Tag Archives: citizens

IT at France24: “Bursting the Brussels bubble: Transparency in the EU under fire”

France24: Whether you’re a Europhile or a Eurosceptic, you’ll probably have heard the same criticisms of Europe: that it’s too bound up with bureaucracy; a Brussels bubble with supposedly unelected officials calling the shots for half a billion people. Recently, the sceptics got some new ammunition – in the shape of the lightning-fast promotion of a lifelong civil servant called Martin Selmayr to one of the most powerful jobs in the EU.

On today’s programme we’ll be finding out why so many lawmakers at the European Parliament are up in arms about this case, but also asking whether the critics might not have a point – and if European institutions across the board might not have some work to do… to make their work more transparent for ordinary citizens.

Linked from France24

European electoral reform

The procedure in question is a report by veteran UK liberal MEP Andrew DUFF which is a proposal for a modification of the Act concerning the election of the Members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage of September 20, 1976.

The work on creating a common electoral law has been going on for a long time already, since 1976. Why? From the constitutional perspective, it is a very important law which needs to be updated every now and then. The reform will introduce a number of changes to the present act – i.e. establishment of transnational voting lists.

The report comes amid continuing concern about the so-called “democratic deficit” between the EU and citizens, and the democratic function of the European Parliament is acknowledged by the public only to a certain extent. On the European level, political parties are rather still at the beginning of their development and the electoral battles take place more on the national than European level. It would then mean that the candidates could be set up in both transnational and national constituencies.

Some more examples of the changes the reform would introduce:

  • Preferential semi-open list system – citizens have the right to vote for both an individual candidate and for a list.
  • Territorial constituencies on a regional basis should be introduced in all those States with a population of more than 20 million.
  • The total number of elected Members shall be 751, with a minimum of six Members per State, and a maximum of 96.
  • An electoral authority, comprised of representatives of the EP, the Commission and each Member State, shall be established to conduct and verify the electoral process of the EU constituency.
  • EU-wide lists submitted by the European political parties shall be admissible only: a) if composed of candidates from at least 1/3 of the States, and b) if gender-balanced.
  • Each voter shall have one extra vote that he or she can give to an EU constituency candidate.
  • There shall be no minimum threshold for the allocation of seats from the EU constituency.
  • The minimum age to be eligible to vote in the European parliamentary elections will be 16; the minimum age to be eligible will be 18; this provision should encourage young people to participate more in elections.
  • Candidates may stand at the same election both for EU-wide and national or regional constituencies.
  • Polling days for the elections to the European Parliament shall be a Saturday and Sunday in May. It would be for this very reason that the EP could then organise its work more smoothly and therefore accelerate the election of the new President of the Commission. It would also allow to avoid the beginning of the summer recess in many member states. Right now polling days for the elections run from Thursday to Sunday in June.
  • If the e-polling is guaranteed to be reliable in both technical and legal terms, the e-polling techniques shall be used as soon as the 2014 elections.

For more information, please read:

Europarliament: “On a proposal for a modification of the Act concerning the election of the members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage of 20 September 1976(2007/2207(INI))”

About my activities

The European Parliament is directly elected institution, which represents about 500 million citizens and their interests which are of course very differing. The EP is in close co-operation with the European Commission and European Council; together they produce legislation on issues affecting our daily lives, for example environment protection, consumer rights, equality, transport and the free movement of people, capital and services. Not to mention human rights.

The subjects or topics I am engaged in are mainly connected to the committees and delegations I sit at, although these are rather close to my heart as well.

Among them is, for instance, Iceland, the country that 1st recognised the restoration of the independence of Estonia in 1991. Currently the negotiations on Iceland’s possible accession to the EU are being held. But does the small island-state itself event want to join? Recent polls have showed that people are rather sceptical, even the political groups in Althingi have been said to debate on the issue quite seriously. If Iceland were a Member State, its economic prospects might look better than they do currently in view of the so-called Icesave case, although the latter will not be tied to the negotiations. The EU on the other hand may have a stronger voice in the Arctic region. And this is a region that will attract very much attention in the years to come…

As former Chancellor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Estonia, I was appointed the Green shadow rapporteur in AFCO regarding the European External Action Service report. Guy Verhofstadt (Belgium, EPP) and Elmar Brok (Germany, S&D) were jointly writing the report on how the new “Ministry of Foreign Affairs EU” must be constructed. This involved months of work on when and where to emphasise Human Rights, how to set up crisis prevention and management, who should be in charge of the delegations, how to deploy development aid, how much and in what areas should the EP have control over their budget and so on.

