I have been in Taiwan this week, giving a series of lectures at five universities in four days, meeting government officials to discuss Taiwan’s involvement in fighting climate change and visiting old friends in the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.
One of the latter is former President Chen Shui-bian, whose detention conditions over the past four years in prison for corruption have been so poor he is now in hospital in bad shape. I visited him yesterday in his ward. I will be stepping up my campaign to have him released on medical parole or at least allowed to serve his remaining sentence under house arrest.
I was very pleased to hear that the French police, mobilised under the European Arrest Warrant scheme, found the UK teacher who absconded with 15 year old Megan Stammers and that she is now back with her family. What would UKIP’s MEPs, who opposed the scheme, or the Tories who abstained, now say to the family of Megan Stammers? That they would rather the European Arrest Warrant – this ‘assault on national sovereignty’ – were abolished? Crime crosses borders. Police and judicial action have to cross borders too.
I was equally pleased to hear that President Saakashvili’s party lost the parliamentary elections in Georgia. They have been in power too long and have become arrogant and corrupt. Worse, political opponents are being tortured in their prisons, as horrific film footage which surfaced during the election campaign showed. Saakashvili’s term as President may not yet be at an end, but he is on the way out.
The next big electoral test will be in the Ukraine, which goes to the polls on 28 October. The EU’s two special envoys, former Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski (Soc) and former EP President Pat Cox (Lib) have had their mandate extended until the end of this year. Their valuable work as intermediaries may well be needed for some weeks after the election, especially if the result is inconclusive.
I write this on the flight back from Taipei overnight Thursday, so have not had chance to catch up with all the news from Brussels this week; but I can report that the excellent but underfunded Erasmus and Lifelong Learning schemes ran out of money on 1 October. Unless governments agree to top up the EU kitty under an amending budget, no more can be paid out. The UK and other countries are trying to cut the budget for the years 2014-20, so this may become a regular occurence. We might even see such budgets drying up by mid year.
A report submitted to the European Commission on the safety of the EU’s 143 nuclear reactors suggests there are a number of problems, I am told, with France (which generates 40% of all the EU’s nuclear energy) coming out worst. It seems Germany was wise to close down all its reactors after the Fukushima accident. Others should get out of nuclear as soon as possible.
I have seen no reports of other Council meetings this week, but the 27 Employment Ministers were expected yesterday to approve – after long discussion – a Directive on the protection of workers from electromagnetic fields. Parliament appears to have been quiet, for once!