Saturday, 11 July 2009
the coming week, with its first plenary session of this term, will be the visible start of a new life for many of you, and I applaud you for having taken this path into a European institution.
You are part of the tiny flame of European democracy that burns for 30 years now, ever stronger but still tiny. You carry the heavy load of being responsible for this little flame, and be sure that you will be held accountable for that over the next five years.
As a citizen, I expect that you bring in your local, regional, and national knowledge to shape European decisions in a way that respects the needs of your constituencies while having in mind the overall good of all EU citizens.
I expect that you are absolutely transparent about what you think, what you earn, and what you do in the name of your function as co-legislator and representative of European citizens.
I don't accept any excuses for intransparency: A modern representative democracy has to be built on the credo that elected officials are responsible to the public not only during elections but at any moment of their term.
I don't mind if you are absent in plenary sessions if you have more important work to do. I don't mind if you earn extra money if you make this extra income public, and if this doesn't negatively influence your work as an MEP. I don't mind if you don't know something, if you don't have an opinion on another thing, or if you let your assistants do a part of the work you would be supposed to do if you are ready to take the responsibility for the outcomes.
As a European citizen I expect that you fully devote your time and energy to the task of making the European democracy better.
I expect that you put aside prejudices, personal conflicts, and old habits and replace them with openness, geniality, and new ways of thinking. The Union needs change, because the way it has been working in the past is not satisfactory anymore, and you are responsible to push for this change.
As a blogger, that is a citizen who makes his voice heard through this blog, I hope that part of this change will be a new way of communicating.
You have to understand that more and more citizens are ready to interact among themselves but also with you as elected officials. You have to understand that in order to make the step towards us citizens, not just during visits to towns and meetings, but also in between and publicly visible for everyone on the continent, you cannot simply work as MEPs used to work in the past.
Use all the possibilities of modern communication - in a mix that suits you best - and open your door(s) for all European citizens who are interested to take a look.
We want to know who you are, what you think, what you do. We want to discuss with you, challenge you, see whether your opinion is grounded on conviction and facts or on false assumptions and back room deals. Using modern means of communications is a way to interact personally while remaining public.
Yes, writing and commenting online demands more attention than a quick press release that you send out in the widths of the European media landscape (where it gets lost in the hands of a journalist who thinks you are unimportant).
But the investment in time, if it includes a change in mindset, too, will bring about trust and public recognition for you while fostering European public debates, debates in which you can set positions and standards if you are willing to take the risk.
in the end you have been elected to take your own, sovereign, and well-reflected decisions. You represent us citizens, you should be accountable to us, and you should take into account that we have justified interest in knowing what you do and why you do it. But you are free to decide!
Even this little letter is nothing but a hint about what is expected from you from an individual citizen who can do nothing but speak in his own name. I am not elected by anybody, so I also don't expect to be taken more seriously than as a single voice of a possible 500 million.
What you do with it, depends on you alone - and I am glad about that!
Julien Frisch, an EU citizen