Stanley's blog

Brussels can’t win

Reports in the British newspapers, the Telegraph and the Sun, of the EU myparl.eu project have immediately condemned it as a waste of money. Sadly, they have deliberately misprepresented the facts, eg:

  • It is “an internet rival to Facebook”. Wrong: It is first and foremost a forum for online debate. It is most certainly not being set up as a rival to existing social networking sites.
  • “Many MEPs have complained at the lack of consultation on the private service.” Wrong: all MEP opinions have been favourable except members of UKIP.
  • “(M)uch of MyParl.eu will not be visible to the public, with its networking “restricted to parliamentarians”, Wrong: all of it will be visible and accessible.

Myparl.eu is an imaginative effort to answer the valid criticism that too much EU decision-making takes place in Brussels without national involvement, apart from Member State governments. The project is designed to facilitate debate among national politicians through the creation of a multi-lingual website. This is the first stage to engaging EU citizens.

As Moderator of the debate on “Future of Europe” (the other initial themes being “Energy & Climate Change” and “Intercultural Dialogue”), I have first-hand knowledge of myparl.eu.

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  1. Stanley

    You accuse me of “deliberate misrepresentation” in my Telegraph report, in plain talk you say I am lying. Get your own facts straight.

    Comparisons to social networking (even Facebook and LinkedIn) have been made by some of the MyParl team on a number of occasions, to a number of people.

    The site itself says: “myparl.eu offers you a unique online political forum with a social networking tool, enabling you to engage with other parliamentarians across the EU”.

    You write: “Many MEPs have complained at the lack of consultation on the private service. Wrong: all MEP opinions have been favourable except members of UKIP.”

    I say: Many MEPs, often ones active online, knew nothing about MyParl until it appeared fully formed so to speak. Some I spoke to thought that EUR4 million, a large sum of public money in any one’s book, though perhaps just small change for you, could be much better used. I presume that you have spoken to every MEP to make your “all” statement?

    You write: “(M)uch of MyParl.eu will not be visible to the public, with its networking “restricted to parliamentarians”, Wrong: all of it will be visible and accessible.
    I say: According to the Euractiv/Mostra/MyParl powerpoint presentation, which I have, the networking is, I quote, “restricted”. The public will not able to comment on debate although at some point “civil society”, the usual suspects from the usual Brussels “think-tank” lobby fronts, corporates and NGOs will be rolled on to substitute.

    There are of course, outside the MyParl issue, all sorts of interesting discussions that could be had (but never are) about the wisdom or morality of giving tens of millions in public funds to private companies to produce media products for political institutions, some that impersonate the real thing.

    I am an ardent pro-European, though no fan of the EU, the two things are quite distinct. I really do not believe that any top-down, institutional funded media will be anything but an obstacle or irrelevance to any existing or future European debate, such as we saw in France in 2005.

    Bruno Waterfield

  2. I very much appreciate the trouble Bruno Waterfield has taken to refute my criticism.

    All MEPs that we have spoken too, except UKIP members have been favourable.

    Most MEPs were not yet aware of Myparl.eu and the purpose of the presentation was to inform them, bearing in mind that the full launch is not until October.

    During the first phase, only MPs and MEPs can input but the entire site is public. The principal object is to engage MPs as a first step to engaging the public.

    I agree that a top-down approach to communication does not usually work but this debate will be owned by national MPs, not Brussels.

    I’m intrigued that you are an “ardent pro-European, though no fan of the EU”.

    I suspect that you and I are doomed to disagree on many issues, Bruno Waterfield, though I respect your views and your right to hold them. Can I suggest that we hold fire until the site is properly on line? After all, the proof of the pudding….

  3. How about getting your own figures right, Bruno? If you read the myparl specs, you must remember that the project addresses not only the 650 Members of the European Parliament, but an additional 11,000+ MPs across the European Union, whhich brings the sum invested per potential participating Parliamentarian down to €333, or £264.

    At a later stage (and that was also mentioned in the presentation that Bruno presumably attended), the project may be extended to regional Parliamentarians, which would bring the number of MPs who might participate up to 20,000 and the sum invested per participant down to €200 (£158).

    Not peanuts, but a far cry from the astronomic sums that Bruno is citing in his Telegraph article. And certainly but a small step in resolving the democratic deficit in the EU, but a step however.

  4. Ralf, those running Myparl know that it will be difficult to engage MPs (I stress MPs because it is designed for them and not MEPs as is misrepresented. If it weren’t, the project would probably not be necessary.

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