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***Energy Consultation Open Letter--Final Draft

by afew Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 09:04:31 AM EST

Here's the final draft of our letter of complaint to the European Commission about the Energy Green Paper Consultation. I suggest it should be sent as an open letter, addressed to both Energy Commissioner Piebalgs and Communication Commissioner Wallström.

Please don't hesitate to comment or make further suggestions.


Update [2006-9-15 10:58:10 by afew]:This has now been sent to the two Commissioners and to MEPs on the European Parliament Industry, Research and Energy Committee. A French version is now ready to go to French MEPs. If you want to send either the English or French version to MEP(s), let me know by posting here or by e-mail, and I'll send you the PDF file(s). Other language versions welcome, if anyone can work on them...

***Back to the diaries. ET cooperative work in action!


OPEN LETTER

Dear Commissioner Piebalgs,

Dear Commissioner Wallström,

The Transport and Energy Directorate is currently running a Public Consultation on the Green Paper, A European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy.

The Green Paper presents a number of major policy directions on this vital subject and it states that the Public Consultation should open up a "wide-ranging public" (p.4) and "Community-wide" (p.19) debate on them. We therefore expected the Public Consultation to further and facilitate this wide-ranging debate, in the spirit of the Report on European Governance and the White Paper on a European Communication Policy.

We were disappointed to see that, apart from a one-day public hearing in Brussels, the consultation mechanism consists of an Interactive Policy-Making online questionnaire with multiple-choice answers. What is immediately striking about it is that the policy suggestions of the Green Paper are not offered as subjects for debate, or even as polling options (with choices such as : "Agree strongly", "Agree", "Disagree", "Disagree strongly", etc...), but are stated as axiomatic.

In Section A, Question 1, for example, we read:

"In order to achieve the goal of a genuine single market, what new measures should be taken at EU and MS level?"

The respondent is not asked her or his opinion of the goal, the goal is a given.

The neutrality of the questionnaire is throughout impaired in a similar way:

  • Question 2 : "In order to develop a single European grid..." (pre-supposed aim)

  • Question 3 : "Apart from ensuring a properly functioning market..." (pre-supposed condition)

  • Question 4 : "How can it be ensured that all Europeans enjoy access to energy at reasonable prices?" (pre-supposed strategic goal)

  • Question 9 : "How can a common European energy strategy best address climate change, balancing the objectives of environmental protection, competitiveness, and security of supply?" (support for these objectives is assumed)

...and so on. Most of the questions in the questionnaire are restrictive, leading, and manipulative. The effect is to force respondents into apparent consent to the policy choices set out in the Green Paper. A polling institute which made use of questions of this kind would quickly be challenged and discredited.

Moreover, policy options other than those of the Green Paper are absent from the responses available in the questionnaire.

  • A major example is that the questionnaire does not offer a return to centralised forms of control of the sector, whether on a regional, national or pan-European basis. Public financing of the sector is not contemplated. Neither is any explicit public policy to favor some technological choices over others. Alternatively, the option of a decentralised sector with serious limitation on the size of actors is also ignored. All these options may not be the Commission's preference, but a neutral questionnaire should acknowledge that they exist and are backed by significant constituencies, and should allow people to express their preference for such alternatives.

  • At no point does the questionnaire allow respondents to express a preference for demand reduction mechanisms (whether mandated through taxes or quotas, or encouraged via education or best practice).

  • Similarly, transport and land occupancy policies, despite their evident impact on energy use patterns, are not even mentioned.

Entire questions offer a narrowly-focused range of responses that neglect essential items. An example is Question 2, concerning the development of a single European grid, in which management rules alone are proposed as options, while no mention is made of planning, financial, construction, and environmental issues which must inevitably be faced in the creation of a single grid.

Only at the end of the questionnaire, in Section G, are broader policy questions broached and then only in a superficial way. We find it difficult to understand why these questions of general policy were not placed at the beginning of the questionnaire, and why they were not given fuller treatment.

