In Brussels, colleagues and I lobbied the Commission's Director Climate for Climate Policy on the need for electricity interconnections to make renewable energy more viable. I pressed Bristol's case for the EU Green Capital award in a speech at a conference on smart cities hosted by Denmark (which holds the EU Presidency). And I was briefed by Melanie Austen of Plymouth's Marine Institute (who was in town for a conference on maritime science) on her work.
The third annual EU-China Political Parties' Forum in Brussels allowed the leaders of Europe's political parties to discuss in more depth issues of current concern - human rights, of course, but other issues too, ranging from health to scientific and technical co-operation. Minister Wang Jia-rui and Vice Minister Li Jin-jun brought a large delegation with them for the three days of talks, which coincided with the European Commission's regular human rights dialogue with China's administration. While welcoming the modernisation of the People's Republic and their tremendous advance in living standards we are keeping up pressure for further improvement, and eavesdropping through these conferences on some of the debate within the ranks of their Communist Party.
Foreign affairs dominated my week, since I also gave the welcoming address at an India-EU conference on scientific and technical co-operation (and was embarrassed at having to leave for another engagement before the end of the opening ceremony, the kind of behaviour which gives politicians a bad name); and met Moldova's foreign minister Iurie Leanca with his agriculture ministry colleagues to discuss progress in bringing their country closer to the EU. They are making rapid progress, unlike their neighbour Ukraine.
The main issue of political debate was again the economic situation. European Central Bank Governor Mario Draghi came to Parliament to tell us that the structure of the euro currency union has become unsustainable and to call on Parliament and on member states in Council to act quickly to move to closer economic and monetary union. French LibDem MEP Sylvie Goulard presented to the economic affairs committee a three stage plan for eurozone countries to pool sovereign debt (first a 25 year redemption fund for excess debt, as suggested by German economists, then joint sovereign bonds for debt not exceeding 60% of GDP and finally, in the future, the pooling of all risks). French President Hollande met Angela Merkel and there appears to be German openness to moving in this direction if all eurozone countries stick to their commitment to fiscal and monetary discipline. By the time of the G20 meeting on 18 June, after the Greek elections, we should know the size of the EU and IMF financial firewalls and the chances of success.
The work of my former colleague Diana Wallis MEP on a mechanism to allow out-of-court settlements of cross border (including web purchase) consumer disputes is making progress; Ministers agreed this week their approach to the draft Directive and the issue will come to Parliament and should be agreed finally later this year.
The EU Ombudsman (a post created by a Liberal initiative about 15 years ago) published his annual report. He assisted 22,000 citizens in 2011, some 2500 of them with complaints against the European Commission and a few with complaints against Parliament.