Monday, 19 July 2010

The European Citizen and better Euroblogging

Can independent Eurobloggers make a mark? Yes, if they deal with relevant issues and produce original content.

Conor Slowey aka Eurocentric, who writes The European Citizen blog, is a case in point. His thoughts on the state(s) of the Old Continent range from the (high) politics of the European Union to justice and home affairs (area of freedom, security and justice).

His blog entries are based on relevant sources, and his conclusions are measured.

As an example, read the latest series of blog posts by The European Citizen on the record of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) elected from Northern Ireland, one year on from the election.

Eurocentric dedicates a detailed blog post to each of the three MEPs: James Nicholson, Bairbre de BrĂșn and Diane Dodds.

The European Citizen then provides readers with an overview in the blog entry: Northern Ireland’s MEPs: One Year On.

Relevant content, good writing, facts, figures and analysis are the hallmark of The European Citizen.

Without being the first to look at MEPs’ records, Eurocentric is on to something which could – even should - be replicated across the European Union. Admittedly, numbers on various activities are crass, they still offer a basis for value judgments.

My blog entry is not meant to be a panegyric. I have tried to keep excessive praise out of the text, but The European Citizen deserves to be read and to be used as a schoolbook example for better Euroblogging.

Special case NI (& UK)

If other bloggers follow up on their (national) MEPs, there are a few things to keep in mind. The electoral politics and the relationship to the European Union of the United Kingdom in general, and Northern Ireland in particular, have their own characteristics.

Northern Ireland elected three MEPs, but none of them belongs to one of the mainstream political groups which actually run the show in the European Parliament (European People’s Party, Socialists and Democrats, Liberals and Democrats, possibly Greens/EFA).

Besides influence in the political group and EP bodies, the drafting of committee reports (and opinions to other committees) would in my view constitute a crucial element when evaluating the influence of an MEP. There are huge differences in importance between reports, so here qualitative analysis is called for, and it is feasible due to the low number of significant reports and opinions drafted even by a well respected and connected MEP.

With the Northern Ireland MEPs mainly outside the EP “power loop”, Eurocentric has had to analyse parliamentary questions, which are easy to concoct and usually lead to inconclusive replies. In other words, more lightweight stuff.

The opinion climate and the electoral system leading to the election of less influential Members of the European Parliament in Northern Ireland (and United Kingdom) are interesting questions in their own right. But that’s another story, Kipling would have said.

Ralf Grahn