The Consultation web page does not offer respondents the option of writing their own contributions and sending them in. It may be objected that they are free to use the "Any other comments" boxes in the questionnaire to state their opinions but encouragement to do so is limited: for comments of any length, it is necessary to prepare the text elsewhere and paste it into the comment window, taking care to respect the questionnaire's chapter headings.

The Consultation adds a further restriction: "Please note that replying in English will facilitate our analysis of your answers."

This poses a considerable obstacle for non-English-speakers, and appears contrary to constant EU policy on multi-lingualism. How can all European citizens, faced with limits of this kind, be said to be free to join in the debate?

If the Consultation mechanism lacks the means to handle EU languages suitably, then the EU is not taking seriously the goal of listening to citizens, and is not funding communication and consultation procedures sufficiently.

To sum up, the automated part of the Consultation (i.e. the IPM questionnaire), by reason of its manipulative questions and narrow range of responses, appears designed to manufacture support for the policy options in the Green Paper. Those Europeans who wish to exercise their right to argue for other positions than those of the Green Paper must draft their own responses, preferably in only one of the EU's twenty languages. It is not made clear that such a response will even be entertained, though on enquiry we were told that it would be. There is a flagrant inequality of free expression between supporters of the Commission's views and supporters of alternative options in the Consultation. This is especially striking in comparison with our experience with the DG-TREN Biofuels Consultation where open responses were encouraged.

The European Tribune is an open online forum for civic debate, with a strong focus on European issues. We consider the formulation of a European energy policy a vital and urgent matter about which all European citizens should be well informed and in which they should be actively involved. Top-down policy-making runs the risk of failing to obtain genuine consent and adhesion from citizens in times of change, and to cause political apathy. In this context, we regret that the Public Consultation on the Energy Green Paper should, through its pre-decided character, counteract the desired image of truly cooperative and democratic policy-making in the European Union.

Yours, etc

Signatures

We seem to have agreed that the best way of signing this letter is to have individual signatories, referenced as European Tribune Collaborative Editors. It would be good to have a wide cross-section of EU citizens from different countries. If you'd like to volunteer, you don't need to post personal details here. Use my e-mail address :

afew at europe dot com

to send :

  • your name;
  • nationality;
  • country of residence

Circulation

An open letter may have more impact :

  1. in making the case better known to a larger number;
  2. in raising the stakes (however slightly!) for the recipients, so they are less likely to ignore the letter.

Signatories (and others) might like to send a copy of the letter to their MEP.

Any suggestions of other ways of making this known?

Format

Can anyone make a PDF of the finished, signed letter, so we can not only attach it to an e-mail but also print it easily?

Follow-up on the Biofuels Consultation

There have been a couple of high-level "endorsements" of our position in the news recently. Sven linked to this statement by Sir Peter Crane, director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, warning of the environmental dangers of extensive development of production of first-generation biofuels. The CEO of Volkswagen also warned that first-generation biofuels were not sustainable. DoDo reported that the German government was threatening to oblige car manufacturers to work on reducing fuel consumption, which was an option we put forward in the consultation.

All well and good, but it doesn't mean there won't be backing for first-generation biofuels from the top.

We sent an e-mail thanking the team that works on the Biofuels Consultation for doing the job properly. Yesterday I received this reply:

Dear Mr [afew], thank you for these comments. Getting e-mails like this certainly helps to keep us motivated. We've been pleased with the results of the consultation, a lot of thought has gone into many of the responses. Now we're working on the progress report and possible proposal for amendment of the directive. I can't promise you will like the results (I am sure that on at least some points you will not) but I can certainly say that they will be influenced by what people have said.

Yours

No idea what the "some points" might be. Except that I'm sure (I know from local examples in the region where I live) that there will be "pork" handed out to agri-interests to run biofuels operations.

