The EU Tobacco Directive
The week began well with the removal from the agenda of a debate on the EU's Tobacco Directive. This would have seen the possible reclassification of e-cigarettes as 'medicinal products', a highly unpopular proposal, and one which has attracted a great deal of attention. I will be voting against this. Controversy surrounding the directive has also stirred up debate about the influence of the tobacco lobby in Brussels – this is an issue that comes up time and again, and several times the integrity of some MEPs has been called into question, with one Austrian MEPs recently being given a jail sentence for taking bribes. The vote on the directive is scheduled for October 8th, but there are likely to be attempts to postpone this until the next parliament.
Syria was debated following a statement on Wednesday afternoon by Cathy Ashton. As always, she took a lot of flak for her lack of action. The decisions are of course being made in the Whitehouse and the Kremlin, the EU is proving itself to be totally ineffective on the world stage.
The 'Banking Union' was on the agenda and all the major political groups expressed their support. This will likely to give the European Central Bank supervisory powers over Europe’s 6000 banks, and I am concerned that this is another step to the undermining of the independence of the City of London. I will not be supporting that, of course.
Mortgages were also an issue in Strasbourg this week, with calls to make legislation on credit an EU competence. Again, the importance to the UK economy of our financial institutions can never be over stated, and so I will never support such a proposal.
The State Of The Union, & What A State It's In!
The State of the Union address on Wednesday was probably President Barroso's last such performance. MEPs referred to a need for more leadership and adherence to UN rules over Egypt and Syria, and an end to austerity. Many, myself included, are sceptical about what completion of the Single Market and Banking Union will actually achieve. The failings of the External Action Service inevitably confront the former Maoist Barroso, and his State of the Union addresses are always uncomfortable for him. This was no exception!
Youth unemployment was on the agenda again. This debate is being led by the left, which may be seen as a hindrance, with calls for more 'socialist measures' to be taken. Most MEPs are agreed on the need for better training initiatives, but different educational and employment practices and different cultural characteristics mean that the issue should be addressed at national level, not by the EU.
Biofuels are a contentious issue. There is a strong lobby against the use of food for fuel at a time when hunger remains an issue, and the drive for production in developing economies has also led to resurgence in deforestation. The environmental costs, and the inappropriate use of food for fuel, will impact on the most vulnerable members of society in those developing nations – the poor, women, and children. It is time to rethink the EU’s position on biofuels.
The Miranda Case remains an issue with conspiracy theorists and the left, and is a catalyst for anti-US sentiment. However, the issue of surveillance of individuals and exchange of personal information is of concern to all of us who value our freedoms, our rights, and our democratic institutions.