This week in Europe… 11-14 September

Of course, it’s not just the Commons that is back this week, as the European Parliament has returned from its summer break. And, thanks to the ever helpful Angelika Schneider in the ALDE office, Liberal Democrat Voice is able to keep up to date with the efforts of Liberal Democrat MEPs.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament adopted the first European-wide law on the protection of crime victims, to improve support for them. The new EU law sets minimum standards for all 27 countries, such as free access to medical and specialist support, explanations on how foreign justice systems work, help in their own language and information on progress of their case. Victims will get expenses and compensation when appropriate, whilst specific needs must be recognised and protection orders such as injunctions for domestic violence victims must be enforced across Europe.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrats were voting against proposals in the European Parliament to restrict stem cell research. The report, drawn up by a UK Tory MEP, calls for stricter requirements on voluntary and unpaid donations of tissues and cells for the purpose of medical research. Health spokesperson, Rebecca Taylor, noted;

The UK is a world leader on life sciences. The European Parliament’s restrictive conservative philosophy puts our research centres at risk and could drive away high quality science abroad, for example to India. Regenerative medicine relies on a steady supply of stem cells.

And, not to be missed, the week saw the annual State of the Union address by European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, covered on these pages yesterday by Giles Goodall. Sir Graham Watson, speaking in the debate that followed, commented;

In a rebuke to Eurosceptics who decry the loss of national sovereignty, Barroso has rightly pointed out that pooling power in Europe gives us more control over our fate in an interdependent world, not less.

Does Mr. Barroso know that he is the latest convert to an age-old Liberal demand?

Indeed, it is not just a federation of nation states that we need, but also a federation of citizens. The way to create both would be through direct election of the next President of the European Commission by universal suffrage.

In the USA, the world is watching a truly federal election. The only message from American politicians to the EU is ‘get your act together’. European leaders would be wise to heed that advice.

Beyond Brussels, this week saw two important events. In the Netherlands on Wednesday, a snap General Election, forced by the withdrawal of support for the ruling coalition by Geert Wilders’ PVV (Party for Freedom) over proposed austerity measures, saw advances for both ELDR member parties. Provisional results indicate that, in the 150-seat Parliament, VVD will be up ten seats to forty-one, and D’66 will be up two seats, to twelve. Even better, Geert Wilders’ party appear to have lost nine of their original twenty-four seats. Reports are that a coalition between VVD and the Labour Party is a possibility.

In Germany, the Constitutional Court published its long awaited report on the critical question of the legality, or otherwise, of the European Stability Mechanism. Following a series of challenges, the Court ruled that laws designed to enable the fund in “high probability” did not violate the Federal Constitution, and could therefore be ratified by President Joachim Gauck. The markets held their breath… and exhaled…

* Mark Valladares is on his way from Creeting St Peter to Brussels for a meeting of the ELDR Financial Advisory Committee…

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14 Comments

  • @jedibeeftrix – so what’s your solution?

  • @Jedi
    can I point you to the recent requests for bailouts by 4 Spanish regions, Catalonia, Murcia, Valencia and Andalucia?

    Aside from contradicting the basis of your first question, this fact also contradicts the premise of your argument about sovereignty in that European nations are not sovereign because they are subject to devolved powers, including in the UK.

    Nations themselves should be seen as products of pooled democratic sovereignty, so if you argue for the continued existence of nation states then you implicitly support the principle of pooling sovereignty and must explain your inconsistency in applying it at international and transnational levels and doing so in an orderly institutionalised manner.

    Strength in unity, or divide and conquer?

    @Mark
    what level of power would “direct election of the next President of the European Commission by universal suffrage” legitimately involve?

  • Richard Dean 14th Sep '12 - 2:06pm

    What a beautiful place Europe is! I do hope we will merge further into it, and join the Zone, and I hope these updates will become regular features in LDV.

    It strikes me that people may need reassurance about European processes. For example, the Stem cell research. Presumably each sovereign nation witjin Europe has agreed something that allows stem cell research to be something that can be regulated at the European level? Similarly for crime victims – are the European measures basic, or do they go beyond what individual countries have already enacted?

    Barroso’s statement about pooling is certainly helpful. People also need to be reassured that the EU is a democractic body, not a bureaucratic one, IMHO.

  • “On Wednesday, the European Parliament adopted the first European-wide law on the protection of crime victims, to improve support for them. The new EU law sets minimum standards for all 27 countries…”

    Why is this being set down at a European level?

  • Nigel Quinton 14th Sep '12 - 5:50pm

    @jedi – over the summer I encountered a number of Europeans on my travels who expected a NEURO zone to emerge (ie northern European nations only, the south and other refuseniks being left outside). Any thoughts on the practicality of this?

    @Mark – why no mention of Chris Davies’ rant over the fish stocks debate – featured elsewhere on LDV? We need to hear more about what our most passionate parliamentarian is up to – if only to boost our flagging morale!

    Generally, it seems there is a rich vein of campaign material highlighting the appalling policy lines being followed by our coalition partners in Europe, your example above is typical, where NONE of our own hierarchy is constrained by cabinet responsibility and we can go all out to tell the public how horrible these Tories are. When will Campaigns department pick this up?

  • “Indeed, it is not just a federation of nation states that we need, but also a federation of citizens. The way to create both would be through direct election of the next President of the European Commission by universal suffrage.”

    Can he not see that this will trigger demands for a UK referendum and probably to the UK leaving the EU? Only the most starry-eyed Europhile would believe that this proposal would be remotely acceptable to the UK voter.

  • Paul McKeown 15th Sep '12 - 2:44pm

    Interesting choice of map. No Kosovo?

  • Paul McKeown 15th Sep '12 - 2:49pm

    And I’m not sure why Turkey should be coloured differently to Iceland and Macedonia, when it is also a recognised accession candidate, with many chapters of the acquis open (and even one closed).

    Strange map…

  • Paul McKeown 15th Sep '12 - 2:51pm

    And thinking about it further, Serbia and Montenegro are also recognised candidates for accession. Very strange map, indeed!

  • Alex Macfie 16th Sep '12 - 9:45am

    @Nigel Quinton: Absolutely, our MEPs are free to push the undiluted Liberal Democrat agenda in a body that makes decisions affecting the UK. And Tory MEPs, likewise. It makes me mad that we don’t make more of this.

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