Saturday, September 7, 2013

Britons Abroad in Europe meet with Mme Viviane Reding, a Vice President of the EU




Brussels 5th September 2013
A delegation of Britons Abroad meet with Mme Viviane Reding, Vice President of the European Union and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.
The list of all the participants representing all political persuasions, other interests, and the EU commission can be viewed here.

A personal view of the meeting.


 Right -Mme Reding exchanges views with Harry
 Shindler and Sir Roger Gale






Mme Reding holds in her hand the booklet “EU Citizenship Report 2013 
You can read this document by going to the following link ----


Fourteen Britons from France, Italy, Spain, Belgium and London (they included representatives of all three political persuasions along with other interest groups) met with Mme Reding and four EU Commission officials at the Commission offices in Brussels. A Greek citizen was there as an observer and we had a supporting communication from an Irish expatriate group.
Sir Roger Gale MP led our delegation. Harry Shindler, the 92 year old initiator of this meeting encouraged us to meet him to back his demand for his vote to be given back to him by the British Government. Sir Roger exposed the situation that the Briton abroad had the vote taken away after 15 years and asked that the Commission might intervene with the British Government.  The response from Mme Reding was that this would infringe the British subsidiarity clauses in this field
When Mme Redding moved on to another engagement, her Deputy Head of Cabinet, Mme Viviane Hoffman remained with the other officials and we sat round the large oval table in the cabinet room.  Outside in the streets of Brussels the temperature was 33 degrees.  Inside the debate was measured.  .
Harry was disappointed with the Commissioners problem with subsidiarity especailly since later the subject of the Referendum was raised and again the issue of subsidiarity  checked the debate.  That the majority of Britons abroad in the EU may not vote in a referendum which is fundamental to their welfare is an appalling malfunction in any democracy.
Yet as the debate developed I became more and more pleased.  The spirit of the EU was running with us.

Mme Hoffman seen left with Harry Shindler made it abundantly clear that the EU Commission was delighted to have this delegation there.  She use the phrase “honoured that Mr. Shindler” should come to Brussels.  It could not have been more plain. 
This discussion from the start entered the  European sphere – Why else were we there? 
Eight nations of the twenty eight States in the full European Union plus the extra EAA members do not give full democratic rights to their nationals in the rest of Europe.  Britain, Ireland and Denmark are the three significant larger States with this situation
It became increasingly apparent to me that our British  delegation was most important. 
Is the message –‘Britain needs to show the way forward in the matter of Democracy in Europe’ Where Britain goes the others will follow.‘?
This seemed to be a seminal moment.

My time came to speak.
I watched the four people team of the Commission
as I spoke.
“What is a Nation?” I rhetorically asked.   It is the people, not the physical geography of the towns, hills and rivers.  I held my hands like cups to each side and said ‘Democracy is a two way process. On the right the citizens look to the national Government for support and help. On the left the Government should be proactive and look towards the citizens in the European countries to see how they are faring. The British Government does not’.  I saw the two men of the EU commission pick up their pencils almost simultaneously and write. I was surprised and pleased.
We need to be proud of our National Government as the Government needs to show pride in the Briton Abroad.
I spoke of the confused nonsense that can arise from muddled Double Taxation agreements, drawing attention as an example to the varying position of Nurses pensions in Germany (taxed in the UK) and France (not so).  The pencils again moved.  
The meeting drew to a close and perhaps cheekily, I jumped in with a sentence relating to an earlier plea of Harry Shindler’s on the same theme which marks and honours his lifetime endeavours.  “On March 3rd 1944 whilst Harry was fighting at Anzio, the house I lived in was blasted by a stick of German bombs. Let us hope that on May 8th 2014 [Victory in Europe day] we can, as Harry desires, celebrate our victory in this cause with the Churchillian V sign”.
(Author Brian Cave – lefourquet@orange.fr)
Please circulate to accumulate – Britons Abroad must unite.