Wanted: MEPs with knowledge

By: Sirpa Hammarberg, Elina Rantalainen and Eeva Ristkari (group 1)

Parliament is a nation in miniature, but do we REALLY want that? In a society there are people who have good output, but nothing inside the hat. And, on the other hand, people with a lot of wisdom and horrible output. Which one you would like to be the one pushing the vote button in the European Parliament?

Good output, lots of wisdom?

Democracy isn’t perfect. According to Esko Valtaoja, Finnish writer, thinker and professor of astronomy, the problem of democracy is equality.

It raises opinions above knowledge… More and more complicated world doesn’t need populism and gut-feelings, but ever more knowledge instead of opinions.(Turun Sanomat 19.4.2011, in Finnish)

He is worried that people give their votes to “good guys and chicks” and populism and gut feeling is guiding instead of wisdom.

EU decision making is very detailed and complicated. The only requirements for a MEP are:
he/she has to

  • be a citizen of the Union;
  • be resident in the EU country in which s/he proposes to vote or to stand as a candidate;
  • satisfy the same conditions as a national of that EU country who wishes to vote or to stand as a candidate (the principle of equality between national and non-national voters).

MEPs salary: 12 000 – 14 000

Should we test the knowledge of the Members of the European Parliament before we allow them to make decisions that affect the prices of sending SMS to our friends, how much money must every state member put on the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and can you clone animals in the EU?

Every taxpayer in 27 member states pays the salary of the 736 MEPs. And the number of MEPs may rise in the year 2014 elections according to BBC. MEP makes 7 956 euros as a salary, with daily expense allowance and travelling benefits the money earned in a month is 12 000–14 000 euros.

The budget of the European Parliament is 1,686 billion euros in 2011.

The budget of the European Parliament is 1,686 billion euros in 2011.

European Union institutions use competition and examinations in process called EU Concours, when selecting staff. Should the MEPs take such tests as well?

How well would you do? Try here!

Helena Petäistö, a recognized Finnish EU-journalist has seen many kinds of MEPs during her career: good, experienced and hard-working, and those who don’t work nearly at all. She sees that there are more “qualified” MEPs than in the previous years, due to the growing importance of the European Parliament.

I don’t support the idea of qualification tests. It is against democracy. I see that the media plays a vital role in this. It is media’s task to spread knowledge for the voters about EU’s significance. Maybe then people might stop voting celebrities and screwballs to the Parliament.

When asking Finnish EU-parliamentarians, if there should be a test, the solid answer is no.

According to law-experts the idea of an “entrance test” for the MEPs is impossible. “Being a parliamentarian isn’t a profession, it is a position of trust and therefore there can’t be any requirements for the candidates. It would be against democracy”, states Tuula Majuri, Counselor of legislation from the Finnish Ministry of Justice.

Tuomo Martikainen, a professor of political science is also against the idea of testing the candidates. “The idea is quite clever, but dead before it was born. It would be against the spirit of democracy if there was some kind of limitations for who can be a candidate and who can’t. If the people want to elect an idiot to the parliament it is their choice and their right.

The turnout has dropped in every election.

The turnout has dropped in every election.

Since the first elections in 1979, the turnout has been falling throughout the European Union. In the first elections 1979 election turnout was 63 %. The turnout has dropped in every election. The last time only 43 % of the persons entitled to vote in the European Parliament election voted.

Tests to make the selection easier?

Could the media’s and public interest in EU elections be increased by testes which were published and used as a selection tool like the election machines on the web?
What if the test wouldn’t limit their chances to become a member of the parliament?

The suggestion gets just a little bit more support.
There’s a point in that”, says Martikainen and continues with a better idea: “More realistic and equitable solution would be that the parliamentarians’ ability to do their job would be tested all the time – also between the elections.
Martikainen suggests that some official institute, for example Eurostat would administrate a register about parliamentarians’ working habits.

There are a few parliamentarians who know that they don’t need to do anything between the elections, because nobody follows their working. If there was an institution which would update their actions to the register all the time, they would have to concentrate on the promises they have given to the voters and do their job well.

Democracy isn’t perfect, but it’s all we have.

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One Response to “Wanted: MEPs with knowledge”

  1. peterverweij Says:

    very good story. the intro is perfect also the video is a good laugh and show the case. detalied use of figures which sustain the argument. Well chosen and credible sources to comment on the proposition. Nice balance in the sources betrween journalist and academic. good links and scanable layout.

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