Friday, 12 July 2013

Newsletter from the European Parliament, Friday 12 July 2013 - Sir Graham Watson MEP

Sir Graham Wilson MEP with Local Bar Hill
Parish Councillor Andy Pellew
A little out of our area this one, but I thought I'd reproduce a newsletter I've received from Sir Graham Watson MEP and encourage anyone interested in finding out exactly what our MEP's do in Brussels to sign up to his newsletter via his website -

It's an excellent snapshot of why I believe we need to be part of Europe ... These newsletters come weekly which is also something I think our MP's and (dare I say it!) Councillors could learn a lot from this example!

Here's the newsletter;
Lithuania's ministers were present in committee meetings in Brussels this week to debate with MEPs the priorities of their government as it chairs Council of Ministers meetings for the coming six months. I attended meetings of the Justice and Home Affairs committee and the Foreign Affairs committee. In the former I quizzed the Director of the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency about discrimination against ethnic Russians in the Baltic countries and contributed my views on the mandate and proceedings of the committee of enquiry Parliament is setting up to look into electronic surveillance of citizens by governments. (EU governments are also setting up a group of data protection experts and a group of intelligence experts to examine Snowden's allegations.) In the latter I used a debate about blacklisting Hezbollah to question the legality of the blacklisting of organisations since 9/11, which is done on a shaky basis in international law and has thrown up a lot of legal problems. I also marshalled 33 colleagues in the signing of a letter to High Representative Catherine Ashton calling for greater attention to be paid to human rights abuses in Vietnam. I was pleased to be accompanied by 16 year old Jack Matthews of Poole, a member of the UK youth parliament who shadowed my work this week.
European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi was in Parliament on Monday. He called on the member states in the eurozone to get a move on in setting up a banking union. Germany is dragging its heels by questioning the legal powers of the European Commission in this regard. Nonetheless the Commission published on Wednesday a bill to establish a bank resolution authority to cover the 6000 banks in the Eurozone and a bank resolution fund of €55 bn by 2015.
Finance ministers discussed the latest hiccups in Greece and Portugal. The European Commission discussed with the USA how to harmonise the rules governing the trade in financial derivatives products. I was privileged to join European Commission officials and captains of industry at a webstreamed conference on Wednesday to discuss how to bring growth back to Europe's economy.
On Tuesday evening I was at supper with Education Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou (Cyprus, LD); she is naturally proud that over three million students (and currently around 250,000 per year) have now gone through the EU's Erasmus student exchange scheme since it was established in 1987.
Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht (Belgium, LD) was in Geneva to launch with his counterpart from Bangladesh a programme to improve work and safety conditions in the textile industry following a series of avoidable accidents involving the death of employees.
Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom (Sweden, LD) had to warn Malta's PM to obey the law and consider asylum requests from 300 refugees who arrived in boats on Tuesday; he had threatened to fly the able bodied adults straight back to Libya, where they could face ill treatment.
The biggest news of the week for UK MEPs was the announcement by Home Secretary Theresa May that the UK would exercise the option negotiated by Labour to opt-out of a number of EU measures covering home affairs. Thanks to the persistence of LibDems in government (and evidence given by police and magistrates of the value of EU co-operation in the fight against crime) the Tories have not been able to pull us out of the European Arrest Warrant or the other major tools of police and judicial co-operation. This is a major achievement for our party over coalition partners who let their anti-EU obsession blind them to the interests of public safety.
This afternoon I deliver residents' surveys with LD party members in Bideford, Devon before a meeting of the regional party's european election campaign committee in Somerset this evening. Next week I spend Monday and Tuesday clearing correspondence and then three days campaigning in Devon and Cornwall. Parliament rises on Friday, but since there are no committee meetings next week I will probably not write again until we resume in the last week of August. So, happy holidays!     
Sir Graham Watson
Member of the European Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar