Monday, 19 September 2011

Wood for the Trees

Strasbourg week is always a busy time for the European Parliament but last week's diary was just crazy busy. At times like this it is hard to see the wood for the trees.

On Monday and Tuesday we were racing around finalising my Offshore Oil Safety report. Which was voted through the Parliament on Tuesday. We beat off a last minute attempt from the Greens to put in place a drilling moratorium. Given that offshore is 90% of EU/Norway oil production this would have been pretty dire for energy security issues. Like many European Parliament reports its has been subjected to numerous amendments from many different committees with varying degrees of knowledge ... it is not perfect. However, I hope we have laid the grounds for a strong safety approach that is not box ticking. We took a basic premise to leave to national regulators what they can do well, to share expertise bilaterally/multilaterally where that makes sense between neighbouring countries and pool resources at the EU level where that can add economies of scale (in this case in using clean up equipment most effectively). Devolve down where possible and up where needed is my new motto. We will need to fight to keep this approach through the actual legislation that will follow.

On Wednesday and Thursday I was in trialogue negotiations regarding the new arrangements for Deposit Guarantee Schemes. Remember the massive flight of bank accounts to Ireland during the crisis when the Irish government announced a 100% guarantee for all personal accounts? Clearly there needs to be international agreement on guarantees but this does not mean every detail needs to be harmonised. I also kept being dragged back into final negotiations on the Economic Governance package - my own report on how countries should provide transparent forward looking budgets has been agreed by all countries. But mine is only one of six pieces of legislation - some of the others have not been as explicitly sensitive to the differences between Eurozone and non Eurozone countries. If the Eurozone move closer together, the issue of Euro vs non-Euro countries is going to get even more sensitive in months to come.

On Thursday night I went with a group of MEPs from Strasbourg to Poland, to join a major conference of financial service legislators, regulators and providers. I had been asked to speak on Friday about a technical aspect involving the implementation of the highly politically sensitive Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive which was passed by the Parliament finally at the end last year. During many debates on this directive I and a few colleagues had raised concerns about the potential impacts of the directive, one of which was the impact for investment in developing countries. We UK MEPs thought that we had won a compromise that would work but a year on this it is still not settled. Mental note we should all be forced to look back at laws that have been passed and check regularly whether they actually work in practice.

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