It is now a few days since I completed my first full week out of the Brussels bubble no longer having those letters MEP after my name; my verdict on life as a European citizen, – a relief.
Ironically a good part of my first week was taken up with going to a conference at the European Law Academy in Trier. The first thought after my resignation was to cancel all engagements, but actually it is refreshing that people want your views without those letters after your name. For my part I was actually for once able to attend a whole conference on the Common European Sales Law, an issue I am greatly and genuinely interested in. Result, I am probably now better up to speed with it than when I was rapporteur! However the essential point to me from the conference was that this should be viewed as a trade enabling law for small businesses and consumers across Europe. As best it should enable cross borders transactions in a secure and protective way offering the best possible customer service. It should if correctly designed make it easier for small scale trading partners to get together – this is potentially the ( new ) lifeblood of Europe’ s struggling economy. Tina Sommer of the ESBA got it in one, they don’t want complicated legal problems and solutions, in her words ‘sort yourselves out’ we want to get on and do business and the EU has the potential to make that easier!
It was interesting that the news from the outgoing Polish presidency was positive. Their presidency took the brave step on initiating and making a priority of the project in Council. Not an easy task with so many sceptical Member States. However the most convincing arguments were from the street, during events like the Single Market Forum. Ask the European in the street, especially a young European if they would like to be able to buy and sell through one single contract law across Europe, they think it an interesting idea, why not? Personally I want to see the Commission, facilitate some demonstration web sites so that we can see how a transaction might work with the famous ‘blue button’. In the EP we had suggested a ‘road show’; again why not? A trade enabling sales law across Europe might help bring people together through trade – now there’s an idea we heard somewhere before…
Safety for citizens was the other item on my agenda for 112 day on 11th Feb, I still cannot believe that so many European citizens do not know this life-saving number especially in my own country, it’s not as if Brits don’t travel.
I have spent the last year through my office trying to get carriers; airlines and ferry companies operating from the UK to holiday destinations to publicise the number. With some success, one of the most engaged was perhaps Easy Jet, but not alone others like P & O ferries were quick to pick it up.
All carriers should publicise the number on their literature and it is good that Commissioners Kallas and Kroes are following this up. Then there was the 112 video ‘Diana’s journey’, viewed I am told in over 60 countries by some 6,000 people – amazing. So I look forward to the 112 Foundation Annual conference in Riga, in April. This is one organisation I shall, remain committed to.
Then, I was asked to do an interview for my local university, for research on the European Citizens Initiative. It was a timely reminder that we devised this instrument for use by citizens; parliamentarians have their own parallel instruments, they should not be launching citizens initiatives.
If your see an elected member behind a citizens initiative ask why; chances are it has more to do with self publicity than the issue. Some wanted to ban member involvement as original signatories or organisers, maybe that was not such a bad idea. For instance there is now talk of an initiative on a Single Seat for the European Parliament, a concept I agree with, but not as a citizens initiative. As we have already seen with the failed petition, the addressee should be the Council, an ECI goes to the Commission, who in this instance is powerless. The chances are the Commission will refuse to register such an ECI, it will only raise unrealistic expectations about the ECI process whilst failing to get at the real culprits – the Member State governments. The right way forward is a vote in Parliaments, European and national. If parliamentarians can’t sort this out they should not expect citizens to be their fall guys – for a second time.