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Listening to citizens' concerns

23/04/2012 - 11:45
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Cumbersome social security procedures, problems receiving healthcare services abroad and barriers to getting qualifications recognized in another Member State are among the 20 main concerns of citizens according to a report by the Commission 'The Single Market Through The Lens of the People'.

The Commission's report is a great initiative, providing a snapshot of the main problems worrying citizens and businesses. But more importantly the report sheds light on an important question: how are we dealing with the problems and concerns of our citizens?

A citizens' approach

The report which I have drafted for the Petitions Committee on citizens' main concerns aims to inject a citizens' approach to the problems citizens face. And one of the greatest problems they face when wrestling the great Brussels bureaucracy is finding someone to listen to their problems and to provide them with adequate solutions.

Of course, as MEPs we are there to listen to citizens and to help them find solutions in so far as an EU dimension can be identified. But of course, MEPs alone are not equipped to solve all the problems faced by citizens. The European Commission, as the EU executive, is the main channel through which problems in the implementation, transposition and execution of EU law need to be dealt with.

EU tools for solving your problems

The European Commission takes this role very seriously and has devised a host of useful tools and services for citizens, such as the SOLVIT network, the Europe Direct system or the YourEurope online one-stop-shop for citizens and businesses.

However citizens are often still baffled, not knowing where to start, or worse still, give up, being passed on from one service to another. The result is a big loss for all because citizens simply lose interest in the European Union.

That is why in my report I tried to emphasise the need for live points of contact which would enable citizens to have a human link to case-handlers, possibly located in the Commission representation in each of the EU Member States. These case-handlers would see the resolution process through from start to finish so that citizens can, at least, feel a link with their European Union.

Petitioning the European Parliament

The petitions process of the European Parliament is another important tool which needs to be brought to the centre of solving citizens' problems. Through the Petitions Committee citizens can file a petition on any issue that falls within EU competence. MEPs can then ensure appropriate action by the European Commission to resolve any incorrect transposition or implementation of EU law. The petitions process allows for a transparent and accountable process through which citizens can help shape a better Europe.

Not a PR stunt

Bringing back our citizens and businesses to the heart of the Internal Market does not mean an expensive and attractive PR exercise. Rather, it means providing an Internal Market that really works for citizens and businesses. Identifying the problems of citizens and businesses is the first step. The next, is ensuring adequate tools to find solutions.

Next steps

My report will be voted by the Petitions Committee on 24 April.

 

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