Following a recent European Tobacco Product Directive aimed at reducing the number of children taking up smoking, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson hosted an event at the Stormont Assembly which was attended by statutory and community organisations to explain the directive.


Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said that the engagement between herself accompanied by local Sinn Féin elected representatives and the fishing industry in South Down was very worthwhile.

South Down Sinn Féin had invited members from the fishing industry including fishermen, fish processors and representatives from Ardglass and Kilkeel fishing community to a working breakfast with the Sinn Féin MEP in order to listen to the concerns of the industry.

The aim of the exercise was to exchange information and set out a plan of action that will benefit the fishing community in South Down.

The fishing industry is an important part of the South Down economy and this meeting allowed an exchange of information that will benefit both the industry and Sinn Féin in protecting and promoting the industry in the future.

Martina Anderson MEP speaking to local journalists after a very successful EU funding seminar which she hosted in Walsh’s Hotel, Maghera on Friday (18th October)  said:

“Since being selected as an MEP over a year ago, I have dedicated a lot of my constituency time to engaging with groups and organisations in different areas across the north as well as border counties.

“During these encounters I was surprised at the insufficient flow of information on the EU Funding available to to our local SMEs, Community & Voluntary groups and Independent Retail sector, resulting in minimal draw-down of funding.

“I’ve therefore prioritised this area of work because research shows we in the north are not fully availing of funding opportunities in Europe. In order to address the knowledge deficit on how to access funding I decided to take a number of delegations to Europe. Most recently I hosted the Chambers of Commerce and representatives from the Independent Retail Trade sector from across the North and Border Counties in Brussels.

“There are nine EU programmes coming on stream, the major one Horizon 2020, will have a massive budget of €70billion for distribution.  At our engagement in Maghera, we explored these opportunities in more detail and signaled local groups and businesses to the benefit of liaising with OFMDFM officials from The European Centre for Delivering Social Change, as well as Head of the European Commission Office in Belfast, Colette Fitzgerald, all of whom have a wealth of experience between them and are available to assist and advise local business and Universities etc on how to maximise funding opportunities.

“The seminar in Maghera was an excellent opportunity for  those attending to receive much needed information  It was gratifying to see such a large turnout and if the feed-back is a gauge of satisfaction then it was a great success.”

Ms. Anderson also informed the seminar of her recent work as a Shadow Rapporteur who takes a robust public health promotion approach in the European Parliament regarding the Tobacco Products Directive as well as initiatives aimed at eliminating Caste discrimination and barriers placed in the way of ethnic minorities.

The Sinn Fein MEP also gave details of her involvement in the fight for a Youth Jobs Gurantee while tabling proposals in relation to Food Fraud as well as her leading role in a forthcoming fact finding visit to  Gaza on behalf of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council.

The seminar was organised by South Derry Sinn Féin and chaired by Ian Milne MLA.

Commenting on an EU Report that estimated €193 billion in VAT revenues (1.5% of GDP) was lost due to non-compliance or non-collection in 2011 across member States, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said it would serve governments better to focus more on collecting their share of VAT lost than on cutting the much needed benefits of the poor.

Martina Anderson said:

“According to a new study on the VAT Gap in Member States, an estimated €193 billion in VAT revenue (1.5% of GDP) was lost due to non-compliance or non-collection in 2011. The study was funded by the European Commission as part of its work to reform the VAT system in Europe, as well as its wider campaign to clamp down on tax evasion.

“It sets out detailed data on the gap between the amount of VAT due and the amount actually collected in 26 Member States between 2000 and 2011.

“While Sinn Féin has always considered VAT to be a regressive tax, hitting the poor hardest, the fact that billions of Euro paid by citizens is lost, due to non-compliance or non-collection amounts to gross negligence on behalf of government.

“While governments can bring in all sorts of oppressive legislation to combat alleged and mostly exaggerated welfare fraud they are doing little to ensure that VAT paid by citizens to the tune of billions is collected and the revenue returned to the taxpayer through benefits and services.

