One Of The Most Powerful Authorities In The World...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

...and most European citizens could not say what they are exactly doing and so would I. In 2009 the European Parliament (EP), highest authority in the European Union, will be elected for the seventh time since 1975 in June 2009. The EU Parliament has raised its level of influence since the 1990s after starting out more or less as a talk shop with no legislative powers that was overridden by the appointed EU Commission. Its first act of significant resistance dates back to 1999 when it forced the EU Commission under Jaques Santer to resign over a budget affair.
With more than 320 million eligible voters it is the only EU wide election and voter turnout in 2004 was 45.6%.
The 732 seats are divided between Conservatives (269), Social Democrats (200), Liberals (88), Greens (42), Communists (41), Eurosceptics (37), Nationalists (27) and Independents (29.)
Despite its influence the EP is not anchored in the political conscience of most Europeans. In Austria there is a gut feeling that the EP is the scapegoat of national parliaments, pushing all discomforting political issues on a continent facing dramatically worsening demographics. This comes together with a general uneasiness about the loss of sovereignty of the EU member countries.
A good example for recent disconcert is the drive to enact a Europe wide restriction of smoking in public places and entertainment venues. While hailing a free market ideology that has become the stumbling block for a proposed EU constitution the supra-national behemoth in Brussels has a tendency to overregulation that interferes with regional customs, culture and individualities. Empty cafes all over Europe with shivering customers preferring the outside smoking areas are a good sign for the lack of connection between bureaucrats and citizens. Citing protective health rights of non-smokers and wanting a EU wide smoking prohibition the EU has not yet touched Europe's biggest drug problem, alcohol. The drug of choice is certainly the biggest burden on national health systems.
With legislative powers shifting to the EP, which affords two residences in Brussels and Strasbourg at the expense of EU taxpayers, this brings the problem of a lacking disability to protest effectively. How would you organize a 1000 km trek of 100,000 Austrians to Brussels?
Overcoming the general distrust between bloggers and the traditional mainstream media and sensing a lack of awareness about the EP the non-profit European Journalism Centre (ECJ) has initiated a blogging contest that will bring bloggers from the 27 EU members together. Th!nk About It will be a common effort of this group of bloggers to report on the EP elections and this blog will be part of it, covering mainly the socioeconomic aspects of EU legislature.

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