Frank will be interviewing Dick Roche, Ireland's Minister for European Affairs, and he has posted his questions online for the community to read. Furthermore, he is now asking for suggestions for more questions.
One of the amazing things about this is that Dick Roche (or, more likely, one of his aides) will also be able to read the questions Frank is going to ask him, and so will be better prepared for them.
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In other words, it's almost an "open" interview, between Dick Roche and the TH!NK ABOUT IT community, with Frank as a mediator. Great stuff!
The problem is, a lot of the questions suggested by Frank are very specific to national, Irish politics. This makes sense: MEPs are elected by national voters and so they campaign on issues that will interest and affect specifically those same national voters.
As Frank points out:
"[Dick Roche] is not going to want to raise additional issues... [that] have the potential to lose him votes."I agree with Frank. But I think this is a terrible way to conduct politics.
This is one of the reasons the public are so frustrated with European politics. Now is the only time that we - the European public/s - have any say over these issues. Now is the only time we can hold our politicians accountable.
Two years down the line, when these issues are actually being addressed, there will be no public accountability. It is only now that we can reward or punish our politicians for their future vision. So, Frank, please press him on at least some of these issues!
For example, I definitely want to know about the Barroso coronation. I want to vote for a political group that intends to put forward a candidate to run against Barroso. I do not want to do this because I dislike Barroso, but because I believe that competition is in the interests of democracy. After the elections, though, the power to push for this sort of thing will be out of our hands.
All across the EU, each individual voter will have their own set of key issues that they will be voting on. MEPs should clearly set out their positions on ALL of these issues, and then let the voters decide. But the system, as it stands today, encourages MEPs to campaign only at the national level on national issues for national votes. Given this is the case - what questions can I, a citizen of another EU member-state with only a cursory knowledge of Irish politics, possibly suggest for Frank to ask?
This is why I think we need some sort of European-wide accountability, represented by some part of the EU institutions being directly elected by all EU citizens voting together. At the moment, the politics are united, but the vote is fragmented. MEPs take European-wide decisions, but they campaign on national issues. I cannot vote for Irish MEPs, so Irish MEPs are not interested in my opinions, yet they help take big-picture decisions in my name.
Still, perhaps I am jumping the gun a bit.
I have no idea how Dick Roche will respond to these sorts of long-term questions. The fact that he is willing to be interviewed by a blogger at all is fantastic, and this should immediately win him respect.
But my appeal to Frank is this: don't ignore the long-term questions. June 2009 will be the only time (until the next set of elections) that we have any real power to influence what happens.