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Chris Bryant

(Archived) Minister for Europe, London
Posted 30 March 2010 by Chris Bryant  | 

Open Europe has today produced a report claiming to be the most comprehensive study on how much EU regulation costs the UK economy. It is, however, full of deliberate omissions and is no more independent or authoritarian than any other obsessively Europhobic body.  What kind of comprehensive study fails to take into account the wider economic benefits that EU regulation can deliver? There’s no mention for example of how European regulation has opened new markets for UK businesses across Europe and provided important new rights and protections.

It is also ludicrous to claim that domestic regulations are “2.5 times more cost effective than EU laws” when the research doesn’t count the benefits that those regulations bring like 3.5 million UK jobs linked to the UK’s trade with the EU, 50% of UK exports headed for the EU (worth £208bn), or environmental progress.  The Payment Services Directive, for example, which aims to enhance competition, efficiency and innovation in the European payments market, will cost on average around £50 million a year, while delivering benefits of around £8.4 billion.

Yes, we need to lighten the legislative load and, partly as a result of the UK’s influence, the EU has set a target to reduce administrative burdens by 25% by 2012. Although EU impact assessments are not perfect, there’s significantly less EU legislation now than there was at the height of the Single Market programmes in the mid 1980s. The EU is making sure its focus remains on areas where Community working offers some sort of payback -  economic or otherwise. 

Scare stories based on fictitious and spurious ‘facts’ serve only to perpetuate myths and deceive British people.





Chris Bryant
30 March 2010
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Posted 30 March 2010 by Chris Bryant  | 
Monday 29 March was an important day for inter-communal trust in Cyprus.  The two leaders, Dimitris Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat, attended a 'turf turning' ceremony in Limnitis that started work towards opening another route across the Green Line in Cyprus.   When work is finished, this crossing will provide a real boost to the local economy, and cut journey times to the capital, Nicosia.  It will also facilitate ambulance crossings in the West of the island.

I know it has been a long and at times controversial process to get work on the Limnitis opening started. However it shows what can be achieved through imagination, trust and understanding. These are all qualities which will be needed in the forthcoming months if a full settlement is to be achieved in Cyprus.
 
The current phase of the negotiations has recorded progress but much remains to be done. However this remains the best chance for a solution and I believe that if the two leaders continue to show the determination and courage they have displayed up to now then they will succeed.
 

Chris Bryant
30 March 2010
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Posted 29 March 2010 by Chris Bryant  |  1 comments

Recently Belarus carried out the death penalty on two of its citizens.

This cruel action was made worse for the families concerned because they were not told the date of the execution and did not have the bodies of their relatives returned to them.

We are sadly all too familiar with reports of executions taking place in countries like China and Iran. But when we hear of the death penalty being used on the doorstep of the EU, it seems particularly shocking. 

An essential pillar of any progressive society is in how it upholds universal human rights.  I am very proud of the stance the EU takes in opposing the death penalty - in all circumstances, irrespective of the crimes committed.  The death penalty is a cruel and inhuman punishment. Any miscarriage of justice is irreversible and we know it's not effective as a deterrent. 

Countries seeking closer relations with the EU need to work towards the European values we hold dear.

See Amnesty's statement on this issue.
 



Chris Bryant
29 March 2010
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29 March 2010

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Posted 25 March 2010 by Chris Bryant  | 
Today the Cluster Munitions (Prohibitions) Bill received Royal Assent.  In recognition of the unacceptable harm these weapons can inflict on civilians this Bill will enter into force with immediate effect, banning the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions.  In doing so it paves the way for the UK to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions: we will be doing this as quickly as possible.     
 
I'm proud of both the cross party support this Bill has received and the role of UK civil society in bringing about the Convention on Cluster Munitions which the Bill implements. This is not the end.  I will now be focusing my efforts on persuading others who have yet to do so to sign up to and ratify the Convention.  The UK wants to see an end to the use and proliferation of cluster munitions and will work with other countries and civil society to make this a reality. 


Chris Bryant
25 March 2010
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Posted 19 March 2010 by Chris Bryant  |  1 comments
On 17 March I led the Commons debate on the Second Reading of the Cluster Munitions Bill. I'm delighted by the strong support the Bill received from all sides of the House. Nearly all who spoke clearly recognise the unacceptable effect that cluster bombs have - killing civilians caught up in conflict zones and leaving a deadly post-conflict legacy for future generations. But, rightly, there was firm probing on the Bill's detail. There was particular scrutiny on how we we will work alongside countries who have not signed up to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. I was clear that the UK wants to see a universal end to the use of cluster munitions. However, in the meantime we have to be able to work alongside coalition partners who still have cluster munitions.   
 
