Graham Watson MEP
Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar
A local champion with an international reputation
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News from the Lib Dems in Government
Published on Friday 18th November 2011
Parliament met in Strasbourg this week for four days of formal debates and votes. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso outlined the Commission's Work Programme for the coming year (the EU's equivalent of the Queen's speech at Westminster); it contained little exciting. We heard a statement on the forthcoming EU-US summit. And we debated economic governance in the light of the sovereign debt and bank capitalisation crises. Most now accept that the EU will need to issue bonds to pay for the investment needed to get the economy moving again. Barroso promised to issue a green paper setting out the options.
Steps towards controlling financial market excesses went further with a vote to approve the banning of the naked short selling of credit default swaps: the new European Securities and Markets Authority will be able to prevent hedge funds trading in such swaps unless they own the related bonds, which will stop speculative attacks on a country's treasury.
We also voted for the EU to seek at the forthcoming UN climate talks in Durban to continue the Kyoto Protocol after 2012 and to press for a wide ranging climate agreement by 2015, covering emissions from air and sea transport and including a commitment to cut total CO2 emissions by more than 20% by 2020. I will go to Durban as chairman of the global Climate Parliament and will report next month on how we get on.
In the Council the 27 foreign affairs ministers met on Monday and Tuesday. They agreed to extend the mandate of the EU police mission in Afghanistan to 2014, to apply sanctions to a further 18 representatives of Syria's government, and to examine further sanctions against Iran at their next meeting in a fortnight's time. (Iran's "crime" is to seek to develop the nuclear weapons which we already possess.)
The 27 agriculture ministers discussed the direct payment aspects of the Commission's CAP reform proposals. Many were unhappy with the plans to make 30% of payments dependent on environmental improvements and to set aside 7% of agricultural land. Since MEPs are equally unhappy it looks likely these proposals will be amended considerably. The ministers also agreed to continue for two years a €500 million euro scheme to buy food for distribution to the needy within the EU; it had been blocked but the Germans were knobbled by the French and switched sides in the argument.
Foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton visited the southern Caucasus countries. I sent her some photos of the demolition of the offices of women's and civil rights NGOs in Baku to strengthen her spine in talks with the increasingly authoritarian regime in Azerbaijan. I hope she raised the issue with the Prime Minister there. She has written to the 27 foreign ministers proposing a European Endowment for Democracy to work primarily in the countries adjoining the Union; but there is already a European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights established by Parliament (thanks largely to the work of my colleague Edward McMillan-Scott MEP) and I fear her proposal may be a fence designed to guard against charges that our main interest in Azerbaijan is gas supply.
Yesterday afternoon I joined Barroso and three UK ministers to brainstorm about Britain's ideas for the EU. I then flew to Istanbul to address a conference today on relations between the EU and Turkey. Tomorrow I speak to Devon and Cornwall Lib Dems in Plymouth in the morning and to Party members from Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire in Dorchester in the afternoon.
GrahamPublished and promoted by Graham Watson MEP, The Liberty, Old Kelways, Langport, TA10 9SJ
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