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.