Display:
I can make a PDF of the finished letter, no problem.
by Nomad on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 06:22:30 AM EST
Apart for people's MEPs, the European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy might be copied.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 06:27:34 AM EST
each of the signatories should try to get at least a couple of destnatories with newspapers in their country(ies).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 06:32:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would do El Pais and The Independent... Which means I'll have to translate the letter to Spanish tonight.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 06:39:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Afew, when you say
The Green Paper presents a number of major policy directions on this vital subject and it states that the Public Consultation should open up a "wide-ranging public" (p.4) and "Community-wide" (p.19) debate on them.
do you mind producing the English Quotation from p.19? I couldn't find the equivalent in the Spanish version of the Green Paper, and when I went to check the English version I  couldn't find it either. No problem with p.4, the quote is easy to find there.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 13th, 2006 at 04:10:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Page 19, point 3 :

3. The Community needs a real Community-wide debate on the different energy sources, including costs and contributions to climate change, to enable us to be sure that, overall, the EU's energy mix pursues the objectives of security of supply, competitiveness and sustainable development.

BTW, this translates, in the Consultation, into chapter C, Diversification of the energy mix, and a single question:

8. What should the EU do to ensure that Europe, as a whole, promotes the diversification of energy supplies?

  • Use more indigenous energy sources
  • Use more renewable energy sources
  • Use more nuclear energy
  • Be leader in energy efficiency
  • OTHER

For a much-needed Community-wide debate, it's a wowser.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 10:45:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, sorry for not having translated the letter yet.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. — Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 10:47:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No problem, it isn't very easy to do, as Alex, Jérôme and I saw with the French version.

Sorry I didn't notice your request until now.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 11:04:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've asked some friends who don't participate here for lack of good English mastery, if they wanted to sign the letter. Is this a good idea? Can it help the letter have a stronger impact? Should we all do this? I know this is not a petition, but ...
by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 06:58:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've asked some friends who don't participate here for lack of good English mastery
Maybe we should step-up our bilingual efforts?

You could start by translating the letter to French with a view to submitting it to French newspapers and politicians.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 07:01:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll find time to do it this evening then.
by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 07:04:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You and I have in common a Green MEP, Gérard Onesta, to whom I think we should address this in both French and English.

I'm unsure about further signatures. Perhaps we should keep it "ET Contributing Editors"?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 08:53:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you want to sign it yourself, Alex, e-mail me your full name and credit card details.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 11:18:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, I'll get it to at some point later tonight. For now too distracted (just got back from my jogging - feel hungry and feel like working - what with the endorphine stimuli and all).

What I suggest is that when I finish the translation later on tonight, I email it to you -afew-, and you then review/correct it to produce a final version (or leave it as it is if you're fine with it).

by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 01:28:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, the question of doing it in several languages occurred to me -- even for sending to the Commissioners. (Since one of our objections is to the restriction to English...)

I'll certainly collaborate on a fr version.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 07:08:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The question this brings out is : how to do a press release? (By ET as ET).
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 07:10:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An Open Letter is a different beast from a Press Release, which we will have to do when, for instance, "Energize Europe" is ready to be launched.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 07:12:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The question is how different? The Open Letter isn't a LTE, either...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 07:18:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmm... Do we want to think of the open letter as ET's first publcly released document? Then it should be accompanied by a press release...

What is the proper way to do this?

The open letter is addressed to Piebalgs and Wallstrom.

We can also copy others explicitly (in a CC: field, such as, for instance, the EP committee on Energy, and maybe someone from the Council, that would have to be the Finnish minister in charge of Energy policy).

Then there is a wider distribution list of MEPs and national politicians? (not named on the letter) These people would require some sort of short cover letter to introduce the document we're sending them, since they're not addressees.

And then there is the press...

Should the letter be released here on the ET website and a press release sent to media outlets on top of that? The open letter would have to be submitted with a cover letter in any case.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 07:38:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eek!  I just re-wrote the whole letter and then lost it!

The reason I re-wrote is that I think the preliminary paragraphs are too...boring.  Not snappy enough.  I could re-write them if anyone agrees with me.

(sound of tumbleweeds blowing across empty streets...)

I also think that you must absolutely propose alternative questions for the ones you disagree with.  Not just "This is clearly biased" (many people will tell them that; and will be just as easily ignored), but also: "Here is our non-biased alternative, with added ET zip and zing!"

This must be done for each question, and therefore you may need to reduce the number of questions used as examples (if you wish to keep the letter a decent length (it's one page of A4 double-sided at the moment, I think.)

The part about the responses could be broken up into easier-to-see bullet points (I can do that do if you want.)

In my re-write, I missed out the part about Section G.  We say "It's superficial", they say, "No it isn't."  What is gained?  If it is, then examples of the superficiality need to be highlighted.

And always, always, offer alternatives.

Having said all that, I support you all 100% and admire the effort everyone has put in.

I don't think I would be the correct person to co-sign the document as it stands because it relies on a technical understanding of the issues I don't have, and a letter signed by "me too, (Mr. Thicko)" isn't any better than one that isn't--if quality is to beat quantity.

Ach, am I making no sense?  I'll shurrup.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 08:26:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I also think that you must absolutely propose alternative questions for the ones you disagree with.  Not just "This is clearly biased" (many people will tell them that; and will be just as easily ignored), but also: "Here is our non-biased alternative, with added ET zip and zing!"

I think afew makes the point repeatedly that the entire questionnaire should be reorganised along different lines. It is not just that the questions are leading.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 08:32:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean I think this
Most of the questions in the questionnaire are restrictive, leading, and manipulative. The effect is to force respondents into apparent consent to the policy choices set out in the Green Paper. A polling institute which made use of questions of this kind would quickly be challenged and discredited.
is the main point of the letter. Then there are things like "why should one care"? Wallstrom should care because it reflects poorly on the EU's communication strategy, etc.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 08:34:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A polling institute which made use of questions of this kind would quickly be challenged and discredited.

My reading of the above: "A polling institute would have to ask better questions to maintain credibility."

=What are the better questions?

But maybe I shouldn't be in this conversation at all?  (I'm don't think I'm being helpful.)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 08:56:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think this points to the well-known "leading questions are worthless in opinion polls" problem. Afew also says that asking whether the goal is agreed on before asking how to best achieve the goal (leading question) would be an improvement.

All questions are helpful. Convince yourself, then convince a friend, then convince an enemy. You're playing the role of friend needing to be convinced.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 08:59:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Please, please understand that I am in full support of all efforts here (in case I haven't already said that.)  I'm only asking the questions I'd ask if this letter appeared on my desk one morning.  In that case, I'd be some PA to Commissioner X, maybe new in my post.  "Open the mail," Commissioner X would say.  "Rants, stick in the bin.  Queries, read 'em see if you can and reply.  Anything interesting, put it in that envelope.  Answers to the questionnaire, put them in that filing cabinet."

How to get into that "anything interesting" envelope?

So, do we agree that it is impossible to write a non-loaded multiple choice question regarding the topic(s)?

Thing is, I can't see them changing the whole structure because we have found fault, but I can see them taking note of "the form of the questions" for next time round...  

I'm trying to think practically.  A hundred great suggestions end up in the bin because they don't tie to what's feasible on the ground.  I can see it where I work.  The guy from Data Quality bores us for hours about how much we need X, Y, and Z, and he's right of course.  He spends hours writing long messages, paper and e-mail, intranet, you name it, he sends his messages out and is ignored by everyone because they're not that interested and he never gives them simple things to do.  He needs to say:

STOP DOING 'A', DO B INSTEAD.  IT WILL WORK BETTER.  (HERE ARE SOME EASY TO REMEMBER NUMBERS IN CASE YOU FORGET.)

We're not paid enough to be like other lobby groups.  We have to be faster, smarter, more fun, more exacting, ET always gets to the point, knows what's what etc.  If the survey is a crock, then I think the letter could say so more clearly and be shorter.

Then again, I never was good at meetings or reading reports...

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 08:48:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, we do say it. We say "stop using 'interactive policy making' multiple choice questionnaires and look to the Biofuels consultation [run by the other half of your own directorate] for 'best practice'".

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 08:53:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think you're being misunderstood (oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood!), rg.

But I don't fully agree with you. If we're just going to do a snappy, smart, brief put-down saying the consultation is a crock, then we will get shoved in the wastebin, imo. The point of this is that it does go to (I think) sufficient length to argue the case against the questionnaire, and that it will also be sent to the Communication Commissioner whose job it is to look out for this sort of thing, and we will also copy in EP Committees and MEPs. Which I think means it will be read and responded to.

It won't change the face of the earth. I hope it may serve as a basis for challenging whatever "results" DG-TREN try to present as "public opinion" on the basis of responses to the questionnaire. And push the (reluctant) EC a millimetre along the road towards more open communication and acceptance of democratic input.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 09:04:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood!

This is the version I had.

(That pic brought back sudden memories...another strange part of the mind awakens...as if it had been slumbering...and the song isn't even on it!)

Here he is:

looking a bit like this chap:

And to think I never knew 'till now (though I'd heard it) that the original was by the Animals.

But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood

Diddle-iddle-iddle-ow;

And to place the date, my memory of the Graham Parker album is linked to this:

(Whatever happened to, all of those heroes, all those...shakespearos...we made their ears bleed...No!  We watched their Rome burn.  No!  They watched their Rome burn.  The memory is an unbalanced tool..."I said, somefin be'ah change!")

Afew, I wish you all ze good luck and I offer you ze big drink!



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 10:06:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Me, it was the Animals when it came out as a single. Eric Burdon's amazingly bluesy voice, Alan Price arranging and keyboarding, God that was when Britain kicked ass!

<Garble burble old fart memories pffflll....>

(Oh, it's one of my all-time favourite songs!)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 10:49:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not forgetting Chas Chandler who looked about like Stephen Fry and went on to manage Hendrix ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 04:15:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not forgetting Chas Chandler!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 04:28:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think we need to offer our version of the questions. It's their job to do the consultation process properly. If we did it, it wouldn't be organized under the same headings, either. We'd have to tell them how to do the whole thing! No, I think it's perfectly legitimate to complain, pure and simple.

Section G: well, it needs mentioning that the major points of general policy are handled near the end, instead of at the beginning. It's true the point is less clear the further one is from the Green paper and the Consultation questionnaire itself.

This leads me to the conclusion, actually, that we can't push this too far from base. The complaint necessarily supposes a degree of knowledge of the questionnaire. Commissioner Piebalgs and his staff may be assumed to have that, and Commissioner Wallström can take a look at it. MEPs and EP Committees too can be supposed to be familiar with the workings, at least, of these things. But the more general the audience, the less likely it is people will understand what we're bitching about...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 08:40:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would then cut out the press and any MEPs not on the relevant committee(s).

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 08:44:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All MEPs are supposed to take an interest in business brought up by constituents.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 08:46:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure. In my case, "my" (Spanish) MEPs are elected on party list for a single national constituency, so unless I have a personal reson to contact any one of them because of prior contact with them, just the Spanish MEPs on the committee are enough. Or am I supposed to mass-email 54 people? I suppose I could write to Borrell since he was the no.1 candidate on the list I voted for...

This is one of the ways in which party lists put the elected representatives far away from the voter even if they achieve proportional representation. It really doesn't encourage a bottom-up approach as people follow in the UK and US.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 08:50:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Agree totally on party lists. As I said to Alex, we have a regional Green MEP we can certainly sound out. (I voted  Green, and he was head of the list and got in, so I consider he's "my" MEP). Otherwise it's difficult. Who are an MEP's constituents?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 09:07:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Every few weeks the MEPs get a week "off" to go back home to do "constituency work". I find the concept hilarious in a Spanish context.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 10:16:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This leads me to the conclusion, actually, that we can't push this too far from base. The complaint necessarily supposes a degree of knowledge of the questionnaire. Commissioner Piebalgs and his staff may be assumed to have that, and Commissioner Wallström can take a look at it. MEPs and EP Committees too can be supposed to be familiar with the workings, at least, of these things.

