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Campaiging at home

A Single Seat for the European Parliament

Edward's discreet campaign to end the controversial two-seat arrangement under which MEPs trek to Strasbourg for 12 monthly four-day sessions has led to an absolute majority of MEPs consistently voting for a Single Seat for the European Parliament.

The Single Seat campaign, founded and co-chaired by Edward, has seen MEPs break the code of silence on this issue, which sees some £150 million spent on travelling between the Parliament's main place of work in Brussels and its other seat in Strasbourg, and emits approximately 19,000 tonnes of CO2 every year.

The efforts of Edward and the Single Seat campaign have seen the issue catapulted onto the scene in the European Parliament; most recently, a majority of MEPs (615 for, 64 against) voted for a change in the Treaty to allow for a Single Seat, and in a series of budget votes with similar majorities pointed out that the economic and environmental savings of such a move.

In February 2011, Edward's initial informal cross-party Brussels-Strasbourg Seat Study Group published a comprehensive report - A tale of two cities - which found an overwhelming majority in favour of a single seat, in Brussels. In May 2012, a poll in the parliament’s internal staff magazine, Newshound, found that 75 per cent of its staff and assistants are in favour of a single seat: even the Luxembourg staffers want one by a majority of 65 per cent. This reflects an academic tracking poll during each parliament, which for 10 years has shown a consistent 70 per cent of MEPs in favour a single seat in Brussels

To learn more about Edward's Single Seat campaign, please visit the website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Fighting Climate Change: Less Meat = Less Heat

As part of his longstanding campaign to draw attention to climate change, Edward invited Sir Paul McCartney and Dr Rajendra Pachauri - the UN's climate change chief to speak at his major Brussels hearing on Global Warming and Food Policy: Less Meat = Less Heat on December 3 2009. None of the three eats meat.

The Green Card Edward launched to commemorate the event has key facts about the worldwide effects of livestock production on climate change: meat produces more greenhouse gases - 18% - than the whole transport sector - 13%. On its reverse it displays a meat-free-day's menu and the nutrients in vegetables.

 In 2006 a 400-page report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) "Livestock's Long Shadow" first identified the livestock industry as the main contributor to greenhouse gases. Edward supports the call by Dr Pachauri, Chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that one meat-free day a week is the most effective way of combatting climate change. This campaign is popularised in the UK by Sir Paul with his Meat-Free Monday campaign.

MEPs back Missing Child Alert

Following a campaign by Edward aimed at improving children's rights across the EU, a majority of MEPs signed a resolution calling for a US-style Europe-wide Missing Child Alert.

The 'Maddie Alert' was launched by Kate and Gerry McCann (seen here at a packed Brussels press conference), whose daughter Madeleine (right) was abducted from a Portuguese resort in May 2007. She has not been found, but her parents believe that her image must be kept in the public mind to assist her receovery, as has happened elsewhere. The special 116 000 number has been reserved by all 27 EU Member States and is operational in 20: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Since 2003, 591 abducted American children have been found - 80 % within the crucial first 72 hours - through the US Justice Department's multimedia alert. In Europe only France has a similar scheme but several EU countries are now committed to developing such procedures,

Rights for children in the EU

Edward has long campaigned for improved child rights across the EU. This has resulted in the inclusion for the first time of the concept of child rights in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Edward was one of the co-founders of the European Parliament Alliance for Children, which focuses on the promotion and protection of children's rights across the EU.

Edward has assisted several parents in the recovery of children abducted by the other parent. A Scunthorpe mother spoke of her "absolute relief" at a custody decision which allowed her daughter, seven-year-old Jessica Ferguson (centre), to stay in the UK. An earlier court ordered the child to return to Spain to live with her Spanish father, a Benidorm nightclub owner.

Helping hill farmers

Edward is campaigning for more fairness in the distribution of EU hill farm subsidies. Whitehall gives UK upland farmers the second-lowest handout in the EU: "The way the British government distributes this subsidy does not take hardship into account" said Edward, from a farming background himself. Here, Yorkshire Dales farmers explain how the British government allocates EU subsidies unfairly. Edward McMillan-Scott pledged to try and get the EU to adopt the same upland policy across the entire EU.

EU funding: getting a fair share for Yorkshire & Humber

Edward has been meeting with key figures in Brussels, Westminster and the region to press for a fair share of EU funding for Yorkshire & Humber, dedicated largely to job creation and research, as negotiations begin over the £500 million earmarked for the region between 2014 and 2021. The EU supports eligible regions, including Yorkshire & Humber, to help them boost their economies and create jobs. Funding from the EU is often vital to ensure that projects around the region can take place. 

Campaigning Abroad

Edward is Vice-President for Democracy and Human Rights but his commitment to reform started well before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Shortly after his election in 1984, Edward began visiting dissidents in the ex-Soviet Bloc. Here he discusses democracy with the late Yelena Bonner, wife of Andrei Sakharov, whose 1968 open letter gave moral confort to reformists. 

In 1990, Edward proposed a European Democracy Fund to assist the transformation of newly-free countries in East/Central Europe. By 1997 there were 1200 programmes across the region from Moscow to Belgrade.

