Graham's blog Friday 17 October 2008

October 17, 2008 5:00 PM

There has been so much 'summitry' in recent days it is hard to keep abreast of it all. The meeting of heads of state and government last weekend in Washington DC and in Paris succeeded in preventing a further crash in stock markets; for a week, at least. They also led to a lot of hubris; Gordon Brown as 'saviour of the free world' (tabloid press), Monday as 'the best day for Europe since the launch of the Euro' (a former merchant banker and MEP). They demonstrated conclusively, however the deep degree of today's inter dependence between hitherto sovereign states and the overwhelming case for a common response to common challenges.

When I met Gordon Brown in Downing Street on Tuesday morning to discuss this week's summit and related matters he looked a relieved and happy man. 10 years experience as Chancellor of the Exchequer had served him well. As the recipient of justified plaudits from across the world, he had every reason to be cheerful. I suspect the whole affair may have also made him more favourably disposed towards the EU.

Like the Netherlands Prime Minister who I visited the day before, however, Brown is keen to see the Lisbon Treaty in place as soon as possible. It provides proper legal base for the kind of co-operation which international crises require when Ireland's Tiaoseach Brian Cohen spoke to his counter parts at the EU Summit on Weds evening of his plans to create a climate of opinion in which a referendum to approve the treaty can be won he was urged to get a move on.

I was in Brussels on Tuesday night, Wednesday and Thursday to chair meetings of my group and to follow the European Council (EU Summit) briefing. 27 heads of state and governments congratulated themselves on having kept the tanks out of Tbilisi in the summer and having kept the banks in business this autumn: though they noted that both achievements still need a lot of attention and hard grind. They committed themselves to adopting a package of measures to combat climate change this winter, though pressure from Italy and Poland in particular led to a watering down of the toughness of the language in their final communiqué. Progressive forces in the EU and Council of Ministers will have to fight hard to prevent a slackening of effort.

Progress is being made all the time now, however, last weekend in Luxembourg our energy ministers called on the EC to bring forward draft legislation to phase out single filament light bulbs by 2010, to achieve a 75% cut in electricity usage for lighting. The commission agreed to do this by December. And the Commission is also planning to publish proposals for energy efficiency measures for water and air heaters and refrigerators. Of course, if we all buy patio heaters the net effect will be zero or worse!

EU Commissioner Leonard Orban (LibDem Romania) has been my guest yesterday and today. Last night in Cardiff, he and I spoke at a supper in support of our Welsh LibDem euro spokesman Alan Butt-Philip. Today in my constituency in Exeter, Bristol and Bath the Commissioner will visit a school and two universities (see press releases on my website www.grahamwatsonmep.org). Tonight I speak at a Branch supper in Somerton and Frome, tomorrow I chair a meeting of our euro election campaign before doing the wassailing honours at apple day in Kingsbury Epsicopi, Somerset.