Friday, 13 September 2013

So What Does Being An MEP Involve?

Local Parish Councillor Andy Pellew With
Sir Graham Watson MEP
I'm one of the subscribers to Sir Graham Warson MEP's mailing list and I thought I'd share his latest mailing with you as an example of what our elected MEP's get up to when they're working for us in Brussels;


The EU Commissioner for the digital agenda, Neelie Kroes (LD, Netherlands) persuaded the European Commission to adopt on Wednesday an ambitious set of proposals to abolish roaming charges and simplify rules for operators, thus bringing down costs for consumers and increasing digital connectivity. She hopes to have it in place by 1 July 2014, which will require a lot of work in Parliament and particularly in Council, where it may face stiff resistance from national governments. 

Parliament met in Strasbourg for a week of formal debates and votes. Travel delays meant that I missed the opportunity to castigate Singapore's foreign minister, who visited our foreign affairs committee on Monday, for the unacceptable lack of political freedom in such an economically developed country; but I was able to use the occasion of Gibraltar's National Day on Tuesday to draw attention to Spain's restrictions on freedom there. [To see my intervention, click here.] And on Wednesday I spoke in the debate on Syria [here]. 

On Tuesday we approved new provisions guaranteeing all EU citizens equal rights of confidential access to a lawyer and being able to communicate with a relative or employer from the time of being taken into custody. Once adopted by the 28 member states in Council, they must become operational within three years. 

On Wednesday we approved the first reading of a review of the renewable energy directive which will cap the use of biofuels (see recent newsletters), ably steered through the House by French Liberal MEP (and former environment minister) Corinne Lepage. And yesterday we voted to approve important legislation on banking supervision after securing transparency commitments from the European Central Bank. 

My nomination of Malala Yousafzai for the EP's Sakharov Prize looks likely to succeed, having secured majority support this week in both the Socialist and European People's Party groups. The Greens have nominated Edward Snowden. 

Parliament's Committee of Enquiry into the American National Security Agency's 'Prism' electronic surveillance system met again yesterday. Evidence from officials of the Commission who are in talks with the Americans revealed the existence of an executive order previously unknown to them which authorises snooping to an extent which they believe to be out of proportion to any likely security threat. They are working together with officials from a US parliamentary enquiry to assess what legal protection is available to the hundreds of millions of EU citizens whose data is being trawled. News at the start of the week that the USA is also monitoring inter-bank financial transfers through SWIFT, apparently in breach of a EU-USA agreement, has heightened European concerns. 

In other news this week the legal department of the EU's Council of Ministers has found the proposed EU financial transaction ('Tobin') tax to be illegal. Their findings were immediately challenged by the Commission and caused great commotion on the left of the House. The EU announced €52 million for economic and social development in Palestine. And the announcement by Armenia that it would join a customs union with Russia led to calls to cancel the EU's proposed Association Agreement and Free Trade Agreement with Yerevan and a resolution in Parliament condemning economic pressure by Russia on Armenia and other eastern european countries seeking closer relations with the EU. 

I shall be canvassing in a local by-election in Taunton this morning, leafletting in Yeovil this afternoon and meeting constituents in my Langport office in the evening to discuss flooding on the Somerset Levels.  Tomorrow I will be travelling to Glasgow for the Liberal Democrat Party Conference. 



Sir Graham Watson Member of the European Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar"