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Robert Sturdy’s View from Strasbourg

Each month, I issue a report for MEP Robert Sturdy following the extortionate and costly monthly sitting of the European Parliament in  Strasbourg  which is sent to the local press, I thought you might like to see the latest one. 

View from Strasbourg – March 2007

“A funny thing happened to me on Tuesday.  I was on my way to the Parliament building and I saw fire trucks surrounding the building!  I must say, my heart skipped a beat at the sight of that.  Hurray, I thought, we can finally be rid of Strasbourg.  This ridiculous waste of time and money is finally gone (although not in the way we thought it would be).  Imagine my dismay then when I realised it was a bunch of firemen picketing the building for better employment rights.  It looks like we’ll have to rely on the one seat campaign after all.

“I met with Peter Mandelson EU Trade Commissioner this week to discuss the difficulties which surround the DOHA agreement and the likelihood of us reaching a compromise before the deadline.  My report on Economic Partnership Agreements between the EU and ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) countries is being voted through the International Trade Committee of the Parliament next week so I was pleased to speak again about this issue.  These EPAs offer a way for trade to be used as a tool to aid development but it is important that we don’t impose ourselves on these countries but work with them to ensure fair and competitive markets for all.

“In Strasbourg my thoughts turned to the upcoming celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the EU. In a few days, EU leaders will agree a declaration to be signed in Berlin to reflect on the achievements of the EU over the past half-century. Now no-one, no matter what your personal or political views may be, can disregard the values of peace, prosperity and democracy as promoted within this declaration. Its recognition that energy, climate change, the environment and economic development are responsibilities shared by all is encouraging. But at the same time, I feel uneasy at the resurgence yet again of the constitutional debate which has crept, not so subtly, back onto the EU agenda. When will our European counterparts accept this treaty is not wanted by the people and is not necessary in achieving our aims and ambitions? Surely ignoring the referendums of previous years goes against the principles of democracy which apparently guide and define us?

“The Commission also announced this week, that together with the current German Presidency, it will be holding a review into European Water Management Law. The review, which takes place this month, will report on which Member States have failed to meet the deadline of the European Water Framework Directive. Water Management is a very important issue for us all and full commitment is needed to protect our food, our land and above all our health. The truth is not always easy to take, but only with transparency and accountability, can we meet the challenges that face us.”


16 Comments

  1. electro-kevin

    To clarify:

    “Not peace at any old cost.”

    Appologies to Mr Sturdy if I have breached etiquette here.

  2. electro-kevin

    Thanks for that response, Mr Sturdy,

    I’m glad that you appear to be wary of federalism. It seems, however, that this is going to be foisted upon us by stealth and guile whether we like it or not.

    I would like to point out that WW11 was a stand against a unifying tyranny and that the sensible concern of ‘europhobes’ is that devolvement of democracy could easily lead to a bloodless coup by such a tyranny at some point in the future. In the meantime we are being asked to have absolute faith in inherent human benevolence.

    I would also like to remind readers that post war peace was kept by NATO and not the EU. That it was deemed worthy of the risk of nuclear conflaguration to stand four square against an expansive Soviet Union. What is to prevent similar sovietism occuring here within the EU ? As I pointed out earlier in this thread, in fiscal terms it already appears to be a law unto itself.

    In respect of our forebears, their sacrifice and their good sense: not peace at any cost.

    (My appologies to you, Ellee if Mr Sturdy was to have had the last word – I understand for that reason you may want to delete this.)

  3. Firstly I would like to thank you for all of your responses to my View from Strasbourg which I will now address.

    I don’t have a problem with migration of workers through the EU. Free movement of people and services is one of the things which makes the EU a strong market competitor. Also, I now never have to worry about finding a plumber!

    With the impending 50th anniversary this is an obvious time to question the achievements of the EU. While I agree that there are problems with the EU I think that it is important to bear in mind the initial aim which was to bring peace to the region so that nothing like WW II would happen again and to build a prosperous group of European countries, this is an achievement which we should be proud of. Having said that I am against a European Federal State and will do everything in my power to stop this.

    I am a member of both the International Trade and Environment Committees and I think that these areas offer the most obvious examples of where being a member of the EU is beneficial.

    The EU has a greater power on the global market than each individual country would have. This allows an even playing field on issues of trade and allows us to have a voice on issues of trade with developing countries such as my report on Economic Partnership Agreements with ACP countries currently going through Parliament.

