Derek Clark's Brussels Commentary: Employment Committee, March 17-18, 2014
•This should have been a two day meeting, as it usually is, but it was cut down to just Tuesday morning. With the cancellation of the meeting scheduled for March 26th & 27th it makes the extra meeting held on Monday 10th March even more strange. As earlier reported that was from 7.00 pm at the start of a Strasbourg week when committees are not supposed to be held. So I rushed to get there, just in time to vote, when it could have been done in good order today (18.03.2014).
However, a further comment about due process. Many of the votes in committee are by show of hands, with an electronic check if the President is not sure. The final vote, to approve or not, is always electronic. Each political group has a specific number of MEPs on each committee in proportion to total group numbers and, at the start today, the President took a check. We all pressed a key, revealing that both the Lib-Dems and the EPP each had one too many. One of each then withdrew their voting card from the machine but, in voting for various amendments, the same extra numbers re-appeared. Apparently, someone had defected from the Lib-Dems to the EPP, causing the problem. That is unusual but extra numbers have appeared before. This is easily corrected in electronic votes but what about a show of hands vote, i.e. the majority of votes? True, the President checks electronically if not sure, and MEPs call for checks, but I can't help thinking that sometimes a report goes through against MEP's intentions. Not a good way to make laws affecting all of us.
In the votes yet more money was gifted in the "Globalisation Adjustment Fund" for firms re-locating outside the EU. Much worse was a vote on giving the Commission authority to spend money from the, "European Aid Fund for the Most Deprived". That's not in the third world, that's deprived people in the EU. So they foul up the economies of Europe with their crazy Euro currency and then give the Commission a blank cheque to spend on the disadvantaged Europeans they created, without having to clear it with anyone!
I enjoyed the last vote where they are getting excited about the rights of Seafarers. The rapporteur, Licia Ronzulli, from Italy, took on the President, the formidable Pervenche Beres, a French Socialist. Ms Ronzulli complained that the president had mis-represented parts of the case. Never in the last five years have I heard anyone do that. About a year ago, after a debate in Plenary, the Commission indicated they would not accept the vote by Parliament to adopt a report sponsored by the Employment Committee. I asked her what she would do if the Commission maintained their position. This very positive lady's response was, "I shall take them to Court!"
However, back to today's Seafarers. Ms Ronzulli's further comments indicated that she herself, although the rapporteur, would not support this report, making a series of pungent points. This was opposed by a Spanish MEP, Ms Barandica, who vehemently argued the case for. Other MEPs took part, several raised voices at the same time, a committee divided as never before.
This was unfortunate for I had intended to speak. One of the results of this report would be that Ships approaching a foreign port would be required to fly the flag of the country whose harbour they were about to enter. But that is already done by way of ancient custom and as a courtesy. Why enforce that which is already happening and deny ship's Captains the courtesy of the seas?
On the other hand is the second objection to this proposal. This is that owners are to be given the right to sack ship's crew when they get to a foreign port. That too is an ancient custom but one which, I think, should be abolished, not cemented in law. How would anyone feel on being dumped in a strange place without a job, even in these days of seamen's institutes?
So, they propose to endorse the unacceptable but enforce that which needs no help. They have it all the wrong way round. I was going to speak accordingly but thought better of it as the bust-up got going. I did not want to distract from the row going on, still less did I want to give them a common enemy, that might have united them. So, my departure from the Employment Committee was silently to encourage discord rather than deliver a modest contribution of my own. After all, what do most of them know of ships, compared to one whose childhood playground was the Bristol docks.
Ah well, see you in a street somewhere soon, with an armful of leaflets.