Being a cynic, I wouldn't necessarily suppose that the Commissioners know the details (in the same way that my managers don't know the details of much; or MPs for that matter), but they should, and so the letter has chances.  Ditto for specific MEPs and committee members...

My lack of knowledge of the structure and the process(es)...

Maybe the same approach for signatories to the letter?  Yer goodself, of course.  Jerome, if he agrees with the content (and can act as "head" of ET.)  DoDo (if s/he wishes) has the technical skills.  Migeru, if he wants to push the spanish angle and agrees with content.

Me, nowhere mate.  I'm the one in the bar waiting to hear how it went.  Learning "go".  

(I taught it to a friend of mine.  Great game.)

(I'm stuck at 16 kyu.  I can cheat and get to 13, but in truth, against igowin, I still need a three stone handicap to win confidently.)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 09:20:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(p.s. and this may be the wrong place to bring this up...  I'm thinking of going to the annual Green Party Conference in ten days time.  Handily, it's just down the road.  I have a friend who might be able to take some pictures and get them up with the story....so I was thinking how about an official ET press pass?  I could print it off, laminate it...of course, I may be the last person you all would want walking around representing ET.  Black and white sounds good, coz it's easy to print.  We have some art wizzos here, I'm sure.  Something simple, with the words "PRESS PASS" on it somewhere, or somesuch.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 08:32:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
rg's comment set me thinking (see my reply). This is not a LTE, and it's not a press release. It refers specifically to procedures and documents that are not widely known or readily accessible to most people.

If I were on a newspaper, what could I do with it even if I thought it had some interest?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 08:45:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I were on a newspaper, what could I do with it even if I thought it had some interest?

Nothing, of course, or something evil. One would have to write a separate letter regarding this to send to newspapers. And this issue can very easily be  turned into/read as some rather standard and too often occuring Eurosceptic crap: "That EU is non-democratic and no good and they don't listen, maybe we should get rid of it." I don't believe that is the message we would like to get across to anyone. This letter does a good job, as it is written, of being critical of this particular consultation but pro-EU. But I have a hard time imagining any of the papers I read presenting this issue as anything other than Eurosceptic drivel, if at all.

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 10:36:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Am I blind, or does this committee have no mailto?

The president is a Hammersmith Tory...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 11:27:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh. You're right. But you can always CC: the president and the three vice-presidents individually (clicking on their names gives you their personal MEP page with contact info).

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 11:32:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You may not believe this, but MEPs don't systematically have an e-mail address for contact. The Socialist Vice-Chair of this committee doesn't. My effing Green MEP doesn't. Grr.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 11:40:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Time for a new diary bitching about the openness of the EU?

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 11:41:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
She has snail-mail, telephone and fax Brussels and Strasbourg.

So, let's see... On the EP Energy committee we have a Tory, a Forza Italia member, a Czech communist and a Danish social democrat without an e-mail address.

And we wonder why the neoliberals are eating our lunch.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 11:50:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My thoughts exactly.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 12:01:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And we wonder why the neoliberals are eating our lunch.

They're just reforming it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 12:16:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ohhhhh yeaaaaah, I forgot to try out new blockquote colors!
by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 01:35:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Go away with that yucky colour, Alex!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 03:05:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You haven't seen what I'm capable of yet
by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 03:29:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, Alex, I believe you, please stop :-)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 03:37:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Noticed the same thing when I was looking for the MEPs of the Environment Committee. It's very random who has an e-mail address posted, and who hasn't.
by Nomad on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 12:26:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can make a pdf, no problem.
You have my coordinates, I think.

I'd suggest to make a separate diary with the feedback on biofuels (which you can leve in this diary as well).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 06:31:15 AM EST
OK. Will do the biofuels follow-up later today, expanding it a bit.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 07:09:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You also have my name IIRC.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 09:02:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 09:19:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can I summarize:

  • Boffin signatures are kept limited to those that directly contributed to the letter
  • This being an Open Letter, no press release is needed
  • It is addressed to Piebalgs and Wallstrom, but CCs are also send to MEPs sitting at the affiliated committees, and someone from the Council. Undecided on whether people mass mail the letter other MEPS.
  • No translations need to be made for CCs to national newspapers
  • Bilingual efforts are stepped up with the release of the Energize Europe, which should involve a press release or the like

This is correct?
by Nomad on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 10:23:59 AM EST
Yessir! Except point 1. Eurotribbers who've followed this or are interested in energy issues should be able to sign without having directly contributed to the writing.