“The impact that such sums could have in augmenting public finances is tremendous. A multi-faceted approach is required to close the gap between VAT projected and what is actually collected. First, a tougher stance against evasion and stronger enforcement at member State level, are essential. Secondly, the simpler the system, the easier it is for business to comply with the rules. And lastly, the State needs to reform and overhaul its tax collection systems in order to ensure compliance and deter evasion and avoidance.

“Government should also review existing exemptions and reductions with a view to enable them to avoid future increased rates or even allow for reductions in the standard VAT rates.”

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson addressed a well-attended meeting of the Fishing community in Newcastle, Co Down on Wednesday morning at which she listened intently to their concerns and proposals for the protection of the industry.

Commenting on the outcome of the engagement, Ms Anderson said:

“Obviously my personal knowledge of commercial fishing and the needs of the industry and community are limited, therefore in was most enlightening and informative to participate in this engagement which for me was a listening and learning exercise.

“But that does not mean that I am unaware of the ramifications for the industry of the raft of legislation and regulation, affecting the industry emanating from Europe. And I can assure you that I don’t have to be an expert to recognise what is good for the industry and what could have a negative impact on it.

“Next week on Oct 23rd MEPs will be voting in Strasbourg on the Cadec report, the core issue of which is undoubtedly the on-going reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and I have been lobbied from a number of sources.

“Some of the arguments made to me state that the fishing industry could yield additional revenue of €3.2 billion each year and create substantial job opportunities across Europe if we restore fish stocks to their maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by setting appropriate catch quotas. The newly approved Common Fisheries Policy aims to restore fish stocks and make European fisheries sustainable and profitable again.

“The recent briefing “Unknown Waters” by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) makes a case based on claims that more than half our EU fish stocks have never been properly assessed – making it impossible to set appropriate catch quotas.  It is estimated that 30-40% of the fish landed comes from illegal, unreported or unregulated sources.

“But it is being argued that this can only be addressed by assembling adequate data on fish stocks and the proper enforcement of laws that prevent overfishing. Those who make this case say that it’s vital the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund provide sufficient funding towards this data collection, control and law enforcement. Current funding for data collection, control and enforcement is currently only 1.5% of the value of landings.

“Tripling this amount to €302 million annually would be a small investment given the additional gains in jobs and food supplies that would accrue. Research shows that for every €1 invested in data collection, control and enforcement, there is a potential return of €10.

“After discussing these and other aspects of the Common Fishery Policy with those in attendance I am now better informed on what our fishing community would like to see delivered by this process of reform. I will do my utmost, to lobby support in Europe for Fisheries Minister, Michelle O’Neill’s representations on behalf of our fishing fleet.”

Addressing an Agri-Food Conference in Templepatrick this morning  Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson will accuse the British government of costing farmers here £millions because of the approach it took to the EU Budget negotiations.

Martina Anderson will tell the Conference that:

“The value of gross output from the agricultural industry in the north in 2012 alone was £1.7billion.

“The latest available information shows that in 2011 and 2012, the value of gross turnover from food and drinks processing industry was estimated to be approximately £4billion.

“To me this means jobs, and the agri-food sector accounts for approximately 6.2% of total employment in the north of Ireland today.  This is impressive, however we can build on it in the years ahead. But the sector is not without its challenges.

Touching on CAP reform and Rural Development Funding Ms Anderson said:

“CAP Reform Agreement was reached between Member States and representatives of the main political groupings of the European Parliament on the 26th June and finalised on the 24 September. Some further work on the legal text is taking place in Brussels and is not expected to be adopted by the EU council and the Parliament until the end of this year.

“The new system of Direct Payments is due to begin on the 1st January 2015 and the next Rural Development funding period will commence on 1 January 2014.

“Minister Michelle O Neill importantly secured regional flexibility for us to try and design a new CAP regime that will best suit our needs and assist the growth of our industry.  The options are currently out for consultation and early next year crucial decisions will have to be taken and I wish the Minister luck with all of that.

“Disappointingly the British Government supported by Unionist MPs and MEPs approach to the EU budget negotiations has meant that we will be working with a reduced budget. The budget for Direct Payments will be reduced by 2-3% in cash terms compared with the previous period which will amount to £millions less for farmers here.

