NEWS

EU wants ‘your ideas, your criticism’

Play an active role in the European Union’s policymaking process. The European Commission wants to listen to your ideas, face up to your criticism and learn from your experiences. This is the message highlighted by the European Commission at its interactive webportal (http://europa.eu.int/yourvoice), launched on Monday in a drive to make EU institutions more accessible and establish a link with its citizens. The webportal – accessible in 11 languages, including Greek – enables citizens, consumers and businesses to provide input for new initiatives, get feedback on the implementation of existing legislation, and discuss the future of Europe or even lodge complaints. Unhappy about the Commission’s administrative behavior? Has a Member State failed to comply with Union law? Various procedures are available, a section of the webportal informs online visitors, while providing online means for lodging complaints. In addition, the site also offers a link to the office of the European Ombudsman, regarding maladministration complaints by institutions and bodies of the European Union. The site also gives access to a wide variety of interactive tools such as online consultations, feedback mechanisms, webfora, chatrooms and complaint procedures, which allow citizens to play an active role in the Commission’s policymaking process. In the discussions and ideas section, citizens can join discussions such as The Future of the European Union, engage in chats on current EU affairs with European commissioners, as well as contribute and exchange ideas in specific fora such as Regional Development and Cohesion in the EU. Gathering the views of citizens and businesses is essential for building relevant and effective policies, said Commissioner Bolkestein on Monday at a conference in Brussels, and added: It’s time we took full advantage of the Internet to hold transparent, efficient and user-friendly consultations. We’ll make the results of our on-line consultations available to the public and will take them into account in our future policymaking. The European Commission reached the decision to launch the webportal back in early April, as part of its Interactive Policy Making (IPM) initiative to improve governance by using the Internet for collecting and analyzing reactions for use in the European Union’s policy-making process. The webportal Your Voice in Europe is a combination of the two Internet-based mechanisms provided in the Commission’s IPM initiative: a feedback mechanism, which helps collect spontaneous responses, and a consultation mechanism which is designed to receive and store rapid and structured collections of reactions to new initiatives. Although it is generally viewed as a positive initiative on the part of the European Commission, there is concern over the accessibility of the mechanisms for the average European citizen – especially access to computer hardware. According to statistics by the European Commission, Eurostat – the European Union’s statistical service – and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, presented this week in the European Parliament by Greek Euro MP Yiannis Marinos, only six in 100 Greeks have a computer when the European average is 25 in 100 Europeans. Based on the same records, Greece falls behind even candidates for EU accession such as Poland and the Czech Republic.