And "boffin"? I'm signing this as an EU citizen, not as a boffin. It's about democracy, not technology.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 10:55:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
<sticks hand up as person who mentioned "boffin">

What I meant was: those who understand the concepts, recipients, language etc. to a level necessary to create a suitably erudite, informed, etc. letter.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 11:30:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But will you be signing it, Nomad?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 11:19:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just send the e-mail away.
by Nomad on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 12:21:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Official press releases use a (slightly eccentric) industry standard format, thus:

Introduction
Quote (So and so says 'Long quote of things which summarise the point of the release and the PR teams hopes will be newsworthy, and aren't actually a real quote at all')
Background
Punchline

Organisation or personal background
PR contact details ffi
Embargo details specifying when the release goes live and can be discussed in print

Details like letterheads and logos matter, even if the release is a PDF and not on paper.

I can certainly put a formal release together, subject to editing and comments here.

Do we have an official PR/press/media email address at ET? If not, we should either designate someone as the main PR contact, or have a specific mailbox - media@eutotrib.com would work.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 11:48:12 AM EST
It doesn't look like this letter will need a press release, but you could make one anyway as a dry run.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 05:07:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Am I right in thinking that the real targets of this letter aren't necessarily the original authors of the consultation, but other elements in the EU who might want to exercise some oversight of how consultations are being run?

Not that this changes the text, which looks fine to me. But it could be worth keeping in mind for PR purposes.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 11:52:07 AM EST
Both.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 12:11:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Again Great work!! I quickly read over the comments and here is my suggestion for the letter. I think one should make it clearer at the beginning of the letter why it is we are writing and why it is in their interest to read what we have to say. This is VERY WELL summarized in the "To sum up" paragraph but I think the letter might benefit if it was also mentioned clearly and briefly at the very beginning.

Something maybe to the effect of "As EU citizens concerned with Energy issues and having participated in other effective EU consultancies we wanted to bring to your attention some serious flaws in your consultancy process which may affect your ability to make inferences from the feedback you receive. We take the time to bring these to your attention in the hopes that changes can be made to improve the current process."

Some readers will only read the first paragraph and you want them to leave with an understanding of what the key issue is or be enticed to read on.

It seems to me the letter is making one main point:
The consultancy process is not credible because the questionnaire is so restrictive and problematic and cannot be interpreted as a legitimate public opinion poll.

To which I think rg's "how to do it better" question is answered by pointing to the fact that other EU bodies have had credible consultancies so it is possible to do so.

One last comment - it may be helpful to include in the letter the web link to the consultancy questionnaire & maybe even the Biofuels consultancy web site we mention as a "better/best practice" example.

Feel free to ignore or use as needed.

by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 12:53:17 PM EST
Thanks for your support and comments, Alexandra. In fact, it doesn't seem to me that we have to capture the attention of people with the first words. (I don't mean send them to sleep, but...) This is an open letter of complaint addressed to two commissioners, one of whom is responsible for implementing better practice in EU communication. That fact alone should ensure there'll be a reading and a response. (I.e. one lot will have to refer to the other over it, which means they'll have to look at it and decide what their attitude will be).

However, that doesn't guarantee anything as to concrete results. Frankly, I don't expect any. The point is to be on record as having protested about the appalling quality of the consultation, and to be able to refer back and say that this electronic questionnaire is not valid as an opinion-gathering mechanism (as you correctly read in the letter).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 11th, 2006 at 03:24:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but a neutral questionnaire should acknowledge that they exist and are backed by significant constituencies

Is there evidence to support this?  (Maybe offer them a link or a source?  Or is it widely known and I'm just...er....)

rhg


Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 09:44:53 AM EST


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