MEPs trampled to Parliament through the snow in Strasbourg this week for our formal debates and votes. But the one or two centimetres there was nothing compared to what has fallen in SW England, which has thoroughly messed up my plans for constituency engagements in Gloucestershire and Devon. Reluctantly, I have decided to follow the travel advice issued by the Met Office.
It was rain rather than snow which took me to my feet in the Chamber on Monday to argue for compensation for my constituents for last month’s flood damage and a more rigorous approach to planning for the impact of changing climate patterns within the EU. My speech can be viewed here .
Parliament heard statements from the President of Cyprus on the achievements of his country’s EU Presidency, which ended on 31 December, and the Prime Minister of Ireland on the plans for his, which started on 1 January. In reply to the former, I regretted the bias shown by CYBC (Cyprus public TV) against the Liberal candidate in the current Presidential race and the failure to reform land laws or banking systems. And I welcomed the Irish Presidency’s positive approach to EU membership, so different from that of our own country. [What the speech.]
On Tuesday MEPs debated with EU foreign affairs suprema Catherine Ashton (UK, Soc) the situation in Mali, where a French intervention to prevent an Al Qaeda takeover (and secure French access to uranium deposits) has now gained EU and UN support. Foreign Affairs ministers met in extraordinary session yesterday to discuss an EU mission there. Tragically we could and should have acted months ago to prevent the conflict and subsequent displacement of people, which many had predicted. We also heard from humanitarian affairs commissioner Kristalina Georgieva (Bulgaria, EPP) that she has released more humanitarian aid for Syria and Palestine.
We voted inter alia to adopt new rules governing credit rating agencies and to condemn violence against women in India; as one of those negotiating a common text for the latter motion I believe I managed to ensure it was balanced.
The main work of my week was taking Gibraltar’s environment minister to see EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki (Greece, Soc) to discuss illegal fishing off the Rock by Spanish fishermen. I also met constituent Andrew Kerr of Gloucestershire who is lobbying for conservation of eels in a revision of current laws.
The European Court of Auditors published a report on the use of funds to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and concluded that they should be much better policed to ensure good value for the taxpayer. The European Food Safety Agency decided to publish all its scientific data on GM maize NK603, in an effort to gain public confidence in its evaluations. It also reported on the severe impact of neonicotinoid pesticide use on bee colonies.
To follow on from my letter last week, only six national parliaments had objected by the 15 January deadline to the Commission’s proposal to set gender quotas for company boards, so it can proceed.
I learned the perils of Twitter the hard way on Thursday when I issued an ill-informed and even more ill-judged tweet at 8pm attacking Cameron for calling off his much-touted Europe speech. I wrote it at the end of a busy day in Parliament in Strasbourg with no knowledge of how serious the hostage crisis had become during the day and unaware that the Foreign Secretary was in Australia. Since I was in between evening speaking engagements it was not until 90 minutes later that I realised the crassness of it and tweeted an apology, which I followed up with a press statement this morning.
My flight home this morning was – unsurprisingly – cancelled, so it will be from Brussels that I fly to Sofia to address the conference of our sister party in Bulgaria.
From there I shall think of home, where icicles hang by the wall, and Dick the Shepherd blows his nail.