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Sarah speaks at the European Parliament debate on EU-US relations

October 26, 2009 2:08 PM
By Sarah Ludford MEP in European Parliament

Sarah Ludford, on behalf of the ALDE Group. - Madam President, on behalf of the ALDE Group I strongly welcome the fact that this resolution calls for a strengthened strategic partnership between the EU and the US as a cornerstone of EU external policy. It also rightly reiterates the role of an integrated transatlantic market by 2015. We must not let the trees of myriad disagreements on specific issues obscure the wood of an overwhelming interest in common values and objectives, and action on promotion of democracy and human rights, resolution of conflicts and protection against security threats among others.

On the economic side, the ALDE Group has emphasised the need to avoid regulatory arbitrage in the financial sector and to address issues such as 'too big to fail' institutions. We have put in an amendment to paragraph 39 since, as far as I can see, there simply was no G2 leaders' agreement to work on a financial transaction or Tobin tax so it is absurd to welcome such an agreement, even if we have already done so, erroneously, in the G20 resolution.

The ALDE Group also calls for deletion of paragraph 38, which appears to seek the abolition of intellectual property rights. But, as Mrs Malmström has explained, a large part of the transatlantic relationship relates to justice and security matters. The ALDE Group fully supports close cooperation in this area but it must respect fundamental rights, including privacy, and be progressed within a democratic and transparent framework. In that respect it is a pity that MEPs have not been consulted on the joint statement to be agreed next week - especially as, with the Lisbon Treaty, almost all of these matters come within codecision.

It is puzzling why the Commission and Council are promoting a new agreement on access to SWIFT financial data on EU citizens when the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement allows for specific requests. I would like an answer on that.

Finally, it is a pity that the new context of justice and extradition cooperation nonetheless permits the completely unjustified extradition from the UK of Gary McKinnon, a computer hacker who has Asperger's syndrome, rather than his being prosecuted in the UK.

Very finally, I fully support what Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said about visa-free travel for all EU citizens and we are very critical of a 'visa lite' fee for the ESTA.