The week started with another row between the two houses of the EU’s legislature, Parliament and Council, this time over the way in which the European Council unilaterally changed an agreement we had reached on the development of EU-wide patents.
We decided to delay a vote on it until the autumn, to allow for further talks, which means it cannot yet come into being. In other important votes we threw out the proposal for an Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and voted to approve a tightening of the Water Framework Directive since we are missing targets to improve water quality.
Parliament met in Strasbourg this week for our last formal debating and voting session before the summer break, though there are still committee and other meetings for another two weeks.
We heard and debated statements on last week’s European Council (‘summit’) meeting, at which the euro-zone countries agreed to form a banking union. As I suspected, Britain is looking increasingly marginal. While we will continue as a member of the single market and remain involved in some other areas of EU co-operation we will no longer have as much, if any, say in many of the big policy decisions. Understanding of these matters in the UK is also falling; I attended a reception given by the team which produces the BBC’s only regular TV programme about the EU (The Record: Europe), which has now been axed. From now on we can expect the kind of rot we saw in the BBC’s Eurogeddon, telling British viewers that the EU is falling apart, or the ill-informed questioning of Jeremy Paxman on EU issues combined with the too often ill-informed answers of UK national politicians. I find it more than usually depressing.
My varied week included meetings to try to secure the release of a Wiltshire constituent jailed in Serbia, welcoming to Parliament visitors from Worle Community School in North Somerset, saying goodbye to a Finnish colleague who is to become his country’s Defence Minister and hello to a hitherto independent Austrian MEP who I have persuaded to join the Liberal Group and working on a draft recommendation about the security implications of climate change.
I spoke for the Liberal Group in the debate about the plans of the government of Cyprus for its six months at the helm of the EU, which started on 1 July. They did not much like what I said, though it reflected the views of many. Follow this link to see my speech http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6YjRFoX9gE&feature=plc
To me the most worrying news this week is the revelation in US newspapers that the US government and Israel jointly developed the malware Stuxnet to attack the computers of Iran’s nuclear programme. This takes the world into a completely new form of warfare and in all likelihood a new race to develop more and more sophisticated weapons of this nature.
This weekend I take my Vice Presidents from the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party away for two days of brainstorming about preparing for the 2014 European Parliament elections. I will write again from Brussels next week.