Monday, 19 April 2010

Dusty thinking from the European Parliament in Strasbourg

All day yesterday, Sunday, my blackberry was silently vibrating as email after email arrived from MEP colleagues stuck under the Volcanic Ash cloud begging for this weeks Strasbourg meeting to be cancelled. It was very clear that even if the parliament did meet this week MEPs from further flung parts of the EU would simply not be able to be present. Other MEPs begged that the monthly migration to Strasbourg could be evacuated back to Brussels.

No answer back. The issue of Strasbourg is just too sensitive to the French, Germans and some other central Europeans, admitting the need to re-schedule is to them a loss of face too far.

There was a moment of no return when I boarded the Eurostar this morning. I knew that many of my UK colleagues were grounded as the train seats out were fully booked by last Friday - I was also told that all trains back were fully booked until this Thursday. In my diary in addition to the normal Strasbourg votes I had 4 meetings about key pieces of up-coming legislation that affect the UK more than most. However I was not prepared to risk leaving UK without a voice.

As the train raced through France the email traffic continued 3 of my 4 meetings have been cancelled. The queues at both Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est were horrendous. It is clear that even in the centre of mainland Europe travelling is causing huge trauma.

Arriving in Strasbourg the powers-that-be have decided that it would be undemocratic for the Parliament to vote as this would exclude members from further countries. However they have decided that debates must continue. I thought democracy was as much about the right to free speech as the right to vote. Having admitted that it would be wrong to vote when various countries are unrepresented why is it acceptable to have debates when they can not make their opinions heard
? Is this suggesting that the debates don't count?

The volcanic ash cloud is forcing many to re-think their reliance on travel and transportation. It is causing real pain to people and businesses. We politicians are constantly asking those we represent to save energy and think twice before making un-necessary journeys. Please let's get rid of these un-necessary journeys to Strasbourg.

No comments: