Campaigning at home

Edward's campaign for a Single Seat for the European Parliament led to 75% of MEPs voting to scrap sessions in Strasbourg.

Edward created and chaired the Single Seat campaign, which began in 2010, to end the controversial arrangement under which MEPs leave their base in Brussels - the EU's political capital - and trek to Strasbourg for four-day sessions each month. A 'super-majority' of MEPs - 78% - have voted for their governments to address the issue of Strasbourg.

The cross-party Single Seat campaign has seen MEPs break the code of silence on this issue, in which some £150 million is spent on travelling between the Parliament's main place of work in Brussels and its other seat in Strasbourg, and emits approximately 19,000 tonnes of CO2 every year. The objective of Single Seat is to give MEPs, not governments, the right to choose when and where they meet.

In February 2011, Edward's informal cross-party Brussels-Strasbourg Seat Study Group published a comprehensive report - A Tale of Two Cities - which found an overwhelming majority in favour of a single seat, in Brussels. In May 2012, a poll in the parliament’s internal staff magazine, Newshound, found that 75 per cent of its staff and assistants are in favour of a single seat: even the Luxembourg staffers want one by a majority of 65 per cent. This reflects an academic tracking poll during each parliament, which for 10 years has shown a consistent 70 per cent of MEPs in favour a single seat in Brussels.

Fighting Climate Change: Less Meat = Less Heat

As part of his longstanding campaign to draw attention to climate change, Edward invited Sir Paul McCartney and Dr Rajendra Pachauri - the UN's climate change chief to speak at his major Brussels hearing on Global Warming and Food Policy: Less Meat = Less Heat on December 3 2009. None of the three eats meat.

The Green Card Edward launched to commemorate the event has key facts about the worldwide effects of livestock production on climate change: meat produces more greenhouse gases - 18% - than the whole transport sector - 13%. On its reverse it displays a meat-free-day's menu and the nutrients in vegetables.

 In 2006 a 400-page report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) "Livestock's Long Shadow" first identified the livestock industry as the main contributor to greenhouse gases. Edward supports the call by Dr Pachauri, Chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that one meat-free day a week is the most effective way of combatting climate change. This campaign is popularised in the UK by Sir Paul with his Meat-Free Monday campaign.

MEPs back Missing Child Alert

Following a campaign by Edward aimed at improving children's rights across the EU, a majority of MEPs signed a resolution calling for a US-style Europe-wide Missing Child Alert.

The 'Maddie Alert' was launched by Kate and Gerry McCann (seen here at a packed Brussels press conference), whose daughter Madeleine (right) was abducted from a Portuguese resort in May 2007. She has not been found, but her parents believe that her image must be kept in the public mind to assist her receovery, as has happened elsewhere. The special 116 000 number has been reserved by all 27 EU Member States and is operational in 20: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Since 2003, 591 abducted American children have been found - 80 % within the crucial first 72 hours - through the US Justice Department's multimedia alert. In Europe only France has a similar scheme but several EU countries are now committed to developing such procedures,

Rights for children in the EU

Edward has long campaigned for improved child rights across the EU. This has resulted in the inclusion for the first time of the concept of child rights in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Edward was one of the co-founders of the European Parliament Alliance for Children, which focuses on the promotion and protection of children's rights across the EU.

Edward has assisted several parents in the recovery of children abducted by the other parent. A Scunthorpe mother spoke of her "absolute relief" at a custody decision which allowed her daughter, seven-year-old Jessica Ferguson (centre), to stay in the UK. An earlier court ordered the child to return to Spain to live with her Spanish father, a Benidorm nightclub owner.

Campaigning Abroad

Edward was European Parliament Vice-President for Democracy and Human Rights from 2004 - 2014 but his commitment to reform started well before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and remains focused on the world's remaining dictatorships, from China to Cuba - and Russia. He is one of 8 Britons on Putin's visa blacklist.

Shortly after his election as an MEP in 1984, Edward began visiting dissidents in the ex-Soviet Bloc. Here he discusses democracy with the late Yelena Bonner, wife of nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov, whose 1968 open letter gave moral confort to reformists. 

