This week in Europe: 18-21 November

Lib Dem MEP welcomes EU infrastructure investment

Liberal Democrat European transport spokesman, Phil Bennion, welcomed Tuesday’s adoption of an EU infrastructure package worth EUR 33 billion between 2014 and 2020.

The ‘Connecting Europe‘ programme will help fund and facilitate projects of common interest in the areas of energy, transport and infrastructure, and the West Coast Main Line corridor is among the identified priority projects that would be eligible for EU funding.

Phil Bennion MEP said:

When it comes to energy, transport and digital infrastructure it is important to look beyond national borders to exploit potential synergies and enable an easy flow of people, goods and services. The new EU Connecting Europe programme will help reduce bottlenecks, facilitate business travel and freight transport and boost the single market.

I have fought for this infrastructure programme on the Transport Committee which will help create and upgrade rail transport links for a truly interconnected Europe. It is great to see that the West Coast Main Line corridor as well as the freight rail route between Birmingham, Reading and Southampton, already co-financed under the previous infrastructure programme, are among the priority projects eligible for EU investment.

Boost logoMore than just money to support European SMEs

On Wednesday, the European Parliament adopted two new programmes, Horizon 2020 and COSME, intended to support innovation in emerging industries. Jürgen Creutzmann (FDP, Germany), the Parliament’s rapporteur on COSME said;

The success of SMEs is key for the future of our competitiveness, as they are the biggest drivers for innovation. But too much potential is lost when young companies with fresh ideas don’t get a bank credit and investors are wary of taking risks. The greatest obstacles for European entrepreneurs are bureaucracy, complex regulations and financial bottlenecks. This programme (wothe 2.3 billion Euros) will make an important and necessary contribution to overcome all these obstacles.

Meanwhile, Kent Johansson (Centerpartiet, Sweden), who led for ALDE on Horizon 2020, noted;

We have made substantial improvements to the programme with real simplification for participants, with more emphasis on the whole innovation chain from idea to market, and by encouraging innovation in the regions through links with the structural funds.

European liberals condemn Common Agricultural Policy proposals

On Wednesday, ALDE called for rejection of protectionist proposals in the single common market organisation report. As Britta Reimers (Germany, FDP), ALDE shadow rapporteur on the market organisation dossier, noted;

ALDE will vote against the outcome of the negotiations on the Common Market Organisation. Public intervention and private storage aid are the wrong answers to a global market.
Automatic purchase of agricultural commodities in the case of price drops and extended export subsidies risk taking us back to the bad old days of food mountains and milk lakes.

It is regrettable that the CAP reforms have not only missed an opportunity to further liberalise Europe’s agriculture, but actually re-introduced some old and misguided market intervention policies.

* Mark Valladares is Liberal Democrat Voice’s occasional European correspondent.

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