“But it’s the rural development budget that will be reduced by much more – possibly up to £160 million less than current allocation, which will have a demoralising impact on rural areas which rely on RDF to modernize and plan for the future.

“But the publication of the ‘Going for Growth Report’ from the Agri-Food Strategy Board will provide the opportunity to shape EU programmes at the start of this next funding period, in a way that will help achieve its vision.

“We are well behind others, particularly the rest of Ireland, in drawing down the resources that are available from the EU. We need to lift our game if those opportunities are to be realised.”

Full Text of Ms Anderson’s speech

 

Agri-Food conference

Fáilte romhat go léir agus maidin an-mhaith

Good morning everyone, Chairman, Minister, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your kind invitation to address you this morning.

As an MEP I am very aware of the importance of the Agri-food sector to Ireland’s economy, both now and in years to come.

In many ways it is the backbone of our economy and we must work hard to ensure the viability of this industry is never undermined.

I sit on the Committee of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety in the European Parliament and I have been nominated as Shadow Rapporteur of a number of important areas such as the Food Crisis, Fraud in the Food chain and the control thereof, therefore I will be centrally involved in how the food chain is regulated in the future.

I will be working closely with the department to ensure that the regulations reflect the needs of our industry.

I have also been working closely with the Agriculture Minister and I meet regularly with EU commissioners to advance the needs of the north.

The value of gross output from the agricultural industry in the north alone in 2012 was £1.7billion.

The latest available information shows that in 2011 and 2012, the value of gross turnover from the food and drinks processing industry was estimated to be approximately £4billion.

To me this means jobs, with the agri-food sector accounting for approximately 6.2% of total employment in the north of Ireland today.  This is impressive, however we can build on it in the years ahead.

However the sector is not without its challenges.

This morning I have been asked to touch on three areas, CAP reform, milk quotas and country of origin labelling.

CAP Reform Agreement was reached between Member States and representatives of the main political groupings of the European Parliament on the 26th June 2013 and finalised on the 24 September 2013.

Some further work on the legal text is taking place in Brussels and not expected to be adopted by the EU council and the Parliament until the end of this year.

The new system of Direct Payments is due to begin on the 1st January 2015 and the next Rural Development funding period will commence on 1 January 2014.

Minister, Michelle O Neill importantly secured regional flexibility for us to try and design a new CAP regime that will best suit our needs and assist the growth of our industry.

The options are currently out for consultation and early next year crucial decisions will have to be taken and I wish the Minister luck with all of that.

Disappointingly the British Government supported by Unionist MPs and MEPs approach to the EU budget has meant that we will be working with a reduced budget.

The budget for Direct Payments will be reduced by 2-3% in cash terms compared with the previous period which amounts to £millions less for farmers here.

But it’s the rural development budget that will be reduced by much more – possibly up to £160 million less than current allocation, which will have a demoralising impact on rural areas which rely on Rural Development Funding to modernize and plan for the future.

We will have to make the most we can of the resources that we can draw down from Europe and I have confidence that the Minister will do her upmost for the rural community working within the limitations now at her disposal.

The publication of the ‘Going for Growth report’ from the Agri-Food Strategy Board will provide the opportunity to shape EU programmes at the start of this next funding period in a way that will help achieve the vision of ‘Going for Growth’.

Since being selected as SF MEP I have adopted a motto of‘bringing Europe to you and bringing you to Europe’ as without doubt there are opportunities in Europe that have not been fully realised in the north and we are well behind others, particularly the rest of Ireland, in drawing down the resources that are available from the EU.

We need to lift our game if those opportunities are to be realised and I am determined to play my part in doing that but both Government and industry must do likewise and I am pleased that there has been increasing interest in Research and Innovation funding streams such as Horizon 2020 by the Executive, Universities and Institutes like AFBI.

In terms of milk quotas, obviously we are aware that they are due to come to an end by 31st march 2015.

In the south of Ireland they have plans to increase their milk production by 50% by 2020.

An increase of this magnitude will, in addition to new markets, require additional processing capacity and may impact here given our substantial trade with the south but any limit on processing capacity will impact on the dairy industry right across Ireland and therefore we must plan to address this.

The abolition of milk quotas will increase the momentum towards a completely market-led industry.

