"Its 95% damage limtitation and occasionally a bit of match making." These were the words of one of my experienced MEP colleagues when describing the work in his brussels office. As we travelled back towards London pouring over thick drafts of potential regulation and covered them with red ink it was very clear what he meant about the damage limitiation part of the work. MEP's can and do put forward ammendments on individual pieces of legislation. So we are often checking the fine detail of directives.
The match making part of the role is very satisfying. One meets so many people doing this job that sometimes it may be possible to introduce those with a problem to those with a potential solution.
Last week the Chambers of Commerce leaders from around the UK arrived in Brussels. Over a coffee a representative from the Midlands explained that some of her member companies in the building ceramics trade are being asked to pay for gas and electricity up to 6 months in advance. I understand that the recession means that utility companies could be wary of customers making bricks and tiles but this did seem an excessive payment to me. Later in the week a delegation from RBS arrived. They were very keen to tell me that RBS is trying to lend money to businesses that need it - and I told him about the brickmakers dilema. I was impressed that the gentleman from RBS was aware of the problem and that they were working on ways to help these companies. So I have swapped the business cards and hope that the matchmaking will find a solution to the problem.
Also in Brussels I learnt about plans to restructure the dreadful EU fishing quota system. Emails are now pinging back to friends in some of our Eastern ports to make sure that they get involved in the consultation.
Compassion in World Farming turned up to discuss long journeys taken by animals en route to slaughter. They make some excellent points. I hope their campaign for better "origin" labelling for meat products is sucessful. They explained that they would like a 8 hour maximum for all animal journeys - However a few hours later I met representatives from the thoroughbred breeders and racing industry. They explained that rules regarding transport for horses en route to slaughter would be totally inappropriate for thier mares, foals and racehorses. As there are around 7,000 people employed in horse related industries around Newmarket I do always try to understand their concerns.... yet another bit of red ink may be needed.
I find that these sorts of meeting make a welcome break from discussing banking and financial regulation - where my drafts of potential directives are now covered in red ink, comments and question marks.