The EU Democracy and Human Rights Instrument today has a budget of some €160M and worldwide scope. It funds a wide range of activities and all the EU election observation missions. It is the only EU programme which can operate without host country consent.

Edward co-chairs the Human Rights and Democracy Network of more than 40 Brussels-based NGOs. He was the first politician to visit Cairo after the fall of Mubarak.

The Arab Spring

Edward McMillan-Scott was the first democratically-elected politician to get to Cairo, the day after the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. He has long advocated democratic and other reforms in the Arab world and has championed Egypt’s secular liberal party since 2004: “Egypt is the most important country in North Africa in strategic, economic and population terms. Now it is leading the region into democracy.” says Edward, who visited Cairo again two weeks later with Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal group in the European Parliament

Edward is a member of the European Parliament’s monitoring group, which has been set up to coordinate support for the reforms now taking shape across the wider Middle East.

He is a relation of Lawrence of Arabia, the British officer who gathered the Arabs together to rebel successfully against Ottoman rule during World War I. In the preface to his account of this campaign, the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence writes to an anonymous friend “I loved you, so I drew these tides of men into my hands, and wrote my will across the sky in stars, to earn you Freedom, the many-pillared worthy house…”

Edward commented at the time of the Iraq invasion “Whose stars? The EU’s 12 stars represent a better model for freedom in the Arab world than the Stars and Stripes.

Edward first went to North Africa as a young tour guide and has since has visited all countries in the Arab world - except the Gulf - to meet their dissidents and reformists. He has worked with Egypt's liberal, secular El Ghad party since 2004.

He has also pressed in Brussels to enhance the EU’s pro-democracy support. As the founder of the EU’s €160 million Democracy and Human Rights Instrument (EIDHR) in 1992, he visited Jordan in 1993 to meet the president of its reforming parliament and dissidents. In 1996 he established the ‘Meda Democracy Fund’ as part of the EU’s Mediterranean policy.

The EIDHR finances all EU election observation missions, which are conducted by the EU Commission. Separately, the European Parliament sends short-term missions. In 2003 Edward observed the presidential elections in Algeria and in 2005 the parliamentary poll in Egypt, both of which he defined as rigged.

He represented the European Parliament at the Cairo funeral of Yasser Arafat in November 2004. In 2005 and 2006 he chaired the largest-ever parliamentary observation missions, to the Palestine presidential and parliamentary elections respectively.

In 2004, Edward attended a conference in the Yemeni capital Sana’a held to encourage Arab countries to sign up to the Rome Treaty, which set up the International Criminal Court (ICC) – itself part-financed by the EIDHR -in the Hague in 2002.The conference, also supported by the EIDHR, was chaired by President Saleh, who then signed the Rome Treaty.

In 2005, Edward chaired in Cairo the inaugural meeting of the EuroMed Parliamentary Assembly, a body which brings together parliamentarians from the Arab world and Israel with MPs and MEPs from the EU. He secured the immediate release of Dr Ayman Nour, leader of the secular El Ghad (‘The Future’) party, who had been imprisoned after he stood against Mubarak in the presidential election.

Nour later wrote to MEPs “thanks to Edward's and your persistence in requesting to visit me in prison and calling for my release, the Egyptian Authorities announced my release. When I was sent back to jail after the elections, Mr. McMillan-Scott and all of you continued to support my case. I owe Edward, and I owe all of you, part of my freedom today.”

China: Edward campaigns for reform

Edward McMillan-Scott is the foremost campaigner for human rights and democracy in China. After his last visit to Beijing in May 2006, all the Chinese with whom he had contact were arrested, imprisoned and in some cases tortured until today.

Edward represented the European Parliament at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony when the prize was awarded to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiabao (left). See also Edward's website ).

Edward joined Chinese exiled reformists the evening before in a solemn commitment to reform in the world's most populous country.

In October 2010, Edward met the brilliant and courageous artist Ai Weiwei, who designed the Beijing Olympics 'birds nest' stadium, but refused to attend because he said the regime is "disgusting". On his return to Beijing after this meeting, Ai Weiwei was imprisoned as a warning to other outspoken dissidents.

One of Edward's - and Ai Weiwei's - contacts was imprisoned in August 2006 and disappeared in April 2010. Gao Zhisheng is a Christian human rights lawyer who investigated the persecution of the Buddha-school Falun Gong, which in 1999 had some 70 - 100 million followers

Most of the 5 - 7 million prisoners in China's vast gulag are Falun Gong undergoing escalating forms of torture to get them to recant.

More than 3,000 Falun Gong prisoners have died of torture during a systematic persecution of this Buddha-school spiritual movement since 1999.

On 28 Dec 2007 Gao Zhisheng's environmentalist friend Hu Jia was also taken away and sentenced to prison for three and a half years. Edward successfully campaigned with other MEPs for Hu Jia to be awarded the European Parliament's 2008 Sakharov Prize for human rights. .

Edward McMillan-Scott wrote a key report for the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee on the EU-China Strategy in 1997 as the economic boom accelerated. Even then he sought a more political approach with his slogan, "Not just business-as-usual, but also politics-as-usual". He was a frequent visitor to China and was the first politician to visit Tibet after a three-year ban.