OLAF has serious questions to answer about relationship with tobacco industry – Martina Anderson MEP
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has stated that the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has some serious questions to answer about its relationship with the tobacco industry following recent developments.
Speaking from Strasbourg, Martina Anderson MEP said;
“I would like to congratulate my colleagues in our parliamentary group, GUE/NGL, for passing a progressive resolution on the Philip Morris International (PMI) Agreements on tobacco smuggling. All four Sinn Féin MEPs signed the resolution passed in Strasbourg this afternoon.
“The resolution called on the European Commission to not renew the PMI agreements due for renewal later this year. The agreements were designed to help counter tobacco smuggling across the EU and place more responsibility for combatting smuggling on the tobacco industry.
“These agreements have failed miserably. They have been used as a fig leaf to mask the inadequacies of the European Union in dealing with the scourge of illicitly traded tobacco, which still costs the EU an estimated €10 billion each year.
“The tobacco industry has been mired in controversy due to aggressive lobbying and countless corruption accusations made against it. Big-money deals with the European Commission aren’t the way to deal with this scourge. The EU should accelerate the implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive – an initiative I led through parliament in the last term – and they should sign up to the World Health Organisation protocol on the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. I have been designated the lead MEP for the implementation of the WHO Protocol and I look forward to advancing this in the coming months.”
A member of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Martina Anderson continued;
“The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has benefited financially from these tobacco agreements. The European Parliament today acknowledged the obvious potential for a conflict of interest when OLAF investigates tobacco related cases as big tobacco contributes to its budget.
“I was delighted to see the European Parliament share Sinn Féin’s concerns and endorse the view that OLAF may have a serious conflict of interest in relation to tobacco.
“Fuel was added to this fire by breaking news today that OLAF Director Giovanni Kessler has had his immunity suspended by the European Commission over phone-tapping accusations in a case dealing with big tobacco.
“In 2012 Commissioner Dalli resigned over accusations made in relation to requests for huge sums of money in return for support in changing tobacco policy. Dalli denies the accusations. He has also been the subject of an FBI investigation into financial irregularities.
“Several news outlets are today reporting that Kessler had secretly listened to legally recorded telephone conversations in relation to Dalli’s case.
“This is an alarming development and reinforces the view that OLAF’s relationship with big tobacco needs explained. As a publically funded, anti-fraud organisation, OLAF must hold itself to the highest of moral standards. These developments call to question the integrity of the office and their ability to effectively investigate fraud in the European Institutions.
Martina Anderson concluded;
“I will continue to fight the overbearing influence of the tobacco industry and advance progressive initiatives, such as the WHO Protocol, in the interest of public health. Sinn Féin will also fight to hold all European institutions to account.” ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has today called for increased protection of women refugees and asylum seekers.
Speaking after a debate and vote on the situation facing women refugees and asylum seekers, Martina Anderson MEP said;
“On International Women’s Day, we acknowledge the role women play in today’s society and the impact they have had in the past.
“It is also a day where the inequalities faced by women are laid bare. Women earn just 10% of the world’s income and own just 1% of the world’s property. Women face immense discrimination and inequality all over the world.
“The attention of the European Parliament today was turned to one specific group of women who are in dire need of our immediate action and support.
“Women and children now make up nearly 60% of refugees fleeing horrific conflict and barbaric persecution. The severity of the persecution and conflict they flee is evidenced by the perilousness of the journeys they undertake to seek refuge in Europe. Nearly four hundred people have died in the Mediterranean in the last few weeks, one third were women and children.
A Member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, Ms Anderson continued,
“Female refugees are increasingly vulnerability to human trafficking, exploitation, discrimination and abuse. Women travelling alone or with children, pregnant and nursing women, adolescent girls, and elderly women are among those who are particularly at risk and require a properly resourced, coordinated and effective protection response that is compassionately trained to accommodate the needs of vulnerable female refugees.
“Amnesty International has reported on sexual violence and the exploitation of Syrian refugee women in Lebanon. It noted that refugee women who were the heads of their households and without an adult male relative were particularly at risk and had little or no protection or access to justice.
“The current response to the needs of refugee women and children by governments and the EU institutions has been woefully insufficient.
“More humane asylum policies need to be prioritised by all states. In developing and implementing these policies, particular attention should be paid to the situation of women, girls and children, notably the victims of sexual and gender-based violence.
“European countries have to open safe and legal passage and access to asylum for those fleeing conflict and persecution. No refugee should be subjected to detention and reception centres need immediate improvement in standards. The humanitarian crisis at Europe’s borders needs a humanitarian response. The EU can be a driving force for that, fostering effective integration and ensuring a fair and safe distribution of asylum seekers across member states.” ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson this week launched a specially commissioned legal opinion on the planned repeal of the 1998 Human Rights Act by the British Government.
Speaking at the launch in the Cultúrlann Arts and Cultural centre, Ms Anderson said,
“The planned repeal of the 1998 Human Rights Act by the British Government will have far reaching consequences for the people of the north of Ireland.
“The 1998 Act is interwoven completely in the fabric of the Good Friday Agreement.
“It gives effect to the European Convention on Human Rights and gives citizens direct access to the European Court of Human Rights.
“The objective to repeal this is an ideological drive from a hawkish Tory government to dilute human rights protections for their citizens and citizens in the north. This threat is made even more real in the context of the BREXIT referendum, due to be held on 23th June 2016.
