Thursday, 10 September 2009

A dog has 4 legs.... latest update from the EP

“A dog has four legs, my cat has four legs – therefore my cat is a dog”.
I started writing this 30,000 feet up on the Easy Jet from Prague to Stansted which reminded me to try to look at the big picture.

I was reading Jose Manuel Barosso’s paper on the “politicial guidelines for the next Commission” - His vision for the next 5 years as president of the European Commission. Like many pieces of Euro literature it is full of wonderful intentions (get the economy going, stem unemployment, upgrade skills, lead on climate change, thriving rural economies, innovation revolution) but the tangible actions are much less evident. My colleague Ashley Fox summed up Euro-logic with the description of his four legged cat/dog friend.

As an MEP I have found that one rapidly gets caught up the silo of committee work. There are so many issues that perhaps it is best to keep focused but I am beginning to bore for Britain about money – but especially in a recession that is important. We started the week in Brussels quizzing Mr Barosso on his paper – he is seeking our votes to retain his position. I asked how is he going to pay for this? Where are savings coming from? I see a commission aide has just filled my email inbox with his “detailed” answer.... more numbers... serves me right....but reading the email no more answers.

My second question was rather more complicated. A Federation of Small Business survey in the UK recently showed that access to bank capital remains a huge concern. Mr Barosso has promised that businesses in Europe will have “ a level playing field” with the ability to be globally competitive. But the more I meet financiers or dig into the detail of the mountain of papers on my desk I find examples of where the EU (through the commission) are getting ahead of the rest of the world with legislation and regulation. I have no problem with regulation if its good regulation, but I don’t want our businesses to be kicking up hill.

I went to Prague to join other MEPS from across Europe for the first of our “working days”. The big picture. Listening to members from other countries – especially our Eastern European countries about their priorities helped me to understand just some of their issues. Their history, why they joined the EU, why their relationship with Russia matters, how important their relationship with the West and the US are, their concerns about to energy security (yes it does matter to all of us if the gas is switched off but they are in the front line)... it has reminded me how different each member’ s problems are. . They don’t need cat=dog solutions.
Dirkjan Eppink MEP has summed up his vision of the ECR. We don’t want a United States of Europe but a United Europe of States.

... meanwhile the day to day challenge of running the MEP’s office continues. Whenever someone complains about any group/ their voice/ their role always ask if this was because they really just want a bigger office. For various reasons we have had to move office. Tom, my assistant carefully packed all his hard won forms of” work contracts”, “flat contracts”, “health contracts” and a lot of my diary into the “office move” boxes provided by the bureaucrats. The removal men moved them over night. In the early hours of the morning the cleaners came in removed the boxes to the shredders . I later found out that Charles Tannock MEP lost 10 years of carefully kept files on over 250 countries in exactly the same manoeuvre.

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