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Some solution to Euroscepticism

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By Thomas Bignal

The EU is often viewed as some huge bureaucratic monster that has no or little appeal to the average person. It is difficult for most people to understand how important the settlement of a long-term European budget is to their own lives.

Indeed, why should people care about some high-level technocratic political “hoo-ha” when the latest Quentin Tarantino movie is out on the blocks?

Truth is, these criticisms are not without reason. Why would someone care about Europe when one already has to deal with our everyday chores. As important as EU policy might be, it certainly isn’t as appealing as talking about the latest iphone application or who is the better player between Ronaldo and Messi.

Yet despite the appearances, the European institutions do take some decisions which should be of interest to all of us. They’re just not always sufficiently put forward by the press. Here are a few examples:

Au revoir holiday phone bill !

On 30th May 2012, the European Council adopted a regulation ensuring that mobile phone users do not pay excessive prices for Union-wide roaming services when travelling within the EU. This will ensure that we will no longer have to worry about accidently running up huge bills when surfing the web using your phone on holiday. Now, thanks to the European Union, you won’t ever receive those crazy phone bills when you come back from holiday. For one, I’m pretty damn glad as I was one of those unlucky –or stupid- people.

Protecting our right to privacy !

One of the most talked about decisions taken over the last few years by the European Parliament was their rejection of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, commonly known as ACTA. One of the most controversial aspects of ACTA was its digital chapter, which critics say left the door open for countries to force internet service providers to police their own customers. The European Parliament decided to reject the Agreement on 4th July viewing it as “too vague, open to misinterpretation and could therefore jeopardise citizens’ liberties”. Who would want our governments and service providers having a look in to what we are looking up on the net, using the fight against internet piracy as an excuse? It’s always good to know that there are at least some people fighting to protect our right to privacy … and to stream our favourite TV shows for free. Good work MEPs, keep it up.

Taxing risky trading

And even more recently, on the 22 January 2013, 11 EU countries agreed to set up a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) which aims at making traders share the cost of the crisis that they have contributed to through what appeared to be an unsustainable trading environment. Put simply, the FTT is a small tax on financial transactions that would raise billions to tackle poverty and climate change, both in Europe and abroad.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind if the estimated 37 billion EUR that would come out of this tax went into my back pocket but I suppose that wouldn’t go down too well with my fellow 500 million-odd Europeans; even more so cause my own dear country (i.e. Britain) still refuses to take part in any of that dangerous activity that is making sure the banks pay their due part... More seriously, in addition to restraining the traders from using our cash for some of their more risky trading, this additional funding could be well-used if it were to be invested into getting some of the poorer members of our society into jobs in areas related to renewable energies, social healthcare and combating that bloody damn climate change. Whatever the cash is spent on, it’s always good to get a bit of additional investment in these austerity-led times. Anyhow, surely the FTT is a good project the EU is currently working on, if only for encouraging more responsible financial trading … and helping me to get a job?

0.2 Cent in each of our back pockets

And last but not least, I’m sure you’ve all heard that the Nobel Peace Prize has chosen the European Union as its laureate last year. People have questioned if this was the right choice, for a variety of often overly redundant, boring and condescending reasons. Frankly, all I care about is the 930 000 EUR reward. Yes, that is a little less than 0.2 Cent for each of us 502.5 million European citizens. Christmas come early, I call it!

So, to conclude, the EU might not be getting us into jobs, but at least it’s lowering our holiday phone bills. Considering nobody seems to have a miracle solution on how to end this crisis, I suppose we will have to satisfy ourselves with lower phone bills and spending our long awaited Nobel Peace Prize award money. Despite this being only a brief overview of some of the stuff the institutions have done over the past year, it does go to show that beyond all the existential debates currently going on, the European institutions do sometimes work on topics of interest to us everyday normal people. Perhaps the European institutions should take lead on this, if they wish to convince Europeans of their usefulness.