Of course having such an institution as the EEAS is vital if the EU will want to speak with one voice on a global level – or with its neighbours, for that matter. The issue of energy security is the first practical challenge that comes to mind…

This autumn the European Parliament adopted the Alejo Vidal-Quadras (Spain, EPP) resolution on security of gas supply, which calls for the EU to introduce a regulation in order to further secure gas and energy supply in Europe. The document contains several methods and ideas on how to prevent future gas conflicts as seen in the case of the Russian-Ukrainian problems in recent years. This regulation would provide preventive safety measures to ensure that nobody would be left in to the cold.

This reminds that one has to think beyond (but not excluding) its national borders in Europe. Internet freedom and intellectual property rights are issues that affect us all, especially when EU will introduce reforms in this field in the near future regardless whether you are a consumer or a provider of Internet content, be it written articles, music or videos. How should the EU respond to illegal file sharing? We are living in the 21st century and we all download a variety of things from the net. But what about the people that provide the content? If we chose to restrict downloading in today’s form, what measures can be taken? To what extent can we monitor peoples’ activities online? As anyone may guess, these questions affect us all.

Should there be introduced any directives or regulations on a EU level that the citizens will regard unsuitable, lacking or simply bad and they wish to change it – or even call for creating an entirely new EU policy – they have the chance to do so with the European Citizen Initiative. This is a project going to be launched next year, with the aim of giving EU’s citizens the right to introduce an idea for new legislation by the Commission; the latter has to respond and justify its answer and action that will or will not follow.

This is undoubtedly a big step in the development of the citizen society, moreover that all people from all Member States can have a say. This all will have to follow strict rules that are currently in the making. For example, according to the latest state of play, at least 1 million signatures have to be collected from at least 1/3 of the Member States, plus the number of signatures has to be proportionate to the population of that state. This opens up an even greater window of opportunity for small countries. As for now, the setting up of the system continues.

Lissaboni leping

Lissaboni lepingule kirjutasid 13. detsembril 2007. aastal alla 27 Euroopa Liidu liikmesriiki. Uutes põhimõtetes kokku leppides lähtusid riigipead ja valitsusjuhid poliitilistest, majanduslikest ja ühiskondlikest muutustest, kuid püüdsid samal ajal arvesse võtta ka kodanike lootusi ja ootusi. Lissaboni lepingus on määratletud, mida EL võib ja ei või teha, ning milliseid vahendeid ta selleks kasutada võib.  Sellega muudetakse ELi institutsioonide struktuuri ja nende töömeetodeid ning kõige selle tulemusena on EL demokraatlikum ja tema põhiväärtused on paremini kindlustatud.

Leping jõustus 1. detsembril 2009 pärast seda, kui kõik ELi riigid olid selle oma riikliku korra kohaselt ratifitseerinud.

Lissaboni lepinguga parandatakse ja ajakohastatakse varasemaid ELi leppeid. Leppe kohaselt saab otsevalitud Euroopa Parlament suuremad volitused ELi otsustamisprotsessis sellistes valdkondades nagu siseküsimused ja põllumajandus ning eelarve muudab ELi tervikuna demokraatlikult aruandvamaks.

Mõne erandiga seab see Euroopa Parlamendi seadusandjana võrdsele alusele nõukoguga, et esindada liikmesriike valdkondades, kus see seni nii ei toimunud, nagu ELi eelarve koostamine (parlament on täielikult samaväärne nõukoguga), põllumajanduspoliitika, ning justiits- ja siseküsimused. Liikmesriikide parlamendid saavad õiguse ettepaneku suhtes vastuargumente esitada, kui nad leiavad, et tulemusi saab paremini saavutada pigem liikmesriigi kui ELi tasandil.

Euroopa Komisjoni presidendi valivad ELi riigipead ja valitsusjuhid Euroopa valimiste tulemustele toetudes ning valiku peab heaks kiitma Euroopa Parlament. Ka ELi välispoliitika kõrge esindaja peab saama Euroopa Parlamendi heakskiidu.

Ka kodanike õigusi tugevdatakse. Lissaboni leping muudab ELi põhiõiguste harta ELi jaoks siduvaks, mis tähendab, et ELi institutsioonid peavad austama kodanike kodanikuõigusi, poliitilisi, majanduslikke või sotsiaalseid õigusi. Uus kodanike algatuse õigus võimaldab miljon allkirja koguda suutnud kodanikerühmadel kutsuda komisjoni üles esitama uusi õigusakti ettepanekuid. See suurendab kodanike osalemist ELi otsustamisprotsessis.