With the changes in global markets and increased competition, the future sustainability of our dairy industry will be determined by its ability to respond to changed times, with a product mix in line with consumer expectations.

The dairy sector has the potential to grow further and to exploit opportunities arising from the predicted expansion in world population and ‘Going for Growth’ will shape that future growth.

Finally, in relation to country of origin labelling, particularly after the horsemeat scandal, it is clear that this issue needs to be progressed in Europe.

Our traceability systems ensured that Ireland emerged from that scandal relatively unscathed indeed, it could be argued, that the robustness of our traceability system ensured that our reputation, around the world, was enhanced.

I support the introduction of Country of Origin labelling and as contact person for our group for FVO I have already spoken to Commissioner Borg about its importance and have made the case that there needs to be modifications to cater for the unique situations pertaining in the north of Ireland.

To avoid any damage to the reputation of our food industry, should there be a problem detected on the island of Britain, the north of Ireland should be allowed a derogation from any ‘country of origin, regulations referring to ‘state’ or ‘country’.

This derogation would allow producers in the north of Ireland in keeping with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement – an international treaty – to choose Irish or British designation. With maximum cooperation between Assembly departments and Oireachtas counterparts, traceability of goods labelled ‘Irish’ would be relatively straight forward.

With modifications to cater for the unique situations as that presently pertaining in the north of Ireland, the introduction of mandatory country of origin labelling system would inject transparency and a higher degree of traceability which in turn would help restore consumer confidence.

The bigger picture is that these are exciting times for the agri-food sector. ‘Going for Growth’ is ambitious but we need to be ambitious if this sector is to reach its full potential.

I as an MEP will do all I can to assist this industry into the future and look forward to working with you all in the time ahead.

So enjoy the rest of your conference, thank you for your attention.

Go raibh maith agaibh

 

Addressing the EU Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee in Strasbourg this morning, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said that the current economic crisis is affecting our citizens’ income, employment, nutrition and quality of life and is having an overall negative impact on health and well-being, including mental health and we must explore options that will help rectify its impact.

Martina Anderson said:

“It is clear that new technologies can present opportunities to both individuals and health systems alike.

“Indeed in my own constituency I recently launched proposals for a Health Innovation Corridor in the North West of Ireland.

“We are currently exploring the benefits such technology can bring to patients and health professionals alike.

“But what needs to be underlined is that it is essential that the evolving e-Health technologies must bring tangible benefits to patients and not simply be a means to create a new market to generate profits for shareholders.

“Technological development in the health arena must be for the purpose of providing practical solutions to real problems that will impact positively and directly on the health and well-being of citizens and not just another commodity with no higher purpose.

“We must ensure that patients are empowered through understanding the benefits of any new technology and not excluded.

“Accessibility and understanding is key – especially for older people who may find the technologies more complicated than younger people who would be more accepting of change.

“One further point we need to consider and which was mentioned in the draft report – for which I was Shadow Rapporteur – is the crucial issue of data protection.

“Health data is of an extremely sensitive nature and all information related to a patient’s health must be treated with absolute diligence and care. We need to ensure that appropriate security and confidentiality measures are put in place across the entire chain of processing.  Those patients who – after having given explicit and prior consent for their data to be used – should be regularly updated on exactly what purposes this data is being accessed for.

“Technology has a crucial role to play in achieving optimum delivery in health solutions but unless information gathered is treated with the utmost degree of security it can be abused, therefore diligence at all levels of data collection is crucial.”

 

Speaking from Strasbourg this morning Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson extended her warmest congratulations to Malala Yousafzai who is the recipient of this year’s Sakharov human rights prize and looks forward to her visit to the Parliament in Strasbourg next month

Martina Anderson commented:

“Malala Yousafzai is a very courageous young person who fought valiantly for girls and women’s rights to education in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where the Taliban regime had banned girls from attending school. After a failed assassination attempt on her life by Taliban gunmen in October 2012, she became the symbol of the fight for girls and women’s rights to education across the globe.

“I welcome the awarding of the Sakharov prize to Malala Yousafzai, in recognition of her courage and determination to improve the lives of girls and women in her native country and across the world.”