It's only by having a strong Labour voice, as part of the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament that we can hold the Commission to account effectively on issues like Greece.
There are in fact two types of EU budgets. There is the long-term budget, known as the multi-annual framework, which establishes the annual spending limits. This is negotiated ever seven years. There is also the annual budget, which sets out in more detail how the EU should spend its budget over the coming year.
MEPs will take a close look at the plans and amend or even reject them as necessary. They will also critically follow the negotiations for all trade agreements as these will also need to be approved by the Parliament.
Tonight at the European Parliament there will be a vote on whether Miguel Arias Canete, nicknamed "Senor Petrolhead" by the Sunday Times, will be accepted as the new EU commissioner for Climate and Energy. To cut a long story short, Canete has long embedded family ties with the oil industry so if common sense were to prevail, he would not be appointed.
The name raised a few eyebrows in Brussels when he was announced as the nominee for the UK's spot in the European Commission. Lord Jonathan Hill of Oareford, the leader of the House of Lords, is little known abroad and his appointment is far from guaranteed as he will be subjected to a careful vetting process over the coming months.
Over the coming months, the Parliament will play a key role in setting the EU's course for the next five years as it conducts hearings of prospective commissioners and must approve the new European Commission as a whole.
Conservative MEPs need to pull their weight more in the North of England to fight voter "ignorance" about the party in the
Austerity or investment, more or less migration, putting the brakes on Brussels or expanding Europe... The economic crisis over the last few years has caused many people to question what should happen next.
For the past nine months I've been living within the EU bubble in Brussels. The city is full of lobbyists, politicians and the odd ego so it's almost identical to what we see back home in Westminster. The European Parliament and UK Parliament may be miles away in geography; they are also hugely separated in terms of our understanding of how each functions...
The more than 360 people drowning off the Lampedusa coast on 3 October were not the first to die while traversing the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better life, nor unfortunately were they the last. Just over a week later another 38 people died when their vessel experienced difficulties.