Lepingu eesmärk on ka ELi otsustamisprotsessi tõhususe parandamine seeläbi, et sagedamini hakatakse kasutama kvalifitseeritud häälteenamusega hääletamist, mis asendab ühehäälsuse ning hõlbustab nii kokkulepetele jõudmist ministrite nõukogus. Uus Euroopa Ülemkogu president ja välispoliitika kõrge esindaja peaksid parandama ELi tegevuse järjepidevust. 

Hetkel on Põhiseaduskomisjonis käimasolevatest menetlustest kaks olulisimat briti liberaaldemokraat Andrew DUFFi raport ettepaneku kohta muuta Euroopa Parlamendi liikmete valimist otsestel ja üldistel valimistel käsitlevat 20. septembri 1976. aasta akti, ning prantslasest Euroopa Rahvapartei (kristlike demokraatide) liikme Alain LAMASSOURE’i ja sotsiaaldemokraadi Zita GURMAI (Ungari) kahasse kirjutatud raport Euroopa Kodanikualgatuse kohta. Viimane ongi üks olulisimatest muudatustest, mis Lissaboni lepingu kaasa tõi.

Põhiseaduskomisjonis käib samuti pidevalt arutelu ELi üldeelarve ja ELi institutsioonide toimimise omavahelise ning koostöö üle. Siin on taaskord suur roll mängida Lissbaoni lepingul, millega muudeti ELi institutsioonilist arhitektuuri.






Euroopa valimisseaduse reform

Kõnealune menetlus puudutab briti liberaaldemokraadi Andrew DUFFi raport ettepanekut muuta Euroopa Parlamendi liikmete valimist otsestel ja üldistel valimistel käsitlevat 20. septembri 1976. aasta akt.

ELi ühtse valimisseaduse loomise kallal on töö käinud juba pikalt, 1976.aastast alates. Miks? Tegemist on põhiseaduslikust aspektist väga olulise seadusega ning seda on pidevalt vaja ajakohastada. Reformiga tahetakse sisse tuua rida muutusi. Näiteks riigiüleste nimekirjade kehtestamine. Euroopa Parlamendi demokraatlikku funktsiooni tunnustab üldsus endiselt piiratud määral, mil Euroopa tasandi erakonnad on ikka veel arengu algtasemel ning valimisvõitlus toimub endiselt pigem riiklikul kui Euroopa tasandil. See tähendaks seda, et kandidaadid võivad olla samadel valimistel ülesseatud nii üleliidulises kui ka riiklikes ringkondades.

Veel mõni näide muutustest, mida reform kaasa toob:

  • Poolavatud nimekirjad- kodanikul on võimalik hääletada nii isiku kui nimekirja poolt.
  • Riigid, millel on rahvaarv üle 20 miljoni, jagavad valimispiirkonna teatavaks arvuks piirkondlikeks valimisringkondadeks.
  • Parlamendiliikmete arv on 751, alammäär riigi kohta on 6 ning ülempiiriks säätakse 96.
  • Kogu liidu territooriumist moodustatakse üks täiendav valimisringkond, kust valitakse 25 liiget.
  • Moodustatakse valimisamet, kuhu kuuluvad EP, Komisjoni ja liikmesriikide esindajad.
  • ELi erakondade üleliidulised nimekirjad on vastuvõetavad, kui: 1) seal on kandidaate vähemalt 1/3st liikmesriikidest, ja 2) nimekirjad on sooliselt tasakaalustatud.
  • Igal valijal on üks lisahääl ning selle saab ta anda üleliidulise valimisringkonna kandidaadile.
  • ELi valimisringkonnas kohtade jaotamiseks künnist ei kehtestata.
  • Valimistel on hääletamisel vanuse alampiir 16 aastat ning kandideerimisel 18 aastat. Selle sättega tahetakse julgustada Euroopa noori rohkem valimistest osa võtma.
  • Kandidaat võib olla üles seatud samaaegselt ELi valimisringkonnas kui ka ühe või mitme riigi valimisnimekirjas.
  • Valimispäevadeks on laupäev ja pühapäev, valimised toimuvad maikuus. Põhjuseks on see, et siis oleks Parlamendil võimalik oma tööd paremini korraldades kiirendada uue Komisjoni presidendi valimist ning ennetada ühtlasi suvevaheaja algust mitmes liikmesriigis. Hetkel on valimispäevad neljapäevast-pühapäevani ning valimised toimuvad juunis.
  • Kui tehnilisest ning õiguslikust seisukohast on usaldusväärsus tagatud, on alates 2004. aasta valimistest kasutusel elektrooniline hääletamine.