by gradinski chai
Fri Aug 26th, 2005 at 07:42:54 AM EST
Primer: A book that covers the basic or elementary parts of a subject; a book for teaching children to read.
Last week, I put up an entry on action alerts in the European Tribune Wiki. For those unfamiliar, an action alert is a form of public lobbying that focuses lots of different citizen voices on a few influential public servants.
I hope that some enterprising person concerned about some particular issue being considered in Brussels will be able to use it...and to continue bridging the gap between Europe's citizens and the EU.
Editor's Note: Please go read this Action Alert Primer - its a short read and important information to become familiar with. (25-8-05; 6:00pm MEST; by whataboutbob)
The first part of the Wiki links to a very considered check list for someone who wants to craft an effective action alert. The second part of the entry identifies possible targets among the seemingly labyrinthine EU institutions.
Because both member state national governments and EU institutions play a role in policymaking, the fairly decentralized structure can make it more difficult for citizens to participate in the governing process. Knowing which target points within the EU institutions and national governments that may be worthy of looking at if you contemplate initiating an action alert can possibly make an action alert more effective.
At present, I think that we are just setting things in place. We are still probably too small to launch an effective action alert from European Tribune alone, but from another perspective, we are not alone. We, here, at European Tribune, are part of an emerging social network concerned with progressive politics, but we are also members of many other social networks in the course of our everyday lives. If we can involve even a small fraction of people in these other networks, we still have the possibility of marshalling a fairly large group of concerned citizens.
The other challenge that we face is the relative lack of experience with this type of citizen input into policymaking. Citizens across the continent acknowledge that voting in elections and referenda are avenues for their participation. Some fewer go even further by joining political parties or supporting particular candidates or taking to the streets on occasion, but these are all only infrequent events. Very few citizens are accustomed to being quasi-engaged in regular policymaking...not everyday, but more than once every four or five years.
So if there are these problems, then why undertake an action alert?
The centralized lobbying structures that are indicative of American politics need not be replicated on an EU scale. Well, ok, it's already happening, and many companies and other actors have already set up shop in Brussels. But this remote policymaking does not have to continue. Indeed, it cannot continue as this summer's referenda show.
The professional lobbyist/public official dynamic developed in a socio-economic structure where average, involved citizens were largely removed from policymaking by distance, information, and knowledge. Communications technology now allows anyone with a computer link and a little curiosity to have a role to play in policymaking. We still need good information and appropriate policies, but today's lobbyist can be a farmer near Vajszlo, a fisherman in Alesund, or a student in Limerick.
True, my letter about a new EU directive on water quality is not going to be as influential as the lobbyist who speaks directly and perhaps wines&dines an EU official. But my email or letter and hundreds, if not thousands, of other such communications changes the policy making atmosphere. It puts everyone on notice that intelligent and concerned people are watching what is happening. This changes the nature of policymaking keeps public officials more aware of the public good and makes abuses less likely. And, it probably makes us better persons as well.
I would appreciate any feedback on something that's not clear. I'm also happy to give feedback if you have an issue that you believe is appropriate for an action alert.