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Friday, 26 October 2012

Plenary Session Strasbourg 22nd - 23rd & 25th -26th Oct 2012

Plenary Session            Strasbourg                22nd - 23rd & 25th -26th Oct 2012 
If this seems a rather strange heading well, it was a strange week. You see, Strasbourg is normally a matter of 12 weeks (Mon - Thurs) once a month. This is by order of the treaty and now enshrined in law. Parliament being in recess for August poses a problem in accommodating the 12 monthly sessions, solved by having two sessions in Sept. But some MEPs dislike travelling twice in the month to Strasbourg, esp we Brits, there being no airline to carry us in one hop from anywhere in then UK. So a gallant Tory, Ashley Fox came up with the solution. Let’s have two in one week, Monday & Tuesday then Thursday & Friday, each to be officially two sessions, thus satisfying the law.
So it came to pass, and here I am on Friday afternoon, at 3.30pm, writing this, when I usually do it on Thursday. Do I like the arrangement? As a result I get home at 11.30 pm tonight, if I'm lucky, because I stayed for all the votes this lunchtime, which is more than many MEPs did. Actually, I think I'd rather get home on Thursday, leaving Friday clear; the extra week is not really material.
In any case, would you believe, this week has gone ahead but the Court is still considering the issue. So the whole thing could be thrown out, after letting it happen once, and revert to normal. That could not possibly be the reason for the lop-sided voting lists of this week of two sessions could it? Perish the thought, but see next para.
There are 760 MEPs and today's voting record shows that there were up to 540 voting today. Earlier in the week the figures are 650 plus. Draw your own conclusions.
All this is compounded by the collapse of the ceiling of the Brussels debating chamber; you have probably read about this in the press. The same thing happened in Strasbourg two years ago. Wonderful! I mean, there we have St Paul's Cathedral, completed in 1710 and still in one piece, with numerous other examples of the same era to be seen across Europe, none of them built of reinforced concrete, steel skeletons & stainless steel, and not a JCB in sight.
 Because of this modernistic jerry building, closing the debating chamber in Brussels, the Conference of Presidents (!) decided to transfer as much business as possible to Strasbourg. So we had extra voting this week. Why not, after all that's what we are paid for. So why did they not spread it out during the week?  Sorry, I mean over the two official sessions of this week. What they actually did was to have two long voting sessions on Tuesday, one in the morning (ie coming up to lunch-time), the other in the evening, ie at 6.00 pm. (There is never a vote on Monday because it is so difficult getting to Strasbourg that hardly anyone is there before 5.00/ 6.00pm.) We then had more votes on Thursday, when the attendance was similar to Tuesday, and on Friday, with the figures shown above.
The Friday attendance was not just because of the day but also reflects interest in the topics. Let me bore you with Friday's list; "Human rights in the United Arab Emirates, Discrimination against girls in Pakistan, situation in Cambodia, Energy efficient labelling programs for office equipment, Markets in financial instruments, (2 versions), 2012 priorities, EU- Russia trade, elections in Belarus, elections in Georgia.
Of the rest of voting two items stand out. On Thursday we voted on the Bauer report. This was adopted by 596 - 56 and so paves the way for the compulsory giving of aid in other countries to those who require it. That's always been the case, but by the British consulate aiding a British passport holder, ditto French consulate helping French people as son on. This report makes it compulsory for the UK embassy or consulate to help EU citizens, whether UK or not. The same will apply across the EU range of member states. Think about it.
The other report of note was to vote on the budget. There were 113 budget lines to vote on, although some were taken out as superfluous, when the previous one was adopted. Among these there were16 lines showing a decrease, 6 were adopted and 5 were overtaken by the previous vote, noted above, the rest were outvoted.
Cue David Cameron. Remember, he is in favour of our continued membership of the EU, he keeps on saying so. That means, as a democrat, that he holds the EU to be democratic. Well, we all have our own views on that but there is one certain aspect of this. The European Parliament is composed exclusively of elected members, including your humble servant. But D. Cameron is to try to reduce the budget, with increases, which has just been voted in by the European Parliament, the only democratic element of the EU!

Derek Clark    MEP                                     Strasbourg  26thOct 2012.


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