Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai wins European Prize for freedom of thought

Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai has won the 2013 European Parliament Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, human rights and democracy.

Malala Yousafzai is a young Pakistani school girl who took to a blog to protest against the Pakistani Taliban’s closure of girls schools in her region of the Swat valley and in October 2012 was, once her school had re-opened, shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus.

Since the attempt on her life, and medical treatment in the UK, she has captured the attention of the world in her fight for access to education for young girls.

Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson, who was the first to put Malala Yousafzai forward as a nominee and led the campaign for her nomination and award in the European Parliament, said:

“This prize is not just for Malala but for the millions of other girls and boys worldwide, Muslim and non-Muslim, who like her have been denied their universal right to education. She now personifies the fight for that right with her ‘weapons of books and pens’.

“In their attempt to silence her voice, her oppressors have amplified it. The Taliban’s renewed threats of violence against her go to show yet again just how a single 16 year old girl has managed to put a spotlight on and completely humiliate them.

“Hers is a story of David and Goliath, and by awarding Malala the 25th Sakharov prize we are putting the European Parliament’s full weight behind the fight for education for all – which is after all the most powerful tool we have for world development.”

Liberal Democrat MEP for the West Midlands Phil Bennion commented:

“Malala has received this award not only for the incredible work she did before she was brutally attacked, but for the tremendous courage she has shown since in continuing to fight girls’ right to education around the world.

“The people of Birmingham can be proud that she has become our city’s adopted daughter.”


Notes to Editors

For further background on Malala Yousafzai see here:

The Sakharov prize will be officially awarded at an awards ceremony in Strasbourg on 20 November.

Past winners of the European Parliament Sakharov prize include Nelson Mandela (1988), Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (1992), China’s Hu Jia (2008) and the activists of the Arab Spring (2011. The Liberal Democrat (ALDE) group in the European Parliament nominated Malala Yousafzai for the Sakharov Prize 2013.

Watson: EU-China deal could unlock billions of pounds of investment


Sir Graham Watson MEP

The European Parliament today voted today on negotiations for an investment pact between the EU and China that could open up opportunities for British firms and unlock billions of pounds of inward investment.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson said:

“Using the combined clout of the EU, we can make it easier for British firms to crack the Chinese market by opening up protected sectors and increasing legal certainty. Britain stands tall in Beijing when it stands tall in Brussels. Continue reading

Bennion: New EU rules on flight times will not lower standards in UK

Commenting on today’s European Parliament vote to approve common EU flight time limits for pilots, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesman Phil Bennion MEP said:

“This is a sensible outcome. Despite concerns from pilots’ unions, these rules will not lower safety standards in the UK.

“In fact, a common system for pilot flight times will raise standards in Europe across the board, ensuring that British passengers are safe no matter what EU airline they fly with.”   Continue reading

MEPs break down barriers for qualified professionals

MEPs in Strasbourg voted today to make it easier for qualified professionals to practice their profession in another EU country.

MEPs approved the introduction of an e-card detailing a person’s qualification and experience and enabling the mutual recognition of professional qualifications across the EU.

Among many other professions, the new rules cover health professionals including doctors and nurses and explicitly allow for their language skills to be tested, recognising that a good grasp of the local language is important for patient safety.  

Lib Dem MEP Rebecca Taylor, European health spokeswoman, commented:

“These new EU rules will help the UK to ensure that doctors and nurses who offer their services to the NHS are not only appropriately qualified, but also have English language skills that enable them to communicate effectively with patients and colleagues. The new e-card will allow easy and uncomplicated background checks and existing rules on language tests have been clarified.

“The rules on mutual recognition of professional qualifications are also great news for Brits abroad who want to market their skills in other EU countries.”

MEPs also voted for the creation of an alert mechanism which requires Member States to exchange information on professionals who have been struck off or restricted from practicing their professional activity or who have used falsified documents.


Note to editors:

The revised Professional Qualifications Directive adopted by MEPs today also includes an evaluation process of national regulations on qualified professions to help reduce barriers of free movement. The evaluation process will take place between Member States and is expected to conclude in 2016. For more information, please see:

Davies/ Taylor: Today’s tobacco vote is a victory for e-cig campaigners

Liberal Democrat MEPs today won a major victory for e-cigarette users when the European Parliament backed their amendment which will ensure e-cigs are available for sale on the same basis as tobacco.

Chris Davies MEP said: “E-cigs can be a game changer in the fight against smoking.  Hundreds of former smokers have written to tell me that they have helped them give up cigarettes when nothing else worked.

“They are successful because they are not medicines but products that smokers enjoy using as an alternative to cigarettes. Continue reading

Davies/ Davey: Reform of EU emissions trading scheme crucial for green investment

Chris Davies MEP, Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesman in the European Parliament, today asked what steps the European Commission is taking to reform the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) in a parliamentary question to Environment Commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

Chris Davies said:

“The back-loading of carbon allowances approved by the European Parliament in July was an important step, but it was just a temporary sticking plaster.

“To really fix the EU’s Emissions Trading System, we need to treat the cause not just the symptoms. That means long-term structural reforms to shore up investment in green technologies, and the forging of links with other trading schemes to achieve a truly global carbon market.

“Structural reform of the ETS would also level the playing field for British industry, by bringing the price of carbon in the EU into line with our own ambitious carbon floor price.”

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey added Continue reading

Proposals to cut red tape are major step towards EU reform

The European Commission announced today that it would be repealing and simplifying EU rules in several areas in order to reduce the burden of regulation, especially for small businesses.

Liberal Democrat MEP Phil Bennion commented:

“These proposals are a clear sign that by working together with our European partners, we can deliver an EU that is more competitive, more open and less bureaucratic. Continue reading

Lyon: European Parliament budget freeze is pure common sense

The European Parliament’s Budget committee today voted for a freeze in the European Parliament’s budget for 2014, following pressure from the Liberal Democrats led by George Lyon MEP, Vice-Chair of the Budget Committee.

Mr Lyon commented:

“This is pure common sense. The European Parliament must not be exempt in these times of austerity across Europe. This budget freeze, despite extra costs arising from the fact that 2014 is an election year, is a positive signal to citizens that the European Parliament is tightening its belt.”

‘We have succeeded in further reducing MEP travel allowances and there will be a 1% reduction in staff across all the European institutions.” Continue reading