    The EU has already pioneered the Emissions Trading scheme – this is something which can be used as a way for the market to regulate its own climate responsibilities. The European Agenda is focussing on environmental issues. Hopefully this will help us to engage other countries to take the initiative to engage with their own global responsibilities to recognise and work towards this common goal.

    It is easier and more effective for the EU as a whole to stand up to America on issues such as climate change or to pool resources to improve competitiveness on the global market because the EU, in that role is a more dominant figure than the individual countries would be.

    I would say of the Constitution that there were actually some reasonable parts to it, for example it would have given co-decision to the Agriculture Committee which would mean that we would have been able to stop the waste of spending we have.

    However, the constitution, rather than simplifying existing treaties, actually takes the Union away from the citizens of Europe, and further centralises power. It runs into thousands of pages and incorporates much strengthening of centralised power. I don’t feel that this is the best option for Britain because it is a step towards a federal Europe with the UK losing sovereignty over many policy areas.

    I would like to see a new treaty simplifying the existing treaties, co-operation in foreign and home affairs on a bilateral basis, more democracy and accountability, greater practices of co-decision between the European institutions, support for international free trade to enhance the single market and a European arbitrator to enforce decentralisation.

    The big difference between the United States and the EU is that, even though the states are very different from each other (geographically as well as politically) they still have their Nationality to bind them. The EU doesn’t have this.

    However, it is important that we are in Europe but not ruled by Europe. It is vital that we protect the sovereignty of the UK and do not allow Europe to try and move into making decisions on all policy issues. Europe should work for the UK, not the other way around.

    As to the issues raised about local and community councils and devolution – I am in favour of bringing politics closer to the people but think that there have been problems with Devolution so far. More needs to be done to address the West Lothian problem – is it fair that Scotland has autonomy over issues such as education and taxation but can vote to make decisions about these very same issues in England and Wales? The tuition fees debacle brought this issue to the forefront but nothing has been done to address it.

    I hope that this answers your remarks.

    Kind Regards,

    Robert Sturdy MEP

  4. electro-kevin

    Alas my eyesight was not good enough to spot my mistake with CAP – but this is estimated to have added £20 per week to the average shopping bill. The hardships faced by local dairy farmers are presently caused by ruthless supermarkets.

  5. electro-kevin

    I hope you don’t mind me adding some more, Ellee.

    Point by point:

    Culture: fish … chips, cup o’ tea, Mary bleedin’ Poppins – you got it. But I’m also interested in preserving things I love about Europe – bull runs in Pamplona, Ooompa bands, French waitresses …

    As for Indian, Chinese and other culture I love it (I’ve studied Okinawan martial arts and blues/flamenco guitar for years) but I don’t want it taking over. I think it would be highly unfair of anyone to accuse me of being xenephobic for saying that.

    People are bored by Euro politics and that is one of the dangers of it. I don’t know who my MEP is and care even less I’m afraid.

    I don’t see the US democracy as the ideal standard. In fact as Winston Churchill said there is no such thing as perfect democracy but prior to the signing of the Single European Act and Maastricht I think we were doing pretty well.

    I’ve a big issue with Mr Cameron as leader and I have abandoned voting because I feel disenfranchised; for this reason I think it would be harmful for democracy if both major parties recieved State funding in order to make up for abandonment by grass root supporters; the people will never be able to get the representation that they want, perhaps that is the intention. I don’t buy it that people don’t care about politics, just look at the popularity of David Dimbleby’s Question Time.

    I live in a rural/coastal area and both farming and fishing have been blighted by the CAP and fisheries policies – I am no longer a Tory supporter by the way, so their gains with regard to personal funding are of no interest to me, they couldn’t be more diminished. Here I should state that I am appalled at our loss of border control and the Human Rights Act (HRA) which has wreaked havoc in our criminal justice system. The HRA was, of course, brought in to converge with European legislation.

    ‘One shoe fits all’ ? I see nothing but devolvement of democracy away from these shores and a devaluation of each and every vote.

    As for the fragmentation of party representation you speak of, I see no relevance as they all conform to what is acceptable in Whitehall(ergo Europe) and not to what the electorate actually want (this statement is validated by low voter turnouts and loss of party membership/funding)

    I doubt very much that my view of what is ‘English’ differs from 59 million others, I really do. Why not have a referendum on the continuance of EU membership to find out ? But I think we know the answer to that one already, don’t you ?

    I don’t wear glasses BTW. I hope this reply fits your standards of cogency, Qasar 9, and my unaided eyesight is good enough to convince me that your statement at No5 pertained to xenephobia against Poles.