We already know that some key allies, like France and Germany, have committed to banning cluster munitions and that the USA will remove all cluster munitions from the UK by the end of this year.
 
Next week I'll be back in the House for the Bill's remaining stages. I look forward to more constructive debate and I am confident that the Bill will receive Royal Assent in the next few weeks. Momentum is building behind the international ban on cluster munitions - the Convention will enter into force on 1 August following the 30th ratification last month. I look forward to the UK adding to the number of ratifications very soon and sending a strong message to other countries. 


Chris Bryant
19 March 2010
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Prabhat Misra, District Savings Officer, Etawah, U.P., India
19 March 2010

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Posted 09 March 2010 by Chris Bryant  |  1 comments

The 8th March  is celebrated throughout the world as International Women’s Day, which commemorates the political, social and economic achievements of women. Equality between women and men is a fundamental right, it's one of the common values on which the European Union is founded.

In the European Parliament, International Women's Day kick starts a week long programme of events to recognise the importance of this day. The European Union has made significant progress in bridging the equality gap. However, this does not mean to say that there isn’t more to be done, and the European Union is helping to make gender equality a reality.

To coincide with International Women’s Day the European Parliament is launching a campaign for the elimination of violence against women.   This continues to be an issue across borders, culture, income and class, and is both a symptom of inequality between men and women and a cause of discrimination.   The UK Government strongly supports the proposed EU strategy to   eradicate violence against women in Europe, which will include an awareness raising campaign about the devastating effects on victims and their families. 

Let’s be under no illusion violence against women is a violation of womens' human rights - it affects womens' ability to gain access to education, employment and good health.  It is widely recognised that countries cannot reach their full potential as long as womens' ability to participate in society is denied.

Therefore when we celebrate courageous, visionary, forward thinking women it is crucially  important that we do everything in our power to stamp out violence against women. Yesterday 's appointment of Glenys Kinnock to lead the Government's work in tackling violence against women around the world should help in the protection of women, whatever their nationality.



Chris Bryant
09 March 2010
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09 March 2010

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Posted 05 March 2010 by Chris Bryant  |  5 comments

The issue of civil partnerships and how, or if they’re recognised across Europe is a complex one. I know this from those of you who have commented on my blog posts, and those who asked questions at an event the FCO hosted jointly with Stonewall last week.  I’d like to widen the discussion on this important human rights issue. So please watch the video below, and if you have any questions or suggestions, make sure you submit them. I'll be answering the best ones soon. 

**updated on 16 March 2010** As promised here are the answers to the six questions that received the most votes! Thanks to everyone who submitted a question.**




Chris Bryant
05 March 2010
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18 March 2010

>> Why is a British civil partnership not recognised for immigration purposes in Malta and most other...<<
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18 March 2010

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Posted 26 February 2010 by Chris Bryant  |  29 comments

Having written my previous blog after meeting with Professor Petrie, I was surprised by the reaction and number of comments. It is clear that this is an important and emotive issue for many people. I feel strongly about this issue and hope the lettori soon get the recognition they deserve, in the form of equal status and pay. This is an injustice that can’t be allowed to continue.

Together with colleagues from across Government, I have written to a number of Italian Ministers demanding an end to the long running discrimination against the lettori. I hope the Italian government understands that this is unacceptable and finally gets to grip with this problem. I will stay in contact with the lettori and the Italian Government, to resolve this issue satisfactorily.



Chris Bryant
26 February 2010
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>> Dear Mr Bryant, I have been working in Italian secondary schools for over 20 years and the...<<
Adrienne Windridge
22 March 2010

>> Dear Mr Bryant, I just wanted to say that the under-paid lettori situation in Italy is exactly the...<<
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22 March 2010

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Posted 24 February 2010 by Chris Bryant  |  8 comments
I know some people dismiss Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights as something of a sideshow in international relations, but I am proud to say that the FCO has argued for a decade that human rights are a seamless garment.  You can't attack the death penalty in China and not in the US .  You can't make representations about the stoning of women for adultery in Iran and ignore the plight of LGBT people in a wide range of countries around the world.

 
On the 25 February I'll be hosting an event at the FCO with Ben Summerskill, CEO of Stonewall, which will highlight the work we are doing at the FCO to promote LGBT rights and the recognition of UK Civil Partnerships in other EU Member States. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 ensures that civil partners and spouses are treated equally by enabling same sex couples to register and celebrate their relationships and gain valuable legal protection, such as  being recognised as next of kin .  To date almost 35,000 people have taken the opportunity to register their relationship.

