before consideration of any further legislative instruments.

Views are split about whether the collapse from Third into First pillar was necessary or has been of benefit to this area. The European Parliament has an enhanced role as co-legislator while the overall responsibility to keep people safe is retained by governments. For some this raised issues of democratic accountability, while others considered the development positively as potentially providing balance in tensions between internal security and personal liberty.

The ‘opt-in’ under Protocol 21 to the Treaties is seen as a positive tool, however opinions diverged on how and when it is best used. There were concerns, in particular from legal practitioners, that a decision not to opt in to new proposals had the potential to negatively impact the United Kingdom’s ability to influence negotiations. However there was also evidence from stakeholders who felt that the ability of the UK to opt in on a case-by-case basis was beneficial, allowing the Government to, for example, consider the impact of proposals in light of our specific legal systems.

Judicial and police cooperation benefit from both ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ arrangements resulting from EU action.

Improving procedural standards across Member States was widely supported, however there was a lack of consensus regarding what, if any, role the EU has in delivering on this. Instruments based on mutual recognition require trust in the level of procedural standards in other Member States, but views were mixed as to whether EU legislation setting out such minimum procedural standards is the best vehicle for achieving this, or whether the aims could be achieved through inter-governmental agreements or non-legislative means.

There is no appetite for standardising criminal law. Mutual recognition has helped to address issues raised by the differing penal codes and criminal justice systems in each Member State.

Progress is needed to rebalance action in this area better to support victims of crime. Victims’ groups in particular considered EU action to have been insufficiently focussed on areas key for them such as supporting victims and witnesses when engaging with Criminal Justice Systems (CJS) in other Member states.

Emerging challenges include responding to the increasingly international nature of crime such as the evolving nature of the threat from foreign fighters, terrorists and serious and organised crime gangs who operate without respect for national or EU borders and increasing technological challenges, including cybercrime – which does not recognise physical borders. To tackle these challenges the Government need to ensure a genuine focus on practical cooperation is established, as well as finding ways to work more effectively with partners in EU Member States and in third countries.

Further challenges include adapting to full European Court of Justice (ECJ) jurisdiction from 1 December 2014, and the effective implementation of existing legislation.”

Margarida Vasconcelos was quoted as saying:

“The ordinary legislative procedure and qualified majority voting are the rule, and, accordingly, the secret trilogues and first reading deals have been extended to these matters [...] with adverse consequences to the UK democracy and sovereignty.”

”The CJEU has been deeply interfering with the UK legal system, overriding national rules as regards a wide range of EU policies and legislation [...] the CJEU’s interpretations are likely to change the content, reach and impact of measures and the way they apply to the UK. The CJEU has been expanding the reach and scope of European Law, using a purposive interpretation, to promote European integration.” Please read here Margarida Vasconcelos - evidence.

The European Court of Auditors published yesterday a special report entitled “EU-funded airport infrastructures: poor value for money”. The EU’s airport infrastructures have received around €4.5 billion, over the 2000-2013 programme periods, through the European Regional Development Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN‑T). The Court scrutinized 20 EU funded airports in Estonia, in Greece, in Italy, Poland and in Spain, which received from the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund 666 million euro from 2000 to 2013, €460 million of that total was audited. The report reveals that only half of these airports could in fact show the need for EU-funded investment, and the Court concluded “the EU‑funded investments in airports produced poor value for money.” ...continue reading