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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Published on Friday 11th November 2011
UK Liberal Democrat MEPs naturally turned out in force to hear Nick Clegg speak in the European Parliament on Wednesday. He laid out the UK's belief that competitiveness depends on eliminating barriers to trade, both within the EU single market and across our external borders; and though he did not say so directly, he sent a message to the EU that the Liberal Democrats will not allow the UK Conservatives to renegotiate the EU's Treaties simply to sate the bloodlust of their backbenchers. (I had a similarly clear message about the importance of EU membership for jobs in the UK for MEP Nigel Farage of UKIP when we appeared together on BBC TV's The Record: Europe, which will be broadcast on BBC Parliament at 11pm tomorrow and at 5pm on Sunday.)
My week began on Sunday night, when I was in Brussels to meet the Chinese Communist Party Ministers who we hosted for three days at a forum at the EP this week. This is now the third of these EU-China political party forums and we found them more willing to talk about sensitive issues.
The Court of Auditors published on Thursday its annual report on the EU's accounts. They praised 'improvements in the effectiveness of systems, particularly at Commission level and in agriculture' and told MEPs on our Budgets Committee that the rate of errors has fallen from 7% in 2006 to under 4% today. Their report calls for further reform of member states' audit procedures, however, particularly in the spending of EU Social Fund money.
The main news of the week has again been the deliberations of the finance ministers about sovereign debt and bank capitalisation, especially following last weekend's G20 meeting in Cannes. But although economic growth figures have been revised downward and a second recession looks more likely, the euro strengthened a little on news that Greece and Italy had both forced their Prime Ministers out of office.
Proposals on taxation of energy products were taken off the agenda of the finance ministers since positions are too far apart. But energy policy is still high on our agenda. I met representatives of the EU's cable manufacturers on Tuesday to learn of the technical feasibility of an EU electricity supergrid and attended a supergrid conference on Thursday with participants from all interested parties. While Energy Commissioner Gunter Oettinger is defending plans for a EUR 10bn gas pipeline to the Caspian Sea, and while a new pipeline from Russia to Germany by-passing the Ukraine was formally opened, a new report from the European Climate Foundation shows that we must double our investment in electricity distribution if we want clean energy by 2050. (As for nuclear, Spain and Switzerland have now followed Germany in deciding to close their reactors and Belgium looks likely to follow suit: India is looking at switching from uranium to the much less dangerous thorium as a fuel for nuclear power.)
I attended a meeting organised by Fair Trials International to launch a campaign to cut pre-trial detention periods of non-nationals. I upbraided them on a claim about the European Arrest Warrant in one of their brochures which is simply untrue, but I support their campaign.
I also followed a big conference here on the proposed reform of the CAP and met constituent Nathaniel Page of Dorset to be briefed on the need for a clearer definition of grassland.
GrahamPublished and promoted by Graham Watson MEP, The Liberty, Old Kelways, Langport, TA10 9SJ
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