 
LGBT rights are an integral part of the seamless garment of human rights.  The FCO is at the forefront of EU and international efforts to tackle discrimination and promote equal rights for LGBT individuals.  We are in the process of clarifying the position of EU Member States regarding mutual recognition of UK Civil Partnership rights and addressing any anomalies in these arrangements.  This is so that couples in a Civil Partnership who are moving to another Member State to work or study can enjoy the same rights and legal protection as a same sex couple in that country.  It's great that we have already achieved this with France and Spain - but also extraordinary that until recently a couple in a civil partnership here would have had to get divorced here and form a new partnership abroad if they wanted enjoy the same rights.   In many countries throughout the world without civil partnership legislation, British nationals can of course get  a civil partnership in British Consulates.   I am delighted that we have recently celebrated our 500th such ceremony. 

 
We also continue to encourage Governments in the EU and elsewhere in the world to do more to support and uphold LGBT rights, including through the work of our Embassies on Gay Pride.   The European Parliament recently stressed that steps should be taken to ensure that same-sex partners enjoy the same respect, dignity and protection as the rest of society.  The UK Government fully supports this view and is at the forefront of the EU and UN in promoting this issue.  We are committed to promoting LGBT rights and have developed our own programme for promoting these rights, available on the FCO website.

 
Our ultimate aim is an EU in which every country recognises LGBT rights and nobody is excluded, demeaned or degraded by homophobic attitudes and legislation.

This is one of the many events that celebrates LGBT History month in February and I look forward to discussions around these issues.



Chris Bryant
24 February 2010
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14 March 2010

>> It's good that you can do a CP in a foreign embassy with your partner but beware. For example prior...<<
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18 March 2010

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Posted 24 February 2010 by Chris Bryant  | 
It was really distressing to hear of the devastating effect of the storms in Madeira on Saturday and the tragic loss of life which has occurred, including the death of one British national.  My thoughts are with the families and friends of all those affected.  

The Portuguese authorities have delegated many resources to the clean up operation and are working rapidly and effectively to get Funchal and the rest of Madeira back to normal.

I would like to commend the consular team from the FCO which brings together the Honorary Consul, colleagues from Portugal and a 7 person Rapid Deployment Team (RDT) of FCO staff and 2 Red Cross officers who travelled out from London at short notice.  The team, coordinated by our Ambassador to Portugal, Alexander Ellis, have been working hard to establish that all the British Nationals on the island are safe, give the right assistance to those who need it and bring peace of mind to concerned families through tracing those that are missing.



Chris Bryant
24 February 2010
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Posted 24 February 2010 by Chris Bryant  |  1 comments
The 21st of February was a fantastic night for EU funded films at the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAS).   Fish Tank won in the Outstanding British Film category, A Prophet won the Best Foreign Film and Carey Mulligan won leading actress in An Education.

It’s an incredible endorsement that four of the five films shortlisted for the Outstanding British Film Award last night received support from the EU's MEDIA Film support Programme.   An Education, Fish Tank, In the Loop and Nowhere Boy have all received support from the MEDIA Programme for their distribution.  Fish Tank received over €500,000 support to assist its theatrical release in 13 countries across Europe as well as support from the i2i Audiovisual scheme.  Over €160,000 was given to An Education for distribution in Europe, and In the Loop received €69,799, to help with distribution.

It was great to see that the diversity of EU film making was represented in the Not in the English Language category  with Los abrazos rotos (Broken Embraces), Das weisse band (The White Ribbon), Un prophète (A Prophet),  Coco avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel) and Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In) all receiving support from the MEDIA Programme's schemes and making their mark.


This is just one of the ways that the EU promotes cultural identity through its support for the European film industry.  The EU’s MEDIA programme has a total of 775 million Euros to spend between 2007 and 2013.  They use this money to help Europe’s audiovisual industry train and develop talent and projects, and  then distribute and promote their work.  Last year the UK directly benefited from 14 million Euros of this funding with the support of MEDIA Desk UK . 

As a film lover it's important to take stock and celebrate the success of this European project and in especially difficult economic times it's great to see Europe deliver for the British film industry.

 

Chris Bryant
24 February 2010
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24 February 2010

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Posted 12 February 2010 by Chris Bryant  |  2 comments

I am pleased that the European Parliament approved the appointment of the next European Commission earlier this week.  
The UK has been a long-standing supporter of President Barroso, and it is excellent that he will have Cathy Ashton as one of his Vice-Presidents,  looking after all foreign policy and external issues. 

