Here is a piece I was asked to do for the the EU Spectator which you might like to see.
Strasbourg Diary – January 12 to 15:
Monday. I leave the house around 11:30 to catch the 13:40 flight from Birmingham to Frankfurt. It’s delayed. I’ve tried changing planes at Paris or Brussels or Amsterdam, but you tend to lose your luggage. So now it’s an hour and a half to Frankfurt, then two and a half on the bus to Straz. It must be Europe’s least accessible parliament.
We have a very light programme this Straz week. By the time I arrive in the parliament around 8:00 p.m., the formal business in the Hemicycle is over. And there’s to be no voting at all on Wednesday. So why are we here? 750 MEPs and assorted staff going to Straz twelve times a year, costing around €200 million.
It’s a metaphor for the whole European project. Activity and conspicuous waste that no one can explain, no one can justify, and yet no one can change. It’s in the Treaties. Treaty change requires unanimity, and the French won’t agree. But all that money and effort does serve one useful purpose: it keeps our Gallic colleagues happy.
I’m greeted on the bus with a glossy leaflet declaring that Strasbourg is “The Seat. L’Eurométropole. The Spirit of Europe” (no less!). The City Fathers are desperate to keep the parliament coming, to keep the Travelling Circus Travelling. To keep the money flowing into their hotels and restaurants.
Tuesday 13th. At my desk at 7:30 after a bracing forty-minute walk from the hotel. The route ran through the old city, past the floodlit Cathedral. 9:00 in the Hemicycle: a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz. 11:00 a.m. Voting meeting: how should we vote on the GM proposals? Not obvious. This was a second reading, so we could only vote on amendments, not on the whole package. And the amendments were en bloc. One appeared to return decisions to member-states, but several others confirmed increased powers for Brussels. With regret, we had to abstain.
12:30 votes. 2:00 p.m., Delegation Meeting (UKIP MEPs). 3:00, meeting with the European aluminium industry on the ETS Market Stability Reserve (don’t ask!). At 5:30 I chair the Group “Bureau” (Steering Committee). At six the full group meeting, addressed by the Five Star Movement’s Beppe Grillo. At 7:30, a European Energy Forum dinner-debate on the MSR. Leave the building around 10:30.
Wednesday 14th. Rain. Taxi to the office. This is the first time in fifteen years (so far as I remember) that there’s been no voting on the Wednesday of a Straz – the programme is so light. After coffee and a croissant, I meet a representative of the UK steel industry, who shares much the same concerns as the aluminium industry about ETS & MSR. Much of the morning spent on finalising my monthly newsletter (to go onto the list e-mail “newsletter” to firstname.lastname@example.org). And working on my speech for our Spring Conference in February.
I then attend a lunch debate in the Member’s Salons, accompanied by my staffer Rachael, who’s down this week. The event is organised by the Kangaroo Group. I have a rare opportunity to raise a local constituents’ issue. Out speaker is Mr. Tor Eigel Hodne, CEO of the Norwegian electricity supply company Stattnett, which is involved in the Viking UK/Norway North Sea Interconnector.
I’ve worked with a residents’ group at Bicker Fen in Lincolnshire, who’ve suffered years of upheaval from a large wind-farm and sub-station, and are now threatened with the UK end of the interconnector, to add to the industrial character of once-pristine Lincolnshire fen.
But the good news (at least the way Mr. Hodne tells it) is that the landfall has been moved north to Blyth in Northumberland. Let’s hope that’s so.
I thought at first that this news was a reprieve for Bicker Fen. But it was not to be. I seems that there are two Interconnectors planned: one from Norway to Northumberland; the other from Denmark to Lincolnshire. The threat remains.
An afternoon spent on correspondence, phone calls and more polishing of the Conference speech before a reception for the opening of a Latvian architecture exhibition (I’ve been to Riga a number of times, and visited the Art Deco quarter). Then – an evening off.
Thursday 15th. I attend a meeting of the Animal Welfare Intergroup, dealing with “Alternatives to the surgical castration of piglets”. I am ashamed to admit that I found something rather comical about the title. But having seen a short video of the procedure involved, I can affirm that there’s nothing funny about it at all.
Then collect a sandwich from the Members’ Bar for lunch on the bus. Voting meeting at 11:30; votes at noon. A couple of well-meaning resolutions on international affairs: no substantive legislation. Bus to Frankfurt at 12:30. “That was the week that was”.