Saturday, 21 June 2008

European exception for a “McCann Alert”

According to Clarence Mitchell, spokesman of the McCann, there is the possibility of an exceptional extension of time being granted by the European Parliament for collecting all the signatures needed for the written declaration, which Kate and Gerry McCann joined.

"We are keen to get the number by the end of July but we are extremely encouraged by the number of MEPs who have signed it. The hard work will continue until we get the required 110 signatures, but there's the possibility of the period being extended under European Parliament rules and that's a major boost”, Clarence Mitchell said, according to The Press Association.

Article 116 of the European Parliament Regulations is, however, clear about this point: “A written declaration that has stood in the register for over three months and has not been signed by at least one half of the component Members of Parliament shall lapse ”. The so-called “McCann written declaration" was registered on April 24.

At the end of their day at the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, Kate and Gerry McCann only managed to convince 15 deputies to sign the document. Today, the written declaration of Edward McMillan-Scott still needs more 110 signatures.

According to an official source of the European Parliament, “it is not the McCann who joined an existing document, but rather a declaration that was drafted with the single purpose to associate the name of the McCann to it.”

According to McMillan-Scott, Vice-president of the European Parliament and author of the “written declaration”, President Hans-Gert Pöttering would be willing to authorize the extension of the legal time granted, if a total of 300 signatures would be reached at the end of the plenary session of July, a first in the Parliament’s history.

McCann wanted to seize “a policy that is already being enforced”

"The McCann couple launched a public relations campaign, trying to 'seize' a policy that is already being enforced...", accused the Member of European Parliament Carlos Coelho, member of the Christian-Democrat group in the European Parliament and Party colleague of President Barroso. And this MEP knows what he is talking about, as he was among the 54 deputies who had adopted, in a committee session, the European strategy concerning children’s rights, a document which was approved on January 2008.

The “written declaration” to which McMilan-Scott agreed to associate Kate and Gerry McCann thus does not contain anything new, when compared with the legislative project of the European institutions.

In January, after several years of work following a specific strategy, 630 of the 718 deputies present in Strasbourg adopted the European strategy as regards children's’ rights, approving the introduction of a European alert system in the event of an abduction, as well creating a phone number for assistance to the children, an initiative proposed in 2006 but not yet functional in several Member States - a delay considered to be “unjustifiable” for the majority of the deputies.

The document approved by the Parliament goes further, because the deputies “appeal for an European strategy against paedophile tourism and the introduction of a single corpus of off-shore criminal laws, applicable within the entire Union”, which would allow the prosecution, in Europe, of sexual offenders that committed crimes in third countries.

McMillan-Scott, author of the declaration to which the McCann were associated, and a certain Christopher Heaton-Harris, a representative of the district of Rothley are among the deputies who voted for this document.

The European deputy Heaton-Harris is also the author of a written declaration which shows clearly the value of this type of document: in April 2008, he invited his colleagues to sign a written declaration asking for the English language to become the only working language within the European institutions.

Duarte Levy and Paulo Reis

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