Martin Callanan MEP: A Croatian detective. A budget deal. Good work by Syed Kamall - and a Duff proposal
Martin Callanan MEP is Chairman of the European Conservatives. This is his monthly letter to ConHome readers. Follow the ECR Group on Twitter.
Our final plenary session before the summer began with a ceremony to mark the entry of Croatia into the EU as its 28th Member. For the ECR Group, the moment also marked the entry into our Group of another MEP - Ruza Tomasic - who received the second highest personal vote in Croatia. Ruza was a detective in Canada and a major anti-drug crime campaigner in Croatia. We are pleased to continue to grow our group, and I hope to be able to announce a few new MEPs joining us after the summer.
Since my last update, there has been a great deal of movement on the EU's long-term budget. Thankfully, pretty much all of the movement has been on the parliament's side.
Just before the last EU summit, the President of the European Parliament met with the Commission President and the Irish Taoiseach (who held the six month Presidency of the Council of Ministers). Following the meeting they announced a deal.
We pored over it to see what concessions the parliament had been given. There were very few and, most importantly, no change on the overall figures.
So last week we adopted a 'political resolution' agreeing the deal, and a final vote will be held in September. The parliament is trying to spin it as a victory because there will be a little bit of flexibility in the budget from year to year, but overall the key objective of a cut seems safe.
The budget deal was one of a number of last-minute legislative agreements that were reached by the Irish Presidency in the last few days of their Presidency. To mark the end of their time in the chair, the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny came to the parliament.
The following day, the incoming Lithuanian EU Presidency set out its priorities before MEPs, with Lithuanian President Grybauskaitė leading the debate. As part of the preparations for Lithuania's Presidency I met with the President a few weeks ago. She is an indomitable figure and I look forward to seeing her whip the other leaders into shape! The ECR's Lithuanian Member Valdemar Tomasevski leads a Party in Lithuania's coalition government, so we wish it a successful six months.
As well as the debates with the Taoiseach and the President, we also had a debate with the Commission and Council Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy on the outcomes of the previous week's summit on youth unemployment.
In my speech, I said that the EU should help Europe’s young unemployed by overcoming the vested interests that prevent economic reforms needed to open markets, and by ending the culture of ever closer union, which only means ever more meddling in people’s lives. "The best way to create more employment in Europe would be to create some unemployment in the European Commission." Watch it here.
Much of the week was taken up with a great deal of faux outrage over the revelation that spying agencies have been... spying. The socialists and Greens demanded we halt trade talks with the USA before they have even begun. At a time of 26 million unemployed, I find such a call particularly crass and we outvoted the Left on this proposition.
The parliament held a debate with the Commission's Vice-President on the subject. It was the kind of sixth form debating society display you would expect. Instead of waiting until we have the facts on the allegations that Snowden has made, many MEPs from the left-wing debated amongst themselves and appointed themselves judge, jury and executioner, using the opportunity to parade their anti-Americanism.
This is not about national security, some argued. Others demanded that President Obama himself get on Air Force One to deliver a personal explanation for the actions of his administration. What planet do they live on?
There does need to be a grown-up discussion about how much indiscriminate access states have to our information, but the parliament showed little willingness to have such a discussion last week. For once we were on the side of the European Commission, the External Action Service, and the President of the European Council, who all said we need to wait for the USA's response before commenting.
Unfortunately, MEPs decided to set up an inquiry to look into the allegations. The fact that national security matters are not in any way a competence of the EU will be completely disregarded by this committee. You see, overriding the rule of law is fine when you're a left winger or a Liberal. I await balanced and responsible findings from the inquiry. I think I may be waiting for some time.
Fund managers' bonuses
There was some good news out of the legislative votes last week.
Firstly, a vote on amending legislation called UCITS - the regulation in place for investment schemes - which was set to place a bonus cap on fund managers.
Such a cap would have have damaged the European asset management industry and the pensions and investments of us all. The Economics committee of the parliament had voted for such a cap in line with the bankers bonuses cap it voted through earlier in the year.
However, London Conservative MEP Syed Kamall was able to build a coalition across the centre and centre-right against it. We won the vote by just seven.
Financial Transaction Tax
Another vote that we were never going to win was on the introduction of a Financial Transaction Tax to 11 EU countries that have chosen to go ahead under so-called 'Enhanced Cooperation'. The ECR of course voted against the tax, which will harm our financial services industry and raise nowhere near the revenue expected.
Normally, we would not want to stand in the way of another country wishing to destroy their own economy but in this instance the FTT will have an extraterritorial scope, thus putting the UK at risk. That's why the UK government has challenged it in the European Court. As my colleague Vicky Ford put it during the debate:
"What it means is one country being forced to try and collect a tax for another country, even though it disagrees with the tax. That is not legal, and it is for that reason that the UK has said to the EU: ‘We will see you in court."
LibDem Federalist wishlists
Finally we voted on another barmy federalist wish list from Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff. This time he presented a non-legislative report which called for a directly-elected president of Europe, pan-European parties to be given party political broadcasts and for their logos to appear on ballot papers. The aim of the report was to 'Europeanise' the elections next year. As my colleague Ashley Fox said: "Duff's federalist dream is everyone else's nightmare. He is effectively calling for a directly-elected President of the European Commission. Europe does not need any such thing because it is not a state, much as he might want it to be one."
That's all for this round-up. The parliament will be back at the end of August. Have a good summer and thank you for all your support over the last year.