Thursday, November 26, 2009

Congratulations Cathy

I was delighted to see Cathy Ashton get the job of the EU's first Foreign Affairs High Representative last week. She is a great talent and extremely competent and I'm sure will prove to be the best person for the job. The fact that this job has gone to a Brit is in itself a coup. I have no doubt her quiet diplomacy (and the fact she is not an ego on legs) will prove to be very effective in adding value to Britain and the EU's role in the world.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Never let a crisis go to waste

I was in London on Monday speaking at a TUC event on the economic crisis. Alongside Larry Elliott of the Guardian, (Lord Professor) Richard Layard from LSE and Andrew Simms of the New Economic Foundation I spoke of how the present economic situation offers a huge opportunity to change our world for the better.

I think President Obama’s Chief of Staff said “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

Now is an opportunity to clear up some of the mess created by bankers and a lack of regulation.

I also spoke on the risk of isolationism and its threat to economic recovery.

It is international cooperation that is needed to deal with the economic crisis. Narrow nationalisms and a retreat to isolationism certainly won't provide the answers.

The European Parliament will be at the centre of much of the necessary reforms. As MEPs we will amend and enact legislation on hedge funds, private equity firms, capital adequacy requirements, and new European bodies to monitor systemic risk and the cross-border activities of banks, insurers and securities firms.

And it is Labour MEPs who will be at the forefront of these efforts with our two members on the Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committee, Arlene McCarthy and Peter Skinner having been appointed as rapporteurs (MEP in charge of the legislation) of the key dossiers.

The poor old Tories failed to secure any key reports as quite frankly, having left the mainstream and allied themselves with the extreme fringes of the Parliament. This demonstrates their acute loss of influence in the Parliament.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Wall

Today in the European Parliament plenary we are commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This historic event led to the collapse of communism in the former eastern bloc and to a new era of democracy and prosperity and eventually to the present enlarged EU of 27 countries.

I find it truly amazing that today in the chamber I am sat side by side with good friends and colleagues from Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia who are now the democratically elected representatives from their respective countries which just 20 years ago were on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.

It is a tribute to the soft power of the European Union that these countries are now grown-up democracies with respect for human rights and individual freedoms.

I am in no doubt that this would never have been possible without the European project, which, having served to bring peace to Western Europe following two bloody world wars, also served as a pivotal force to democratise and stabilise the countries of the former eastern bloc. It is this same incentive of membership, trade and market access which still serves as a catalyst for positive reform in both Europe and around the world. It does this around the world through the insertion of human rights and democracy clauses in the EU’s trade agreements with third countries desperate for preferential access to our European market of 450 million consumers. It does this in European countries such as Croatia, Turkey and the Ukraine through the incentive of membership. These countries are desperate to join the European Union; to enjoy the same benefits as we in the UK already enjoy, where 3 million jobs depend on our EU membership and we can solve common problems together, such as climate change, the global economic downturn, international terrorism and organized crime.