I had hoped to be a guest at the US Democratic Party Convention this week, but the discomfort involved in a long flight, while a slipped disc is giving me problems, dissuaded me from travelling 10 hours to Charlottesville on Monday and another ten hours back today. My compensation prize was a very interesting week in Brussels.
European Central Bank chairman Mario Draghi came to Parliament to discuss his ideas for easing the sovereign debt problems of member states; he gave details to the press yesterday of how his plans to purchase the sovereign debt of struggling eurozone countries on both primary and secondary markets would work. They seem to me to combine good sense with budgettary rigour. At the same time, parliament is considering a recommendation by my French colleague Sylvie Goulard on moves gradually to pool eurozone debt.
The European Commissioners from the Liberal family met senior MEPs on Tuesday evening to discuss the sovereign debt and bank capitalisation crisis, on which we were updated by economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn (LD, Finland). We also discussed the forthcoming EU budget negotiations and the impact of budget cuts on trans-european networks for transport, broadband and energy transmission.
Parliament’s justice and home affairs committee voted to approve a proposal to prevent the sale in large quantities and to register the purchasers of chemicals needed to make explosives such as hydrogen peroxide, nitro-methane and nitric acid. And the foreign affairs committee quizzed the European external action service on Israel’s detention of Palestinians and on EU policy towards Iraq and the Ukraine.
The European Court of Justice gave one ruling and one opinion this week which excited MEPs. The ruling was a move to annul, at Parliament’s request, a decision of the Council of Ministers which gave border guards in the EU’s external frontiers agency Frontex the right to transport asylum seekers back to their country of departure without allowing for their cases to be properly heard.
The opinion, which is not binding but is nonetheless disappointing, said the French government is justified in objecting to the way Parliament has cut the amount of time it spends in Strasbourg. However, since cracks have been discovered in three of the 27 beams which support the roof of our Brussels debating chamber, we might need Strasbourg rather more for a while.
In good news for the south west, where much expertise is located, the European Commission has proposed the digital mapping of the seabed in European waters by 2020. Less welcome news is the continued failure of Broadband Delivery UK to satisfy the competition authorities regarding the award of contracts for the roll out of superfast broadband in Wiltshire, S Glos, Somerset and Devon, which may now be delayed until October.
I took part inter alia in a discussion with Nick Harvey and Devon County Council about EU funding and a debate with Taiwan’s minister for mainland affairs about cross-straits relations. I also had the pleasure of sending messages of congratulations to four MPs in my constitutency: Nick Harvey MP on his knighthood and David Laws, David Heath and Don Foster on their elevation to ministerial roles.