Daily Archives: March 10, 2009

Posts are like buses…

and here’s the third of the day! Just wanted to post something I read on the BBC website, Stephen Fry talking about the web on the Analysis programme. I really liked the way he put this:

 This is an early thing I said about the internet at the time things like AOL were still huge. I said it’s Milton Keynes, that’s the problem with it. It’s got all these nice, safe cycle paths and child-friendly parks and all the rest of it.

But the internet is a city and, like any great city, it has monumental libraries and theatres and museums and places in which you can learn and pick up information and there are facilities for you that are astounding – specialised museums, not just general ones.

But there are also slums and there are red light districts and there are really sleazy areas where you wouldn’t want your children wandering alone.

And you say, “But how do I know which shops are selling good gear in the city and how do I know which are bad? How do I know which streets are safe and how do I know which aren’t?” Well you find out.

What you don’t need is a huge authority or a series of identity cards and police escorts to take you round the city because you can’t be trusted to do it yourself or for your children to do it.

And I think people must understand that about the internet – it is a new city, it’s a virtual city and there will be parts of it of course that they dislike, but you don’t pull down London because it’s got a red light district.

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I want to break free

Libertas have launched their UK election campaign today. It’s an interesting one. There are various things about it that strike a chord with me – a pan-European political party, aiming to respond to (or create?) a European demos, rather than focussing on national issues; a call to ensure that European institutions work effectively – it may be a surprise to some, but that’s something that pretty much all of us would want. But I do wonder where Libertas are going to fit. They say they’re pro-reform not anti-EU, but that’s a pretty limited audience in the UK. The people who are going to vote for a party with an EU platform are more likely to be anti. That’s one of the things here – the people who really seem to care are the ones who don’t like it. I did have to laugh (hollowly) at one line in their press release:  “Almost 80% of laws that change the daily lives of Britons come from Brussels, and those laws are drafted by unelected, unaccountable civil servants. ” What, as opposed to the elected, accountable civil servants that draft laws everywhere else?! I have no issue with criticism, but at least let’s be fair about it!

Writing this made me think about what it is that stimulates European Commission proposals for legislation. I know from my time in policy DGs that often we are asked to propose something by the Council (national governments) or European parliament. So I just did a very quick and admittedly non-academic test. I looked at all proposals from the Commission in the last month (9 February to 9 March) which propose legislation (Decision, Directive or Regulation). Of the 27 proposed in that time:

5 amend or correct existing legislation, 2 repeal existing legislation, 4 implement international agreements and conventions (i.e UN level), 3 are administrative (members of committees etc), 1 applies to 1 member state only, 9 implement bilateral agreements with non-EU countries, 1 is part of the legislative proposal (taking into account the Parliament and Council amendments), 1 is at the request of the European Parliament (and inspired by the European Council) and 1 is at the Commission’s own initiative.

Now I accept that this is one month and is hardly scientific, but it does show that this idea of all legislation that comes out being a result of fonctionnaires sitting around in offices wondering what they can do now is a crude and inaccurate caricature.

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Kuneva webchat – 13 March

To mark the 10th anniversary of European Consumer Day, EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva host a live webchat on 13 March 2009 (at 15h00 CET) with citizens from across the EU about their rights and their concerns as consumers.

Chatters from across the EU will have the chance to ask the Commissioner direct questions on the issues that are most important to them, including uncertainties as consumers in today’s economic climate, unfair sales practices or the safety of daily consumer products. Online visitors will also be told how to get help when they shop online, cross-border or when something goes wrong.

The webchat will be held in 12 languages – Bulgarian, Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Italian or Spanish.

It will be broadcast live on 13 March from 15h00 – 16h30 CET.

To join the live chat, visit: http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/chat_13march_en.htm.

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