Martin Callanan MEP is Chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group. This is his monthly letter to ConHome readers. Follow the ECR Group on Twitter.
Greece’s Prime Minister wants more of the treatment that’s harming his country
We’ve debated Greece in the European Parliament more times than I care to imagine. But this time it was with the Greek Prime Minister himself. He wasn’t there to talk about Greece’s economic woes, but about his country’s turn at chairing the EU’s Ministerial meetings – known as the ‘Council Presidency’ (not to be confused with the President of the European Council, who is Herman Van Rompuy). Antonis Samaras was full of grand vision about the future of the EU and, listening to him, it would be hard to think that his country was the greatest victim of the euro. I told him that these grand abstract visions not rooted in reality are exactly why Greece and the EU are in so much trouble today. I said: “In Greece, the federalists’ dream has became the nightmare of the Greek people.” You can watch the speech here.
Banking Union and Britain’s role
Back in Strasbourg, we also had a vote on something called Banking Union. Essentially it’s trying to make sure that banks in the Eurozone can’t get into the situation where they risk bringing down the entire currency – as nearly happened during the Spanish bank crisis. The vote was on creating the rules and funding for banks to be rescued. My view has always been that, if the eurozone wants to put such a system in place, we shouldn’t stand in their way, but we are working to ensure that absolutely no liabilities for this fund fall on UK taxpayers. I’ll keep you all updated as the talks with national governments continue.
A red card for national parliaments?
We also voted on a report by Saj Karim, Conservative MEP for the North West, which was putting in place a number of means of cutting EU red tape. It’s an agenda that the Prime Minister has taken up recently when he took the Business Task Force to present their findings on EU Red Tape to other EU leaders. However, long before that, Conservative MEPs have been fighting meddlesome and sometimes ridiculous EU red tape.
Saj’s report introduced – for the first time – the idea that a ‘Red Card’ should be introduced for national parliaments. Currently, national parliaments are able to issue a so-called ‘yellow card’ to the EU when it feels European proposals are encroaching on their sovereignty. The yellow card has been listened to by the Commission a few times, who have then withdrawn proposals. However, this hasn’t happened every time, which is why we think they should have the power to block meddlesome or intrusive laws altogether. The Parliament supported this proposal so we will continue to promote it as a useful change that could be made to European treaties.
Some good news on shale
Some good news. Not directly from Strasbourg, but from the Commission in Brussels. We have known for some time that the Commission was going to make a proposal regarding shale gas. In the run up to this, the Greens and the left-wing groups in Brussels were calling for EU action to effectively regulate shale out of existence. As you’d expect, we were arguing that the matter is one for national governments and that we should all learn the lessons from both each other as well as from the USA where shale has been a major energy source for a decade. Thankfully, when the Commission brought out its proposals, they sided with our way of thinking and avoided legislating on shale.
Girling aids the honey-makers
And, finally, my colleague Julie Girling was able to fight off a ridiculous attempt by anti-GM eco-zealot MEPs who wanted to force honey producers to list ‘pollen’ as an ingredient of honey, because bees can sometimes drop a little in the honey that they produce. The change would have cost honey-makers millions to change their labels, but thanks to Julie, they’re safe! I’ll let you insert your own pun here….