In 1990, Edward proposed a European Democracy Fund to assist the transformation of newly-free countries in East/Central Europe. By 1997 there were 1200 programmes across the region from Moscow to Belgrade.

Today, the renamed EU Democracy and Human Rights Instrument (EIDHR) has a budget of some €160M and worldwide scope. It funds a wide range of activities and all the EU election observation missions.

Edward is seen here in Palestine, where he led the largest-ever EU observation missions, with former presidential candidates Mustafa Barghouti and John Kerry.

The EIDHR is the only EU programme which can operate without host country consent. It can also make grants, for example to human rights defenders, without publishing their names.

Edward founded the Friends of Human Rights and Democracy Network, bringing MEPs together with more than 40 Brussels-based NGOs.

The Arab Spring

Edward McMillan-Scott was the first democratically-elected politician to get to Cairo, the day after the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. He has long advocated democratic and other reforms in the Arab world and has championed Egypt’s secular liberal party since 2004. He is pictured right in Tahrir Square after meeting leaders of the Egyptian revolution.

Edward was a founding member of the European Parliament’s monitoring group, set up to coordinate support for the reforms taking shape across the wider Middle East.

He is a relation of Lawrence of Arabia, the British officer who gathered the Arabs together to rebel successfully against Ottoman rule during World War I. Lawrence felt let down by the Anglo-French Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 which partitioned the region. This led to nearly a century of conflict. 

The EU Democracy & Human Rights Instrument

The EIDHR finances all EU election observation missions, which are conducted by the EU Commission. Separately, the European Parliament sends short-term missions. In 2003 Edward observed the presidential elections in Algeria and in 2005 the parliamentary poll in Egypt, both of which he defined as rigged.

In 2005 and 2006 he chaired the largest-ever parliamentary observation missions, to the Palestine presidential and parliamentary elections respectively.

In 2005, while Edward chaired in Cairo the inaugural meeting of the EuroMed Parliamentary Assembly, a body which brings together parliamentarians from the Arab world and Israel with MPs and MEPs from the EU, he secured the immediate release of Dr Ayman Nour, leader of the secular El Ghad (‘The Future’) party, who had been imprisoned after he stood against Mubarak in the presidential election.

China: Edward campaigns for reform

Edward McMillan-Scott is the foremost campaigner for human rights and democracy in China. In 1996 he wrote a critical report on EU-China relations for the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee. He was the first politician to visit Tibet after a three-year blackout in 1996.

After his last visit to Beijing in May 2006, all the Chinese with whom he had contact, including Christian lawyer Gao Zhisheng and environmentalist Hu Jia, were arrested, imprisoned and in some cases tortured until today (see below).

During the run-up to the Beijing Olympic games, McMillan-Scott urged a political boycott by key EU figures. In the event the presidents of the EU Commission and Parliament stayed away, as did the Foreign Affairs Commissioner.

In October 2010, Edward met the brilliant and courageous artist Ai Weiwei, who designed the Beijing Olympics 'birds nest' stadium, but refused to attend because he said the regime is "disgusting". On his return to Beijing after this meeting, Ai Weiwei was imprisoned as a warning to other outspoken dissidents.

One of Edward's - and Ai Weiwei's - contacts was imprisoned in August 2006 and disappeared in April 2010. Gao Zhisheng is a Christian human rights lawyer who investigated the persecution of the Buddha-school Falun Gong, which in 1999 had some 70 - 100 million followers.

More than 3,000 Falun Gong prisoners have died of torture during a systematic persecution of this harmless movement since 1999. Edward has campaigned against organ harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners by the regime.

In December 2007 Gao Zhisheng's environmentalist friend Hu Jia was also taken away and sentenced to prison for three and a half years. Edward successfully campaigned with other MEPs for Hu Jia to be awarded the European Parliament's 2008 Sakharov Prize for human rights. 

Edward represented the European Parliament at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony when the prize was awarded to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiabao. See also Edward's ).