Sunday

15th Dec 2019

Magazine

An 'open door' for EU citizens

  • Dolors Montserrat (EPP, Spain), chair of the petitions committee, wants to hear more from EU citizens (Photo: Council of the European Union)

Ordinary EU citizens should get a say in Brussels lawmaking and hold officials to account via the European Parliament's petitions committee (PETI) in the next five years, according to its chairman, Spanish centre-right MEP Dolors Montserrat. The "open door" to Brussels should also create "proximity" between people and EU officials in troubled times, she said.

"We need to give more visibility to personal experiences, enabling citizens to contribute to the EU's legislative work, while also bringing them closer to MEPs and making institutions more accountable," Montserrat said. "Institutions have to be at the service of people and not the other way around," she added.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

PETI has a mandate to discuss EU nationals or companies' gripes on any subject governed by European laws.

It exerts soft power, which "sometimes" amounted to "considerable influence", Montserrat said, by issuing reports and recommendations.

It can prompt plenary debates, dispatch fact-finding missions, send memos to EU states' embassies, or even call for commission legal action against European countries.

And it regularly invites individuals to confront MEPs and European Commission officials in grand auditoriums in the EU capital.

PETI stands alongside the European Ombudsman (a malpractice watchdog) and the European Citizens' Initiative (filing mass petitions to the commission) as one of few ways enshrined in the EU treaties for people to get directly involved in times of sharp division between 'masses' and 'elites'.

The "most important point is that petitioners feel heard and protected," Montserrat said.

In one petition last year, 'E.P.'(a German national), got to voice "her opposition to the establishment of the European Defence Fund", a €13bn EU juggernaut project on joint arms procurement.

Other petitions, which trickle in at a rate of five or so per day via PETI's website, dealt with electoral standards, free press, and anti-Islamic hate speech. They also dealt with disabled people's rights, sexual education, and cannabis laws, as well as with smaller issues, such as a Polish petition on the distance between school desks or an Italian one on letting dogs fly with their owners.

Montserrat, a 46-year old Catalan, who was health minister under former Spanish leader Marian Rajoy, is no stranger to division between remote capitals and popular feeling. The Rajoy government in Madrid tried to crush Catalan independence in 2017, emboldening popular resistance.

But the MEP said: "We need to work for equal consideration of petitions, regardless of their political colour". The European Parliament represented "a diversity of opinions and ideologies," Montserrat said, and "in a democracy like our own, it is normal for us to have different points of view".

PETI's European Parliament group coordinators are: Peter Jahr (EPP, Germany), Jude Kirton-Darling (S&D, UK); Yana Toom (Renew, Estonia); Margrete Auken (Greens/EFA, Denmark); Gianna Gancia (ID, Italy); Kosma Zotowski (ECR, Poland); and Sira Rego (GUE/NGL, Spain).

This article first appeared in EUobserver's latest magazine, Who's Who in European Parliament Committees, which you can now read in full online.

Opinion

Lost in Brexit chaos - abortion rights in Northern Ireland

Labour MP Diana Johnson has brought a private members bill to Westminster that proposes to decriminalise abortion in the whole of the UK, which means that, if successfully passed, current provisions for Northern Ireland will also be repealed.

Magazine

Six priorities for human rights

Belgian socialist MEP Marie Arena is chairing the European Parliament's sub-committee on human rights. Her biggest challenge? Finding ways to reach objectives that cover an enormous spectrum of issues - from climate to child protection.

Magazine

EU must manage climate and industry together

For Romanian centre-right MEP Adina-Ioana Valean, the previous chair of environment committee and current chair of industry, research and energy (ITRE), climate and industrial policy-making must go hand-in-hand to bring sustainability and prosperity to Europe.

Magazine

ENVI to deliver 'Green Deal' as main priority

The French liberal MEP Pascal Canfin, who is chairing the European Parliament's committee on environment, public health, and food safety, is adamant to deliver the Green Deal quickly - because "we cannot afford to waste time".

Magazine

Searching for solidarity in EU asylum policy

The European Parliament's civil liberties committee offers a snapshot of the European "state of mind", says its chair Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar. Its biggest challenge will be getting member states to unblock the EU asylum package.

Magazine

Development to fuel change

The European Parliament's development committee says its overarching priority will be to deliver on the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Achieving that will require an action plan and targeted investments, says its chair Swedish centre-right MEP Tomas Tobé.

News in Brief

  1. EU Scream podcast wins media award
  2. Sturgeon will set out Scottish independence plan next week
  3. Slovenia, Croatia ex-leaders highlight jailed Catalans
  4. Italian court tells Facebook to reopen fascist party's account
  5. EU extends sanctions on Russia until mid-2020
  6. UK exit poll gives Johnson majority of 86
  7. Orban: 'financial guarantees' to reach climate neutrality
  8. Merkel hopes EU leaders agree 2050 climate-neutrality

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Magazine

Which parties and countries chair the EP committees?

Although the European Parliament tries to keep a geopolitical balance within the committees, the breakdown of the actual chairs of the committees by political party and nationality is uneven - with a clear under-representation of central and eastern EU countries.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. EU values face scrutiny This WEEK
  2. EU sighs relief after 'decisive' Johnson victory in UK
  3. Huge win for Conservatives in UK election
  4. Behind bars: a visit to an imprisoned Catalan politician
  5. Leaders agree 2050 climate neutrality - without Poland
  6. EU leaders cagey on 'Future of Europe' conference
  7. Pressure mounts to grill Malta's Muscat at EU summit
  8. Revealed: little evidence to justify internal border checks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us