Friday, 14 February 2014

Newsletter from the European Parliament, Friday 14 February 2014 - Sir Graham Watson MEP

Sir Graham Watson MEP
A group of school students from Thomas Hardye school in Dorchester were my first victims this week, when they visited the European Parliament on Monday. Others who had to suffer me were TV viewers in Switzerland (Monday), Gibraltar (Tue and Wed) and Austria (Thursday).

The Swiss people's vote in a referendum on Sunday to pull out of free movement treaties with the EU, by the narrowest of margins (50.3%), will cause their government a major headache: they have three years in which to try to renegotiate their treaty agreements with the EU which will involve abrogation of almost all existing agreements, unless the government finds a way out. The first casualty may be Switzerland's participation in the EU's single energy market, due end 2014.

My week involved free movement issues with regard to Gibraltar too as I accompanied the Rock's Chief Minister and his Deputy to meetings with senior EU officials in Brussels. At the Directorate General for Transport we discussed the likely consequences of Parliament's vote last week for my amendment to remove the Gibraltar Exclusion Clause from the revised Airline Passenger Rights Regulation. Bristol University student Perran Byles from Taunton, who work-shadowed me this week, is now an expert on Gibraltar's concerns.

Baroness Ashton came to the foreign affairs committee on Tuesday afternoon to report on the outcome of Monday's meeting of the foreign affairs council (the 28 national foreign ministers). She told us inter alia of their debates about the riots in Bosnia and Hercegovina, where unemployment is 40%, and the summit with Russia. On Wednesday I was at the justice and home affairs committee to vote the approval of Parliament's report on the NSA electronic spying scandal, drawn up by UK Labour MEP Claude Moraes. The recent revelation from a spy transcript that a female US diplomat in the Ukraine had said 'fuck the EU' - which landed her in hot water - was perhaps a timely reminder to the Americans that having one's private conversations listened to is not always pleasant.

The Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER), which is the weekly meeting of the member states' ambassadors to the EU, reached agreement to create a permanent space monitoring system to protect satellites. Problems with debris are estimated to cost €120 million a year.

I arrived home late last night to face my weekly casework load and will be in Gloucester this morning (tune in to BBC radio Glos between 9.30 and 10.45 am) before heading for London.

Correction: In my last newsletter I described the EP's vote on the Commission's proposals on energy and climate change as a first reading vote. It was not; it was simply an opinion.


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