  6. Thank you for all your comments on this, I will show them to Robert so he can reply to the points you have raised.

  7. Quasar9

    Hi electro-kevin
    Not sure you are reading what I say
    Or reading into what I say with ‘spectacles’

    What is wrong with an EU Constitution?
    What do you call culture? tea and cucumber sandwiches? flat beer and Real Ale? Fish & Chips? Driving on the left? Speaking English?

    Is the EU stopping you enjoying cucumber sandwiches, or tea from China or India?, Real Ale or fish & chips.
    It is certainly unlikely to stop you driving on the left, unless you cross the channel. And the English tend to apeak english even if and when they are in Spain (El Dorado), Portugal, France or Germany, and I dare say Poland et al.

    Democracy is a ‘limited term’ at the best of times. Did you vote for Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party – not all conservatives did. We know the government at any time is elected by less than half the ‘voting’ pop, and the PM by less than a quarter.

    And yes the election of MEPs in a Region is not very democratic – the election of MEP candidates list even less so.

    And Bush got elected by such a small margin, no one knows how many chats were counted twice.

    If you would have said he is the prime example of the real dangers of a European suprastate I would agree. But the funds created by the EU for regional development funds, and even the corrupt agricultural subsidies … mainly go into the pockets of ‘conservative’ voters, don’t you see – mainly because they know how to fill in the forms, and are informed of the funds available.

    We all know ‘the one shoe doesn’t fit all’ argument, but how do you create EU wide policies for aviation and the environment, for employment and housing legislation, unless you have an EU ‘government’ of representatives.

    Yes you can have a labour government and a conservative county council and a lib dem City Council as in the case of Cambridge Cambs uk.
    And to me it seems they are all pursuing the same agendas – just criticise or blame each other over the differences in policy or budgets

    So you could end up with a conservative dominated EU, with socialist (Labour) dominated governments, and a handful of libdem or green dominated local councils – and why not

    PS – Remember your view of englishness probably differs with at least the views of 59 million others. Your views on what conservatism IS probably differ with at least 59% of conservatives, and your views on any subject in life the same. Any significant democratic majority is only ever achieved on ‘single issues’ – the rest of the time it is an assortment of compromises – and sometimes they are just a protest vote, or because there is nothing other to vote for.

  8. electro-kevin

    More, Q9

    Your justification of EC on the basis of our past hegemony seems to be based on the concept that ‘two wrongs make a right’ rather like the pro-cannabis lobby, “Alcohol is destructive, so why not legalise drugs as well ?”.

  9. electro-kevin

    Well, Q9, what is wrong with the EU constitution is that the people were never given a proper vote about the new entity that the EU has become. The last time the British people had a say it was simply about joining a common trading area, now it’s about a supra-national authority which seems to be pushing towards absolute and centralist control.

    The lack of correspondents on this thread is probably a good indication of how the EC affects people, even those of mild political interest – Zzzzzzzzzz, better than Horlicks !

    So what is wrong about the constitution is that it ties us into and institution which is very dubious as I have pointed out in terms of corruption, false agendas and withdrawal of democracy. If it matters to you it is also about the standardisation of culture too.(That matters an awful lot to me, though there’s not much of our culture left now)

    As for ‘xenephobia’ I fail to see how you can be xenephobic about an institution – this is even more ridiculous than saying an ‘institution can be racist’. And can we please refrain from ad homenyms which include ‘phobia’ as it can be inferred quite unfairly that rational skeptics are suffering from a delusional illness – not the way to argue democratically I’m afraid, but sadly a common tactic from the pro EC camp which says a lot more about it that it does about detractors.

  10. Quasar9

    Electro Kelvin, not xenophobia against Poles
    xenophobia against being dictated to by Brussels – yet of course ‘London’ historically has presumed to dictate to Scotland, Wales – and still finds it a hard pill to swallow to let go of or relinquish North EIRE.
    London would no longer presume to rule India as the jewel in the crown, but still tries to run a commonwealth club and games.

    Criticising the follies of the EU is fine, but ignoring the good things about the EU is absurd

    People historically like to ‘rule’ over others, but are not themselves keen on being ruled at by others. Scotland does equally ask what has London got to do with Scotland.

    And I repeat the question, what is wrong with an EU Constitution?

  11. electro-kevin

    Thank you Q

    Our alleged xenephobia towards Poles. What do you mean ? The demonstrations in Whitehall and the riots ? Our refusal to employ them ? I think our country has been remarkably tolerant in the face of mass immigration. As for Poles, I am grateful to them for highlighting the deficiencies in our comprehensive education and welfare systems; that they are able to produce workers with a better ethic than our own and who can speak better English than our Vicky Pollards is an indictment.

