Thursday, October 08, 2009

Visit to European Parliament

This morning was free to do our own thing so for most of us that meant a walk or metro ride up to one or more of the tourist attractions in the centre and perhaps a bit of souvenir shopping.
I was intrigued to come upon a group playing music with tools such as hammers in one of the squares. It was part of a campaign calling for decent working conditions and was quite amazing.
The rain held off till after lunch and then there was time for a brief rest and freshen up before the coach took us to the European Parliament. A quick trip into the visitor centre allowed for the collection of lots of useful pamphlets and then it was time to go into the Parliament building itself. The external architecture of the Parliament and associated buildings is stunningly beautiful and unashamedly modern; the inside needs some work – little or no natural light or ventilation in huge areas of it. The stuffy atmosphere made it difficult to concentrate on a genuinely interesting talk on the Parliament. Following the briefing we were taken into the public gallery of the Parliament to watch part of the debate on the result of the Irish referendum.
It was interesting to hear Irish and French and Polish speakers emphasise that politicians across Europe need to start to tell the story of the Union properly and loudly – the benefits that come from membership to individual countries as well as the benefits that come to Europe as a whole. I’ve been saying for years that here in the UK we don’t tell the story well enough, we only seem to make a fuss about the bad aspects of the Union – the difficulties with the rules, the lack of co-operation between member states. It seems as though it’s not just in the UK that that’s true. Others were complaining too.
I look forward to seeing the Lib Dem leadership giving a real lead on being positive on Europe.

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