A Member of the European Parliament Committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, Ms Anderson continued,
“The European Convention on Human Rights provides security and protections for citizens in several fields, including the right to life, the prohibition of torture and inhumane and degrading treatment and the right to respect of private life.
“If you zero in on any one sector of society you can see the importance of the protection afforded to citizens by the Convention.
“Within the Convention, for example, there are several clauses that relate directly to the provision of rights for persons with disabilities and it has an additional relevance to the north of Ireland as we emerge from a decade’s long conflict in which the state was an actor.
“There is no question that a dilution of the protections of the Convention could undermine public confidence in the new policing arrangements in the six counties as accountability mechanisms are altered.
MEP for the north, Ms Anderson continued,
“The repeal of the Human Rights Act would, as outlined in the legal opinion, have negative consequences for the uniformity of human rights standards across the island of Ireland.
“As one of the guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish government has a duty to defend the peace process and human rights provision is a fundamental principle of the peace process.
“It is essential that the planned repeal of the Human Rights Act is resisted at every juncture and within this legal opinion, I am confident that we have provided a document that will enhance that resistance.” ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has welcomed the breakthrough by Queen’s University scientists in fast-tracking the identification of psychoactive substances – better known as ‘legal highs’.
Ms Anderson said:
“This development will assist greatly in the fight against the availability of these deadly substances.
“This breakthrough comes on the heels of the total ban on these substances which comes into effect under the Psychoactive Substances Act next month.
“I travelled to China last November as part the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee on an EU fact-finding mission.
“I lobbied for a crackdown on the manufacture and sale of so-called legal highs.
“Many of these drugs manufactured in China end up on the streets across Ireland.
“We are all aware of the misery caused by legal highs – toxic substances which destroy people’s lives and have been linked to countless deaths.
“While we have been able to limit the sale of some of these dangerous drugs in Ireland, the ease with which the dealers were able to circumvent regulations continues to put lives at risk.
“That is why this breakthrough by Queen’s scientists is so significant. It is important the trade in these drugs is stopped before any more lives are lost.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson met with representatives Bobby Farren Derry GAA, Shane Flanagan Leinster GAA and Ger O’Connor, GAA Games Development Manager in the European Parliament today.
Following the meeting, Ms Anderson said,
“Meeting with representatives from the GAA during their time in Brussels was a great opportunity to strengthen relationships that we have already developed in Ireland, in particular by party colleague and Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin.
“During the meeting we discussed the benefits and the importance of sporting clubs, such as the GAA in building friendships, communities and a sense of belonging.
“Derry, Louth and other border areas were identified as areas in which additional funding and support could be given to the GAA. Although soccer has developed over the years GAA facilities have been left behind.
“For example, in Derry there are 53 soccer pitches, but only 3 GAA pitches, which are not up to standard or have the necessary capacity. Not only is this a current disadvantage but it could also be damaging to the future of the GAA.
“I want to work with the GAA to ensure it is advanced and therefore we have arranged a follow up meeting with Joint First Minister Martin McGuinness and other party colleagues to lend our support.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson will launch a specifically commissioned legal opinion into the repeal of the 1998 Human Rights Act at 12 noon, Thursday 3rd Marchin an Cultúrlann, West Belfast,
Martina Anderson MEP said:
“Sinn Féin along with our colleagues in the GUE/NGL group of MEPs commissioned a legal opinion on the impact the proposed Repeal of the 1998 Human Rights Act by the British government would have on society.
“I will launch that opinion in an Cultúrlann in West Belfast tomorrow 3rd March with Caoilfhionn Gallagher and Katie O’Byrne of Doughty Street Chambers and a representative from Kevin Winters Law being joined by the north’s Human Rights Commissioner Les Allenby.
“West Belfast MLA Rosie McCorley will be on hand to explain Sinn Féin’s opposition to any moves to Repeal the Act and outline our determination to mobilise against any attempt to diminish Human Rights protections for our people.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson is hosting a delegation of Cancer Campaigners from across Ireland in Brussels this week.
Ms Anderson said:
“I am taking a delegation of almost 40 people from across Ireland to the EU Parliament in Brussels to assist them in their campaign to highlight the concerns of patients and their families at the lack of focus on the often unacceptable delays in diagnosis and treatment.
“I am bringing this delegation to Europe to keep a focus on patients’ rights, concerns, needs and dignity.
“I want to draw attention to cancer, and the need to pursue our efforts to improve the lives of all those who live with this life threatening condition.
“While patients’ rights are protected to different degrees across the EU it is one of those areas that needs an EU wide strategy for delivery.
“It needs a commitment to tackle the cancer epidemic in a coordinated approach across Europe
“European cancer fatality rates will be one every ten seconds in the next 20-25 years.
“I am a fervent advocate of the European Cancer Patient’s Bill of Rights which is a catalyst for change to provide every European citizen with the right to the optimum standard of care.
“The three Patient-Centred Principles of the Charter are the right of every European citizen to receive the most accurate information and to be proactively involved in his/her care.
“The right of every European citizen to optimal and timely access to appropriate specialised care, underpinned by research and innovation. And the right of every European citizen to receive care in health systems that ensure improved outcomes, patient rehabilitation, best quality of life and affordable healthcare.
“I am committed to do everything I can to deliver on these principles of cancer care.”