Graham's blog Friday 19 September 2008

September 19, 2008 12:00 PM

This week saw the launch of Europarl TV, a new webTV channel designed to give people balanced and fair coverage of goings-on in the European Parliament. Hitherto we have broadcast live coverage of the sittings of the House, but often these make tedious viewing for all but the the MEPs themselves or the professional EP-watchers. Europarl TV should offer viewers a wide choice of material to watch at the time and place of their choosing and will offer four channels: Your Parliament, for those with a particular interest in EU politics: Your Voice, aimed at the general public; Young Europe, designed for school children and Parliament Live, a continuous live broadcast of debates and events in Parliament. Anybody with internet access can watch Europarl TV on the website, www.europarltv.europa.eu.

MEPs welcomed news this week of a victory we scored last week in the US Senate. A vote by Senators - following pressure from the European Parliament - overturned the US policy which prohibited people with HIV from joining the US visa-waiver scheme. Hitherto, people with HIV had to apply for a visa to visit the US and were almost always refused. The change in policy is a victory for human rights and against ignorant prejudice.

The EP's political groups met this week to prepare next week's formal sitting of the full House. The most contentious issue we face is the Commission's plan to tighten the trading of carbon emissions. Proposed national reductions face stiff opposition from some countries' MEPs. As a result it will stay in committee until agreement can be reached.

I took a delegation of senior MEPs from my Group down to Ankara for a full day of meetings on Thursday with the Turkish government and opposition parties. As long-standing supporters of Turkey's bid for EU membership we were received by the full panoply of the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the National Assembly and leading figures from all parties. The tension between the democratically elected Truth and Justice Party (AKP) and the Kemalist military establishment is tangible, but we have supported the AK Party's liberal approach to governing a majority-muslim country; and the success of their social investment (housing, sanitation, universities and hospitals) is almost everywhere to be seen. The government is competent and self-assured and is modernising the country fast; not unlike the UK's Liberal government of 1906. As a result they become more popular by the day and support for opposition parties is shrinking.

While the UK government and Bank of England had to rescue failing bank HBOS in midweek, the more far-sighted European Central bank had injected thirty billion euros into the money markets on Monday to calm them. And EU Finance Ministers agreed on guidelines for supervising banks operating in more than one country. The damage caused in Europe by America's financial market troubles is hard to predict: but, as French minister Christine Lagarde (who chaired the talks) said rather bluntly, 'there has to be a pilot on board the plane'.

I started my week in Bournemouth with two days (Sunday and Monday)at LibDem party conference and will be in West Dorset constituency this evening for a Pizza & Politics evening in Thornford. Tomorrow I fly to Denmark to address the annual conference of Radikale Venstre: the name means 'radical left' but in fact it is Denmark's Social Liberal party, currently in opposition to a government led by the mainstream Venstre ('Left') Liberal Party of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. You have to admire a country which has both a Liberal government and a Liberal opposition party!

Finally, for those of you interested I am organising a conference on Friday 17 October at Exeter University on the importance of teaching Chinese in our schools. Should you wish to attend please follow the link to my website and email my constituency office. http://www.grahamwatsonmep.org/pages/BroadeningHorizons.html