Postcard from Strasbourg by Richard Steel

Dear Fred,
Trust in science and experts’ opinions seems to be challenged like never before and the news that the small letter bomb detonated at EFSA’s HQ in Parma was addressed to someone on its GM panel is all the more worrying.

GM technology has been an incendiary issue in the parliament for years and this week was no exception as MEPs voted by a large majority to oppose authorization of a GM maize and carnation. The reasoning for the latter was that EFSA had not assessed the effects of people eating the carnation. Indigestion I would have thought. The fight against endocrine disruptors has been another long-running battle and MEPs expressed their frustration this week at the Commission’s delay in setting down the criteria for safe use. These criteria, they insisted, must be based purely on scientific data and not the socio-economic impact assessment carried out by the Commission. Philippe Lamberts for the Greens was in no doubt who the Commission was protecting, claiming that Jean-Claude Juncker was far more “systematic and professional, more disciplined”, in his defence of big business than his predecessor, José Manuel Barroso. I can imagine Juncker wearing that allegation as a badge of honour.

This week’s guest star was the outgoing President of Bulgaria, Rossen Plevneliev, who warned, in perfect English, that Russia was set on destroying the EU and that its actions in Ukraine had bought about a period of “Cold Peace”, where war was avoided but conflict and confrontation flourished. “Integration”, he argued, “ is the only weapon we have to achieve peace, security and human development”. Guy Verhofstadt picked up on the theme when he claimed the biggest threats to the EU/Atlantic partnership were Putin, Trump and Brexit. He slightly over-estimated the nature of the debate in the UK two weeks before the referendum by lamenting that the geo-political consequences of leaving the EU had not been fully appraised by the electorate. Martin Schultz was maybe more in touch with the popular mood by including the young England player Dele Alli in his dream team for Euro 2016 and conceding that England has a “surprisingly good team”. Now if that doesn’t swing the vote on June 23, what will! Top players in Schulz’s own dream team, his cabinet, seem to be in the process of being given free transfers into top jobs around the parliament, which would maybe suggest that his chances of a third term are faltering.

Schulz will need all his diplomatic skills for the next Brussels plenary session, which sees a neatly choreographed visit of the President of the State of Israel, followed the next day by the President of the Palestinian National Authority. Schulz will be hoping that Members will be on best behaviour. One colourful and controversial character, infamous for his stunts,  who will be sadly absent is Gianluca Buonanno, who died in a car accident on Sunday. The Lega Nord MEP is best remembered for scaring the life out of Jean-Claude Juncker by approaching him with an Angela Merkel mask on during his State of the Union address.




Richard Steel

Senior Associate

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