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Opinion: London's better future in a better Europe - each united in diversity

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Dirk_HazellBy Dirk Hazell, Leader and London Region MEP candidate for 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) (pictured, right) - @DirkHazell and Dr NoelleAnne O’Sullivan, London Region MEP candidate for 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) (pictured, below) - @PolComms

Today (22 May), the British are the first in Europe to vote in this year’s key European elections. Ahead of this important UK vote, addressing last night’s Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) annual dinner in London, CBI President Sir Mike Rake warned British businesses that the risk of Britain leaving the EU is already causing uncertainty and jeopardizing future UK inward investment.

photo profileThe British government should heed this clear warning. The UK must not be dragged out of the EU because the Conservative Party under David Cameron has been infiltrated by the UKIP militant tendency.

We believe that London’s future is at the heart of Europe. Yes, the EU needs reforming - but this should be done by working with our European partners instead of constantly criticising from the side lines. Britain is a great country with a great people, united in diversity and capable of leading not leaving the EU.

As the EU - steered by Europe’s leading party the mainstream centre-right EPP European People's Party - reforms during the next five years, only 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) can offer Londoners a strong voice inside the EPP. The EPP political family plans to create millions of new jobs through wide-ranging European reforms and initiatives such as the EU digital single market.

By working within the mainstream, we will deliver real results for London and beyond – including completing the single market, launched twenty-five years ago as a British Conservative initiative that was substantially conceived by our lead candidate in London Dirk Hazell. 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) will bring people together, not drive them apart.

In a recent discussion about the new 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) broadcast on BBC TV’s Daily Politics Show, the former CBI head, Lord Jones agreed that Mr Cameron was wrong to flounce out of the powerful mainstream EPP Group. Sadly, Mr Cameron puts his own survival as party leader ahead of the British national interest, as he takes Britain to the brink of Brexit. British Euro-MP Daniel Hannan’s bandwagon of UKIP sympathisers is clearly taking over, dragging the Conservative Party over the edge.

British PM David Cameron has effectively lost control of his fringe Euro-Group. Since January 2013, Tory-led ECR Group MEPs have voted two-thirds of the time with Farage’s UKIP-led EFD MEPs: making themselves jointly amongst the European Parliament’s least influential MEPs.

In contrast, 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) MEPs will guarantee British input into EPP action on jobs, prosperity and security. One British MEP in the EPP will be worth more to Britain than UKIP’s entire delegation.

As a past Tory party leader William Hague - and his then-adviser George Osborne - will recall sitting with mainstream centre-right leaders at regular EPP Summits. Messrs Hague and Osborne must now know beyond doubt how serious a mistake Cameron made in ordering Conservative Euro-MPs to leave the EPP in 2009, surrendering the valuable chance to shape European policy from within. Cameron constantly caves into UKIP, but appeasement never works!

4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) will start to repair the damage Mr Cameron created. We offer London voters a positive platform of policies, reflecting a refreshing and forward-looking interpretation of mainstream centre ground and centre-right values. We embrace the four fundamental EU freedoms of movement for people, goods, services and capital – plus the four freedoms outlined in US President FD Roosevelt’s iconic 1941 State of the Union address, namely: freedoms of speech and worship, freedoms from want and fear.

Our EPP values combine a strong economy with dignity for the retired and vulnerable. We believe in social and environmental justice. We have a cast iron commitment, sadly under attack from others in Britain, to guarantee human rights.

British votes cast today will count toward building political groupings in Brussels. A vote for the wrong party risks creating new hard and far right political groupings in the European Parliament that will try to reduce our European freedoms.

We must challenge UKIP’s anti-EU fearmongers and fellow travellers: their distortion of the past and present, their oppressive view of the future. The fictional past that Farage and his UKIP sympathisers conjure up is a betrayal of our real history. We in the UK are a great people with a strong tradition of being fair and open. Farage’s anti-immigrant, xenophobic fear mongering has cheapened this European election campaign. Farage’s gibes distort truth and divert attention from real problems made in Britain - not Brussels.

People are coming through tough times. It is a harshness that saps at the soul of society when billionaires are richer than ever, while food banks have become a tragic need for the vulnerable. British politicians must not get away with blaming ‘Brussels’ for housing shortages, educational shortfalls, archaic transport, aircraft carriers without planes and other domestic problems, such as substandard cancer care, for which British politicians are alone responsible.

As our EPP Commission Presidential candidate Jean-Claude Juncker told a packed press conference in Brussels yesterday afternoon: “Do vote, but do not give your votes to extremists, xenophobes or fascists, as they unfortunately continue to exist in Europe. If we want Europe to function and to serve its citizens, we should vote for people who will work hard in the next European Parliament, who will defend European values and fundamental rights, which continue to come under regular attack both at home and abroad.”

4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) standing in London – with a full list of eight candidates, including citizens from other EU member states – will be a strong voice in the European Parliament, defending the freedoms of everyone who lives, works and studies in London and beyond.  We believe in bringing people together, not driving them apart.

Elected 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) MEPs will join the EPP Group in the European Parliament when it reconvenes in the first week of July. As MEPs we will sit with the powerful EPP political family of Angela Merkel and other mainstream centre-right EU leaders.

We believe in London. We believe in Europe. We believe in people. @UK_EPP

European Green Deal

Low-income families and middle class home owners mustn't pay for Green Deal says EPP

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The EPP Group wants Europe to become climate-neutral by 2050. "This far-reaching transformation of our economies and societies must be done in a smart way, because we want to fight climate change with innovation, competitiveness and European jobs. We want to turn the necessary transformation into an opportunity. We want de-carbonization, not de-industrialization! We do not only want to set targets, but find the best way for Europe to reach these targets, with special focus on hydrogen and in certain cases, gas, as a transition technology," said Esther de Lange MEP, vice chairwoman of the EPP Group in charge of economy and environment.

