Thursday, 18 December 2008

THE VOTES ARE OVER


By majorities of more than 600 to 100 the various legislative elements of the EU's climate change package were approved today by the European Parliament. UKIP and its fellow travellers voted against I believe, and the Greens carped, as Greens do, but opposition from the Germans, Poles, and others voicing concern about loss of profits and loss of jobs faded away once the 27 governments had given their assent.

The result is not as ambitious as I would like, and there will be a real battle ahead when we try to implement the promise of making a 30% reduction in emissions instead of just a 20% one, but it is still the most serious attempt to curb the growth in global warming emissions anywhere in the world.

My own 'Davies Report,' dealing with the draft directive on the geological storage of CO2, passed along with the rest. The Liberal Democrat Group had agreed to support the package despite its imperfections but I voted against the targets for reducing CO2 emissions from cars. I was responsible for the pre-legislative report and the law approved today is a sad reflection of the hopes of a year ago. Everyone expresses concern for the current state of the car industry but the legislation will affect it as of today by not one jot. We would simply be telling the designers to start making plans for the next generation of more fuel efficient cars.

The votes followed a debate of more than 5 hours in the Parliament at Strasbourg yesterday. (Video clips of some of my contributions can be on www.chrisdaviesmep.org.uk). More than 50 MEPs spoke but to hear the final response from the French environment minister, the environment commissioner and the energy commissioner there were just 4 other members in the chamber. It was discourteous, and it weakened the effectiveness of the Parliament, making it look as though MEPs were just going through the motions.

In truth this is common to many parliaments. Physical attendance of members is usually thin and counts for little; debates can always be followed on television screens in offices while other work is done. But there are two particular problems with the European Parliament.

The first is that the chambers ('hemicycles') in Brussels and particularly in Strasbourg, are vast, so it is difficult to establish the sort of initimacy that is possible in the tiny House of Commons. Personally I always leave my designated seat and go and sit at the front during debates so that I can maintain eye contact with ministers and commissioners. It works quite well I think.

The second is the difficulty of multilingual communication. Of course the interpretation is excellent but it is still comes ove as "interpreter-speak" - difficult and dull to follow. Genuine interchange of views, genuine 'debate', is hard. English being the 'esperanto' of Europe give me a natural advantage, and that coupled with my often direct and sometimes challenging approach gives me a better sense of involvement than most I feel.

We voted also on the Working Time Directive, sadly with big majorities in favour of ending the British opt out. To me, and to most of my Lib Dem colleagues, this is a test for subsidiarity. I introduced a proposal for working time legislation in the House of Commons back in 1997, but I think this is a matter for national parliaments to determine and European harmonisation is inappropriate. The fight on this one is not over yet.

2 comments:

Irfan Ahmed said...

Great to see Chris Davies MEP on Blogger!

One of the only North West MEP's who blog at the moment.

Steve Cooke said...

Indeed - welcome to the bloggosphere Chris.