In particular we'll be looking to the Commission to:

- promote strong and sustainable growth in the European economy  

- continue to build and develop a single market which delivers lower prices for consumers and provides a strong launching pad for EU firms in the global economy

- support innovation and new digital  and low carbon technologies to create new jobs.   

- continue to lead efforts to agree and implement a binding global deal on climate change, through the new Commissioner for climate action.

- ensure that Europe is a serious actor on the global stage, particularly through the efforts of  Cathy Ashton, working along with Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, Energy Commissioner Gűnther Oettinger, Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs and Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Fűle.
 
Underpinning all of this, we need the Commission to deliver a modernised budget to fit Europe's new priorities. These are the things that matter to the people of Europe, and I fully expect them to be top of the agenda when the Commission's five-year work programme issues in the Spring.
 



Chris Bryant
12 February 2010
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14 February 2010

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23 February 2010

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Posted 12 February 2010 by Chris Bryant  | 

Next week I’m heading to Russia for my first official visit as Minister for Europe.  As a P5 country, a member of the G8 and G20, and one of the world’s largest economies, Russia plays a crucial role in global affairs. On many of the most important global issues – Afghanistan, Iran, non proliferation and disarmament, climate change or the response to the global economic crisis - Russia’s voice matters and it is vital that we engage in finding solutions together.

Of course we do not always see eye-to-eye. Our countries have had well publicised bilateral difficulties in the past few years. But that should not preclude productive discussion in areas where we have shared interests. 

The Foreign Secretary’s visit in November was a major milestone in taking this engagement forward. It was the first purely bilateral visit by a British Foreign Secretary for five years and led to constructive discussions with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.  I will be following up these discussions with three of my counterparts in the Foreign Ministry – Deputy Foreign Ministers Titov (on bilateral issues), Grushko (on Russia-EU relations) and Karasin (on Russia’s near abroad).

I also plan to meet businesspeople, Chevening alumni, cultural and education experts, and human rights activists. I want to learn firsthand what progress Russia is making in its plans to modernise its economy and society. I’ll write again when I get back.

 



Chris Bryant
12 February 2010
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Posted 04 February 2010 by Chris Bryant  |  23 comments
I met with Professor David Petrie, Chairman of the Association of Foreign Lecturers in Italy on Monday to discuss his long running fight with Italian universities over pay and jobs.  It is shocking that hundreds of British Lecturers are being paid less than their Italian counterparts and made to sign up to lower graded technician jobs whilst being excluded from official lecturer positions reserved for Italian nationals only.   

The EU brings many benefits and rights to its citizens. Equal pay and conditions for workers is a fundamental principle of the EU. It is therefore unacceptable that British lecturers in Italy, some of whom have worked there for decades, continue to face these problems, despite a number of European Court of Justice Rulings in favour of the lettori.

I will be asking the Italian Government why this is still happening and urging them to end this unfair discrimination against British workers, which has now been going on for over 30 years.



Chris Bryant
04 February 2010
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12 February 2010

>> Many thanks Mr Bryant for your intelligent comments on our situation here in Italy. Having worked...<<
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14 March 2010

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Posted 03 February 2010 by Chris Bryant  | 

Last Wednesday I took part in a commons debate on human rights in Colombia.  I was asked some important and serious questions, including why the UK should support the negotiation of a free trade agreement between Colombia and the EU in view of existing human rights concerns.

Colombia has significant strengths and, considering the state it was in 10 years ago, has made much progress in recent years.  However, the country continues to be undermined by poverty, inequality, impunity, the drugs trade and an internal conflict that has resulted in thousands of deaths over the years.  These problems contribute to a general lack of respect for human rights, and in consort with international bodies and human rights organisations we frequently raise our concerns with the Colombian authorities.

Some of my fellow MPs argued that we shouldn’t “reward” Colombia with a free trade agreement whilst significant human rights concerns persist.  I do not subscribe to that view.  I believe that free trade can help people escape poverty by providing alternative livelihoods.  I am also convinced that if we were to slam the door shut on a FTA with Colombia now, it would do nothing to enhance human rights in Colombia.  Quite the contrary, it could all too easily lead to Colombia disengaging in human rights issues.  At the same time, we must use the opportunity such an Agreement offers to leverage real action on human rights.  Therefore the free trade agreement must include a robust human rights clause that allows us to suspend the agreement if it is breached.   This will allow the Colombian people to prosper, and provide us with the cornerstone of a frank dialogue with Colombia on human rights.  In the meantime I will continue to raise questions of human rights with my counterparts at every opportunity.  We must not, and cannot, turn a blind eye.



Chris Bryant
03 February 2010
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