    So called energy efficient light bulbs have a far higher dust-to-dust cost; they contain mercury and, therefore, require special disposal. They cost more to make which reflects the material costs (though economies of scale may reduce this factor)reducing the benefit of longivity. The ones we have in our house are difficult to see and read by.

    I’m not up on the Doctors’ issue and was under the impression that this was due to lack of NHS funding and a flawed selection system. I fail to see anything to celebrate in our own trained staff being recruited away and even less to celebrate in poaching medical staff from poor countries. The European doctors we have are hired at a premium.

    Do you think that the EU is at all democratic ? After all Neil Kinnock was rejected twice by the British. Are you happy that space is given to the likes of Peter Mandleson ? And don’t you think it cheeky that the Constitution appears to be stirring again.

    Personally I see nothing for us in this organisation but an awful lot for those who work within it.

  12. Hi electro-kevin,
    I understand the historical rivalries
    I understand the differences in language
    I understand skepticism is not uniquely ‘ours’

    I understand the very real risks of too much power in Washington, the Kremlin or Strasbourg.

    I also understand the benefits of the single currency or dollar, the strength of the euro, and how the EU has developed – albeit with a whole list of abuses, including butter mountains and wine lakes – but it has also funded regional development (regenersation), it has funded the training & employment of the unemployed – and freed the movement of people.

    After all whilst more xenophobes may criticise half million poles seeking employment in the uk, it is easy to forget that over 300,000 uk citizens have migrated to other shores seeking ‘economic’ opportunities too.

    Sure EU speed limits on german autobahns sound absurd to germans – and an intrusion into their ‘sovereign’ right to drive fast.
    And the idea of Square tomatoes or straight bananas never cottoned on …

    However the EU does enable the EU to implement a policy such as banning energy inefficient lightbulbs across the EU.

    And any double layer of bureaucracy which is often criticised as a waste of tax money, to me seems a legitimate way of reating jobs or employment – and velocity of money – which create wealth and is good for the economy.

    But I do appreciate that priorities will always vary – full unemplyment is not technically possible or desirable – and high unemployment is only ‘really’ bad if you are one of the unemployed – or unable to get a job.

    Something about 8000 junior doctors unable to secure a position (one third of a generation?)

    Yes one could argue we’ve opened the door to too many Spanish & German doctors, but we have also opened the doors to doctors from India, Pakistan, Hong Kong, et al – and exported doctors to Australia, the US and Europe – no?

  13. electro-kevin

    Dear Quasar9,

    I think you answer your own question here.

    “Appart from historical rivalries …” rivalries which seem to be pretty important actually. We are not xenephobes and we stick to EU rules to the letter, but the amount of cheating done by the other EU members is galling to say the least. Clearly this sentiment is held in other States, so the skepticism is not uniquely ours.

    The USA has a single language as you say – this should not to be underestimated as a unifying force.

  14. Quasar9

    Hi Robert, I’m curious
    The States in the USA have the same constitution, the same currency, and the same language(s)
    Apart from historical rivalries, and clearly different languages – what is the real downside of any EU Constitution.

    A rational answer please, not an emotional one pandering to the phobias of the masses or the ‘fears’ of a handful losing political power (or authority)

    Do we want or need local Councils?
    Do we want or need County Councils?
    Do we want or need Regional Assemblies?
    Do we want devolution in Scotland & North Eire
    Do we need the london (uk) Parliament?
    So what’s wrong with the EU Parliament?

    Mind you sending all 650 uk MPs to sit and debate in Europe would be cumbersome, but surely you like your well paid job + expenses.

  15. “In Strasbourg my thoughts turned to the upcoming celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the EU. In a few days, EU leaders will agree a declaration to be signed in Berlin to reflect on the achievements of the EU over the past half-century”.

    LIKE WHAT?

    Can I suggest……………..

    1.Duping the British electorate into paying £1M each hour to keep this profoundly undemocratic, vile institution going.

    2.Destroying European sovereign states by stealth.

  16. electro-kevin

    We have been warned many times by skeptic journalists that the constitutional issue would rear its head again in spite of what the people want. Alas this seems to have been remarkably prescient.

    Also I read that the European Court of Auditors has now been unable for 12 successive years to give a positive statement of assurance to the accounts of the European Communities. Lord Radice of the our own House of Lords puts this down to poor records rather than corruption. Then we hear of UKIP MEPs – of all people – disgracing themselves at the trough.

    Unimpressed.

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