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Sunday, April 11, 2004

Monitoring environmental votes by MEPs
A new website called www.EU-votewatch.org has been set up by Friends of the Earth, WWF, Birdlife + Greenpeace in order to help voters see how Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are voting on environmental issues such as Agriculture, Air pollution, Chemicals, GM food, Liability, Nuclear power, Recycling, Renewables + Transport.

The European Union is responsible for around 90% of environmental laws in the UK, and very few people - if any! - are aware of how their representatives vote on these issues!

Using the www.EU-votewatch.org site it is possible to look at the voting records of individual politicians, countries (e.g. UK) or political blocks (e.g Greens) within the parliament, and to see how the percentage of environmentally friendly votes varies between countries.

Sadly, UK MEPs have the worst record in Europe for voting in favour of supporting the environment, with the majority of UK MEPs (51%) voting against environmental improvements in ten key votes.

At the other end of the scale, Danish MEPs came out on top with 84% of votes in favour of the environment, followed by the Swedes (81%) and the Austrians (77%)...

Five UK MEPs voted against every environment vote they took part in and 10 others voted against the environment 90% of the time. All were either Conservatives or members of the UK Independence Party.

Fifteen UK MEPs have a 100% record of voting green - (10 Liberal Democrats, 2 Green Party, 2 Plaid Cymru and 1 SDLP).

The England, Wales and Northern Ireland political parties' votes for environmental improvement were ranked as follows:

Greens, Plaid Cymru, SDLP - 100%
Liberal Democrats - 99%
Labour - 70%
DUP - 50%
Conservatives - 13%
UUP - 12%
UKIP - 0%

A recent report by the European Commission showed that the UK had one of the worst records for infringement actions for failing to properly implement EU laws. Recent research shows that over 30% of UK citizens are "very worried" about environmental issues. The environment is one of the few areas where the European Parliament has co-decision making powers with the Commission and Council of Ministers and is therefore one of the few areas where MEPs can make a significant difference.

Friends of the Earth's Campaigns Director Mike Childs said:

"European Union laws have been the driving force in cleaning up Britain's drinking water, rivers + beaches. Its waste laws are improving safety standards at waste disposal sites and improving recycling. The EU is an important influence at international negotiations on issues such as climate, trade and wildlife protection. If people want to see further environmental gains then they can use this new interactive website to see how their MEP has voted in the past and which parties are greener than others."

Earth-Info.Net feels that this monitoring should greatly improve transparency + accountability in the EU and help to make it harder for politicians to hide from the consequences of their short-term actions. It is also very good to see different NGOs working together in such a constructive way...