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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Every week Graham writes a newsletter letting you know what has been happing in Europe over the past week. You can subscribe to receive this by email here. Below are the last editions.
My week started in Cornwall, taking Prof Danuta Hubner MEP to visit projects and meet people who have benefitted from EU funding which she helped us secure. A gamekeeper turned poacher, Danuta was EU Commissioner for Regional Funds in the last Commission mandate and is chair of the European Parliament's Regional Development Committee in this. Cornwall Council, the Combined Universities for Cornwall and I want to encourage her to continue to root for Cornwall.
We returned to Brussels on Monday evening, where Parliament's committees were in full swing preparing for next week's formal plenary sitting in Strasbourg and three ministerial councils were scheduled to meet.
Parliament met in Strasbourg this week for formal debates and legislative votes. We approved the 'multi-annual financial framework' which sets the broad guidelines for EU spending from 2014 to 2020. We also voted to cut the 2014 budget by 6.2% compared to 2013 (a Liberal Democrat achievement) and to gear spending more towards economic competitiveness.
Parliament returned after a week's recess to meetings of committees and political groups to prepare next week's plenary session of formal debates and votes in Strasbourg. The mostimportant development of the week was the agreement reached between the negotiating teams of the Council of Ministers and Parliament (our two legislative chambers) on the EU's budget for2014. For Parliament this process was led by Danish Liberal MEP Anne Jensen, who has managed to find savings to allow a 9.4% reduction on last year's budget.
The European Council (heads of state and government meeting) on 24 and 25 October produced few surprises, with our member state leaders deciding, as predicted, to invest more in the digital economy to achieve sustainable and job-creating economic growth. The European Commission's autumn economic forecast ten days later confirmed predictions of a gradual return to economic growth but with little fall in unemployment over the next two years.
The main news coverage of the European Council meeting, however, was the discussion by our presidents and prime ministers about the alleged spying on EU capitals by or on behalf of the USA. The 'on behalf of' drew greater attention this week with Snowden-leaked allegations in The Independent that the UK spies on Germany from a listening post in its embassy in Berlin, which would be in breach of international law.
Liberal Democrats were pleased to emerge as the only major party making gains in last Sunday's general election in Luxembourg. Though not the largest party, we may yet secure the prime ministerial role in a Liberal-SocDem-Green coalition. As in Germany, however, it may take a number of weeks for the parties to agree the new coalition.
The tiny republic of San Marino voted in a referendum the same day to apply to join the EU, though only by the narrowest of margins.
Azerbaijan's presidential election on 9 October caused some embarrassment when it emerged that a number of MEPs had visited the country at the invitation of its government and had signed a declaration saying the election was 'transparent and fair'. Since the official OSCE mission reported that it was anything but, there was egg on the face of the European Parliament. I am astonished at the venal stupidity of colleagues who should know better.
While I spent a rare morning in bed on Monday to try to shake off a cold, member states' finance ministers were travelling to Luxembourg to sign off new rules on bank supervision, to be carried out mainly by the European Central Bank; and their environment ministers to review rules on the exports of dangerous waste to developing countries.