Theresa Griffin’s Blog: 1st – 7th October 2018

Welcome to the latest update on my recent activities in the European Parliament and North West of England!

This was an extremely busy week in Strasbourg. While much of the committee work, meetings and discussions take place in Brussels, most of the Plenary votes and speeches from international visitors take place in Strasbourg.

It was a pleasure to hear the President of Montenegro, Milo Đukanović, address the European Parliament, highlighting the importance of the EU enlargement process for the economy and stability of the Western Balkans countries and reiterating Montenegro’s steadfast support for the EU.

This was followed by plenary debates on CO2 emission performance and potential disenfranchisement of voting rights in the EU. I’m pleased to report that The European Parliament this week backed an ambitious S&D report calling for a 40% cut of cars’ and vans’ CO2 emissions by 2030. This could potentially create 92,000 new jobs in the vehicle battery industry. Europe must lead the world transition towards low and zero-carbon cars and by reducing vehicle emissions we will protect citizens and the environment from the many harmful effects of air pollution. As a substitute member of the Transport and Tourism committee, I will continue to fight to reduce CO2 emissions across Europe and for a Just Transition Fund to reskill and upskill workers in industries before they change. Read more here.

Alongside fellow Labour MEPs I supported a strike by workers at McDonald’s, TGI Fridays and Wetherspoons in the UK. They are demanding better working conditions: £10 an hour, an end to precarious contracts and for their right to a union to be respected. The ‘gig’ economy and precarious work presents unique challenges for workplace organising, but as a proud trade unionist, I will always stand up for workers’ rights and the right of every worker to be represented by a trade union.

I took part in a rally at the European Parliament to protest the jailing of four anti-fracking protesters in the UK last Wednesday. This is the first time anti-fracking protesters have been jailed in the UK. This fracking site exists despite overwhelming local opposition, due to the UK Government having overturned the then Labour-controlled Lancashire County Council’s decision to reject Caudrilla’s fracking application in October 2016. At a time when we desperately need to invest in green and renewable forms of technology, allowing potentially dangerous and damaging unconventional fossil fuel drilling is an unnecessary backwards step.

In the plenary session, a debate was proposed by the S&D Group on the situation in Romania, where S&D MEPs underlined our belief that the fundamental values of democracy and rule of law must remain at the core of the European Union. My colleague Josef Weidenholzer, S&D Group Vice-President responsible for civil liberties, justice and home affairs, spoke passionately on the topic. In a later session, the Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, addressed the European Parliament, speaking about the Future of Europe. He argued that unity is crucial to future of the EU.

I was shocked and saddened to hear that Zak Kostopoulos, a human rights activist, was beaten to death by a mob outside a shop in Athens in a horrific attack motivated by his sexuality. Some of the subsequent media coverage legitimised this by using homophobic slurs and referred to Kostopoulos as a drug addict. Around 500 people participated in a memorial and rally demanding justice for Kostopoulos and showing support for his family who are seeking homicide charges. As a member of the LGBTI intergroup at the European Parliament I am calling on the Greek authorities to conduct a full investigation into his murder and secure justice for Zak.

I was proud and moved that the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution on improving the situation in Yemen. Yemen is facing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis and biggest cholera outbreak in modern history; 85% of Yemen’s population (22 million people) are in a humanitarian crisis and just under 50% (10 million people) are at risk of death according to UN estimates, and there are over 1million suspected cases of and 2,000 confirmed deaths from cholera.

The resolution passed by the European Parliament called for all parties to strive for a political solution and support humanitarian efforts in Yemen. My fellow S&D MEPs and I have called for the launch of an initiative by the EU’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, to impose an EU arms embargo against Saudi Arabia.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have been campaigning with Stephen Twigg MP, The Yemeni community and local councillors in Liverpool for a political solution to the ongoing crisis in Yemen for a number of years. Our latest vigil in Liverpool was addressed buy Jeremy Corbyn and I am pleased that the European Parliament has taken this step forward towards justice. Further details are available here. The only blotch on an otherwise hopeful day was the decision by the majority of British Conservative MEPs to vote against calls for an embargo on arms sales to Saudi Arabia…

Finally, back in the North West, I couldn’t fail to be astounded by the magic and captivating atmosphere of the Giants weekend performance in Liverpool and Wirral. An estimated 1.3 million people went to see the spectacle held on the 10th anniversary of Liverpool being European Capital of Culture. The cultural vibrancy of the Liverpool City Region is a part of what makes it such a special place.