My weekly round up of work in the European Parliament, the UK and beyond!
Last week made me feel very proud to be an MEP. Due to the joint efforts of Labour MEPs, MPs, councillors and volunteers, we finally managed to persuade the government to apply for the EU Solidarity Fund to help the thousands of homes and businesses that have been affected by the devastating December floods. The EU will now provide at least £125 million to help flood victims get back on their feet. Read my full statement here.
As Culture and Education is my main committee portfolio it was a pleasure to participate in the Get Caught Reading campaign to encourage a love of literature throughout the EU. I was even snapped reading one of my favourite books! As well as working closely with writers and publishers I also meet regularly with representatives from other cultural industries as our creative economy is a growth industry worth billions of pounds, sustaining millions of jobs and SMEs. I was therefore pleased to catch up with members of UNIC, the International Union of Cinemas, to hear their success stories and suggestions for improved legislation, and to join them for a screening of "A Perfect Day", a film about Bosnia and Herzegovina in the aftermath of the devastating Balkan War.
Supporting the next generation of filmmakers is very important for me and I was honoured to be a keynote speaker on an international panel at the MICE festival in Valencia which receives funding from the EU's Erasmus+ programme. There were three British entries this year with a brilliant animation 'Goth at the Beach' by 15 year old Joe Blandamer winning first prize. This year's festival also included a moving film by a 12 year old Kurdish Yazidi boy living in a refugee camp in Iraq. You can watch a trailer here.
Last week I also welcomed Manchester based arts group PANDA to Brussels where they met up with Brussels-based artists to share their work, and have a tour of the European Parliament. Thanks to Natasha Boojihawon of Union Street Media Arts who sent a lovely email saying what a great time everyone had.
"We made some incredible links and met some really inspiring people and projects and hope to collaborate with them in the future... The tour and talk at the European Parliament was also really inspiring."
There were several important events over the weekend that I couldn't attend but I was still there in spirit! Unite Against Fascism held a rally against the North West Infidels, a breakaway group from the EDL. I sent a written message to my fellow anti-racist campaigners calling for solidarity against these hateful groups, especially during the refugee crisis when the extreme right seeks to exploit division and stir up hatred.
It was also the Fabian Society's EU conference and I sent a video message where I outlined the benefits of EU membership to the UK and how to bring the pro-EU message to the table!
Also last week an important resolution passed in the European Parliament relating to my ongoing work in the field of human rights. I received hundreds of emails from my constituents regarding Saudi Arabia's aggressive actions in Yemen and the West's complicity in the conflict through arms sales. Our resolution used strong language to condemn all those fuelling the conflict and calls for Saudi Arabia to engage in peace talks to help end conflicts in Yemen, Syria and to uphold the Arab Peace Plan with respect to the Palestinians.
More updates next week!