Her statement comes ahead of the European Commission's presentation of the so-called ‘Fit for 55’ package, a mammoth law package of energy and climate laws aimed at translating the 55% CO2 reduction goal into concrete new rules for transport, industry, buildings and other sectors.

"We must be very watchful about who foots the bill for the Green Deal. It cannot be low-income families, middle class home owners or car owners in rural areas without public transport who have to pay the highest bill," added de Lange, explaining that the EPP Group wants a credible social instrument to address heating and mobility poverty within and between member states.

The EPP Group wants to promote clean cars. "We want to prioritize the development of clean vehicles, electric mobility and zero-emission fuels. We do not want the debate about CO2 emissions from cars to turn into another ideological battle of dogmas. Europe's car industry must retain its global competitiveness and must remain technology leaders and trendsetters for clean cars for Europe and the rest of the world. Much will also depend on the roll-out of charging infrastructure. The EPP Group therefore insists on regular Commission reporting on progress made here and its implications for the realization of the CO2 reduction targets," de Lange concluded.

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Chatham House

As Iran veers right, ties with Gulf Arabs may hinge on nuclear pact

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Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi gestures after casting his vote during presidential elections at a polling station in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2021. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Gulf Arab states are unlikely to be deterred from dialogue to improve ties with Iran after a hardline judge won the presidency but their talks with Tehran might become tougher, analysts said, writes Ghaida Ghantous.

Prospects for better relations between Muslim Shi'ite Iran and Sunni Gulf Arab monarchies could ultimately hinge on progress to revive Tehran's 2015 nuclear accord with world powers, they said, after Ebrahim Raisi won Friday's election.

The Iranian judge and cleric, who is subject to US sanctions, takes office in August, while nuclear talks in Vienna under outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, a more pragmatic cleric, are ongoing.

Saudi Arabia and Iran, longtime regional foes, began direct talks in April to contain tensions at the same time as global powers have been embroiled in nuclear negotiations.

"Iran has now sent a clear message that they are tilting to a more radical, more conservative position," said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a UAE political analyst, adding that Raisi's election might make improving Gulf ties a tougher challenge.

"Nevertheless, Iran is not in a position to become more radical ... because the region is becoming very difficult and very dangerous," he added.

The United Arab Emirates, whose commercial hub Dubai has been a trade gateway for Iran, and Oman, which has often played a regional mediation role, were swift to congratulate Raisi.

Saudi Arabia has yet to comment.

Raisi, an implacable critic of the West and an ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power in Iran, has voiced support for continuing the nuclear negotiations.

"If the Vienna talks succeed and there is a better situation with America, then (with) hardliners in power, who are close to the supreme leader, the situation may improve," said Abdulaziz Sager, chairman of Gulf Research Center.

A revived nuclear deal and the lifting of US sanctions on the Islamic Republic would boost Raisi, easing Iran's economic crisis and offering leverage in Gulf talks, said Jean-Marc Rickli, an analyst at Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

Neither Iran nor Gulf Arabs want a return to the kind of tensions seen in 2019 that spiralled after the U.S. killing, under former U.S. President Donald Trump, of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. Gulf states blamed Iran or its proxies for a spate of attacks on oil tankers and Saudi oil plants.

A perception that Washington was now disengaging militarily from the area under U.S. President Joe Biden has prompted a more pragmatic Gulf approach, analysts said.

Nevertheless, Biden has demanded Iran rein in its missile programme and end its support for proxies in the region, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthi movement in Yemen, demands that have strong support from Gulf Arab nations.

"The Saudis have realised they can no longer rely on the Americans for their security ... and have seen that Iran has the means to really put pressure on the kingdom through direct attacks and also with the quagmire of Yemen," Rickli said.

Saudi-Iran talks have focused mainly on Yemen, where a military campaign led by Riyadh against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement for over six years no longer has U.S. backing.

The UAE has maintained contacts with Tehran since 2019, while also forging ties with Israel, Iran's arch regional foe.

Sanam Vakil, an analyst at Britain’s Chatham House, wrote last week that regional conversations, particularly on maritime security, were expected to continue but “can only gain momentum if Tehran demonstrates meaningful goodwill”.

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Animal transports

Help farmers to end cage farming

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“We strongly support the Citizens’ Initiative 'End the Cage Age' for farm animals. Together with 1.4 million Europeans we ask the Commission to propose the right measures to end cage farming,” said Michaela Šojdrová MEP, EPP Group member of Parliament’s Agriculture Committee.

“Animal welfare can be best guaranteed when farmers get the right incentives for it. We support a smooth transition from cages to alternative systems within a sufficient transition period that is considered for each species specifically,” added Šojdrová.

As the European Commission has promised to propose new animal welfare legislation in 2023, Šojdrová underlines that an impact assessment must be done before, by 2022, including the costs of the required transformation in both the short and the long-term. “As different species, laying hens or rabbits, require different conditions, the proposal must cover these differences with a species by species approach, by 2027. Farmers need transition periods and a compensation of the higher production costs,” Šojdrová said.

“To guarantee animal welfare and to not disadvantage our European farmers, we need effective control if imported products respect EU animal welfare standards. Imported products must comply with European animal welfare standards so that our high-quality production will not be replaced by low-quality imports,” emphasised Šojdrová.

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