There are two straws in the wind today about EU matters that impinge on British politics.
One is this apparent storm in a teacup over the wording of a British parliamentary committee report. In fact it is not just the EU parliament’s wounded pride but a real bullying tactic to try to make Britain give up its veto on criminal and police matters. At present our government is reluctant to agree but they may well surrender – they usually do.
What is the Conservative stance? Since Cameron refuses to “ban on” about Europe nobody has the slightest idea. It would be interesting to know what our europhile Tory MEPs think of this!
(The other straw in the wind today - sent separately -is about a row brewing over German attempts to bully the Constitution through)
From EU OBSERVER 7/12/06
MEPs in row with UK parliament over 'gangplank' report
By Mark Beunderman
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - MEPs have reacted furiously to a UK parliament report which questions the right of the European Parliament to make laws on criminal and police matters due to the fact that most of its members are non-British.
Members of the European Parliament's constitutional affairs committee are currently considering how to respond to a November report by the European Scrutiny Committee of the UK House of Commons.
The UK report, which opposes increased powers of the European Parliament over criminal matters, is seen as deeply provocative by MEPs as it explicitly refers to the multi-national character of the Brussels assembly.
It says that "there is the question whether it would be acceptable for the European Parliament to have the right of co-decision on measures about police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters when most of its Members do not represent and are not answerable to the electorate of the UK."
The UK study deals specifically with a proposal by the European Commission to speed up justice-related decisions in the EU by making use of the so called "passerelle" clause in the EU treaty - which would remove member states' vetoes and give MEPs more say in the area without requiring treaty changes.
But MEPs see the wording used as more than just criticism on the passerelle, with UK liberal member Andrew Duff saying the report is "fairly scandalous."
"This challenges directly and explicitly the legitimacy of the European Parliament to legislate. It is an absurd idea that the parliament would have no right to legislate because it has 'foreigners' in it," Mr Duff said.
Richard Corbett, a UK Labour MEP, called upon like-minded pro-EU members of his party to "protest" against the report by writing to the chair of the House of Commons' European Scrutiny Committee who is also a Labour member.
"If a matter is to be decided at EU level, then the European Parliament will be involved- and of course it contains non-Brits. Similarly the British Parliament contains non-Scots," Mr Corbett stated.
Meanwhile, Austrian Green MEP Johannes Voggenhuber said he would push for a formal letter of protest by European Parliament president Josep Borrell to his counterpart in the commons, saying that "the parliament has to defend its legitimacy."
But the president of the Commons' EU Scrutiny Committee, Labour deputy Michael Connarty, rebuffed MEPs' allegations, saying that the paragraph had been added "specifically in relation to justice and home affairs and the consequences of using the passerelle."
"This is not to say that the European Parliament has no validity or is less valid. It may have its validity for lots of other things but not in this area," he said.
Mr Connarty said the reference to the multi-national composition of the EU assembly had been added "because it very well sums up the question."
"The question is do we want to give our government support to give away the control of any of these justice and home affairs matters to a different type of jurisdiction, part of which would be the European Parliament."
Defending Britain's existing veto rights, he said "A veto is given to a government of a country – which cannot be the same thing as giving it to a parliament of 27 countries."
"Many European parliamentarians see everything from inside Europe and they forget that maybe they have become detached from their electorate," he added.
Meanwhile, MEPs see the alleged eurosceptic tone of the UK report confirmed by its description of the passerelle as a "gangplank" rather than as a "bridge" - the usual EU translation.
The term "gangplank" usually refers to a temporary bridge for getting on and off a ship, but in pirate legends, the plank would be used to force victims to walk into the sea.
"I hope this is unfortunate drafting," said Mr Corbett, with Mr Duff noting that a gangplank "is a thing you fall off to your demise – through suicide or murder. You will die after the fall."
Mr Connarty however defended the word as "quite appropriate," saying "once you go off the end of the passerelle, you give away the power to the commission...so it is like a gangplank more than a bridge. Once you plunge off it, it is difficult to get back onto."