Archive for the ‘European Parliament’ Tag

Th!nk About It: laptops, milk or voting in the European election?

This Th!nk About It post can also be read here – as ever, feel free to vote for me!

News flash! The European Parliament has launched its election campaign materials. With unsurprisingly blue results.

It is likely that there’s more hanging on the forthcoming election than ever before (global economic crisis/EU expansion/Eurozone problemos) – so let us have a quick look at what the EU thinks sells the EU.

The brief presented to advertising company Scholz & Friends (I love the “& Friends”) was: “to draw the voters’ attention to the elections’ relevance for their own personal life and to encourage 375 Million European citizens to vote”. No, I don’t envy them their job either.

Pray tell, then; what exactly have the powers-that-be decided will encourage us to vote in June?

Chicken packaging, apparently.

(All graphics: Scholz & Friends)

(All graphics: Scholz & Friends)

And plugs.

plugs

Thankfully, though, it doesn’t end there -there is more to life than chicken packaging and plugs and the EU know it.

There’s also the eternal dilemma of laptops vs milk.

laptop

And books or satellites or tractors.

tractors

I concede here I am being a tad harsh. At least the issues these last two images are supposed to represent (balancing family and career and investment in education/farming/technology) are important, even if not done justice by the reductionist nature of the photographs.

Other issues that the EU feel will spur us to vote – as far as I can tell from the often obscure graphics – include security, genetic modification, fuel, energy and border control. And the economic crisis, let us not forget the economic crisis.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to forget the economic crisis whilst perusing the campaign materials – for it is given as much prevalence as chicken packaging (one billboard in twelve).

Scholz’s friends have, I fear, let him down.

Surely, when considering what is going to encourage  375 million European citizens to vote this would be the main – perhaps the only issue – to plaster across billboards throughout the continent. For now at least, I think it’s fair to predict that the standardisation of plugs is the last worry on most peoples’ minds. I fear it is unlikely to spur one EU citizen to vote, let alone the other 374,999,999.

Yet again, I regret to say, the EU has let itself down when it comes publicising its – often hugely valuable -purpose. Capitalising (almost a pun!) on the economic crisis, and the EU’s ability to actually do something about it, had the potential to inspire millions to vote in an election they didn’t even know existed last year.

Instead, these millions of EU citizens are likely to spend the run up to June wondering whether they prefer milk or laptops, and whose great idea it was to reduce the economic crisis to a photo of a lion and a cat. (Oh, Scholz.)

lion

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Th!nk About It: How do you make £1m? Become an MEP

(Also posted here…)

This time last week I said:

I reckon there’s something wrong with all expenses over £100,000. Forget second home, that’s a second flipping salary, that is.

But that was before I came across this Monday’s findings of the Tax Payers’ Alliance (TPA). And I thought UK politics was bad.

Yet another paint masterpiece...

Yet another paint masterpiece...

The TPA somehow got their eager campaigning hands on a leaked EU document called the Galvin Report (download here), which, it says:

revealed so many examples of poor financial controls, dubious practices and outright abuse of taxpayers’ money that it was kept secret from the public, and only a handful of MPs were allowed to see it on the condition that its contents were never revealed.

But the crux of the TPA’s findings – which should help dear old Jacqui Smith sleep better at night – is the following:

Over and above their salaries an MEP can personally earn a further £1 million during a typical Parliamentary term through their generous allowances and expenses

The report was based on a sample of 167 payments, out of a total of 4686, made in October 2004. And I’m going to assume – with, I grant you, no proof what so ever – that as the report has only just been published, repercussions have been somewhat lacking – and things have only got worse.

But there’s more. Because, it seems, £1 million might not cover quite as much glass and mussels as an MEP might like, the TPA also state that MEPs can expect a 47 per cent pay rise after this June’s elections; British MEPs could soon earn a ‘take-home’ salery of £68,801.

By george. I want tips! What sneaky tricks are these MEPs resorting to? I want to take notes in order to make the most of my future expenses-fuelled career as a journalist… (Difference being that I’ll be earning approximately £54,801 less than a British MEP.)

Thanks to the report, I now know that – if one wants to make the most of one’s expenses – one should claim money for fictional assistants, of which no record exists. And pay any assistants that do exist up to 20 times their salary – just to use up the full allowance. I should also, if so inclined, claim money for companies who have done absolutely no work for me.

This, it transpires, works for European Parliament members. I have a feeling it won’t work quite as well for a trainee journo.

Still, prior to this discovery I was feeling guilty about my two EU-expenses-paid trips to Brussels. I must admit, I feel a tad better now.

Th!nk About It: changing the world one exclamation mark, blog post and dance at a time

Following in my BBC blogfellow’s footsteps (see below) I have just returned from an all-expenses-paid trip to Brussels. Incidentally, this was my second all-expenses-paid trip to Brussels in just over a month- I’m starting to think that the EU has too much money. But that’s a separate post altogether.

This time I was attending the launch of “the first ever pan-European blogging competition” – which although impressive isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that I am one of the UK’s three bloggers. Stop laughing, I know loads about the EU…

This exciting venture is known to few, but will soon to be known to many, as:

Th!nk About It. No, that wasn’t a slip of the finger, that’s an exclamation mark in the place of an I. Cooool.

Or that’s what I thought. Turns out the ! isn’t just to make the competition seem cool, Mandy-style (then again, an EU blogging competition by EU bloggers about the 2009 European Parliament elections needs all the cool-help it can get). It’s actually so that when blogs/photos/videos etc about the competition (of which there are a scary amount already) are tagged with ‘Th!nk 09’, they’ll pop up on Google quicker than you can say “but I couldn’t care less about the European elections”.

And that’s the most interesting thing about Th!nk About It. No, not the ! in the place of an I. And no, not the rather worrying video taken by my fellow UK blogger Etan before one of the lectures that I’ll “imbed” at the end of this post.

It’s that despite the free-food-and-wine-and-trip-to-Brussels fuelled enthusiasm of my 85 fellow Th!nkers (don’t ask), it will be interesting to see whether our desperate attempts to (learn about and) blog about the EU will have any effect at all.

Is an 18-year-0ld from, urm, Truro any more likely to vote in the European election because I wrote about the reasons bloggers give for sneakily swapping letters for punctuation? Or even if I blog about something with more resonance (which I quite clearly trying to avoid)?

Bloggers like to think they can change the world – this much was clear in Brussels. If nothing else, Th!nk About It is an impressive attempt at a first step.

And finally, thanks Etan: