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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Graham's Newsletter Friday 13th July


This week Europe's farmers came to mount a noisy lobby of parliament protesting about the fall in the price of milk caused by overproduction; they blocked the square outside Parliament with farm vehicles and set off firecrackers. I do understand their predicament.

Finance ministers met in Brussels this week. They gave Spain until 2014 to get its public deficit below 3% of GDP and agreed 32 preconditions to be met before granting aid to Spanish banks; Greece says it cannot meet its 2014 deadline. Environment ministers and Home Affairs ministers met in Cyprus, which holds the EU's rotating presidency.

Parliament's committees met. The foreign affairs committee, on which I sit, and the regional development committee each had over five hours of votes on amendments to legislation to clear the desks before the summer. Cypriot ministers appeared before the major committees; I again pressed their foreign minister on progress towards reunification. I also hosted, as President of the ELDR party, a breakfast meeting at which the Leaders of pro-reunification parties from south and north (Praxoula Antoniadou of the United Democrats and Mehmet Cakigi of the Social Democrats) presented plans for breaking the logjam in the UN-sponsored talks.

Parliament's justice and home affairs committee voted to approve a deal with national governments in Council on access to legal, psychological and interpreting support for victims of crime in a country other than their own. The internal market committee voted to provide access for consumers to alternative (ie non legal) dispute resolution mechanisms in cases of dissatisfaction with goods or services bought on-line.

The European Commission published on Monday a call for proposals for funding for research projects in 2013, with a budget of over €8 billion of which €4.8 is foreseen for industrial innovation, sustainable environment and smart cities projects and €3.3 bn for health, human sciences and other areas of new technology. The current Framework Programme will be succeeded in 2014 by the new 'Horizon' Programme, for which the budget is yet to be determined.

An attempt last weekend by Romania's Socialist-Liberal coalition government to impeach the country's President caused an outcry among his political friends in the European People's Party. But the Constitutional Court found in the government's favour. The President has appealed against the decision and a referendum will be held on 29 July. I issued a statement on Monday on behalf of Europe's Liberals supporting the action but calling on the government to act scrupulously within its constitutional rights in a country in which the President has frequently ridden roughshod over them.

On Tuesday the Commission published a report showing that despite undertakings by member states, disabled people are denied the same access to education as the able bodied. Education Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou (Cyprus, LD) called on national governments to give better support to inclusive education policies.

I spoke to visitors from the Royal Wootton Basset Academy on Tuesday, gave evidence by videoconference to councillors in Cornwall on Wednesday and welcomed Chris Huhne MP (who has agreed to chair a European Liberal Democrat working group on sustainable energy) to Brussels on Thursday.

Yesterday afternoon the UK LibDem MEPs held a strategy session at Party HQ in London.

Today I will be at constituency functions in Yatton, Bristol and Yate, tomorrow in Westbury and Warminster and on Sunday in Creech St Michael, near Taunton.