Diana Wallis: Why I’m standing up for democracy at heart of the EU

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso
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AS the European Parliament reaches the mid-term point of its mandate tomorrow, it elects a new President or Speaker to take it through to the next elections in 2014. I say elects, but it has been apparent to me for a while that this is not a real contest.

It is strange that we have rules for an election but it seems to be more of succession.

In a version of the Chuckle Brothers “to me to you” routine, the two main groups have passed the main jobs in the European Parliament between them over the years.

This week was to be no different as the German Socialist Martin Schulz was lined up to inherit the post.

Such was his optimism (some have called it arrogance) that he was apparently already appointing his staff and almost literally measuring up for new curtains. Such actions are disrespectful of the Members of the European Parliament and indeed of the people of Europe.

If I am anything, I am a democrat, and last year I took the step to take on these back room deals by announcing my own candidature as an Independent.

This means that I had to be nominated by 40 individual members and not by a political group as is normally the case.

Since then, I have been busy gathering support from all political parties and none as individual members have joined me in defying the grip of the party system. It has been an amazing, if at times challenging, experience.

As a committed European, it is essential to me that in these difficult and uncertain times which all Europe’s citizens face, the Parliament – as the directly- elected part of Europe’s institutional architecture – desperately needs to show itself as openly democratic.

If there is one thing the Parliament is known and respected for, it is its support and championing of democratic and human rights across the globe. So why this blind spot when it comes to our own internal elections? This hardly enhances our credibility with those we represent.

I have been a Vice President of the European Parliament for the past five years and that experience has shown me that there are things that we can do much better.

Every individual MEP arrives in the Parliament with the same elected mandate and the same legitimacy from the electors.

I want to re-empower each individual member of the House to be able take a much greater part in how we organise and how we represent it externally.

I have been active on the whole transparency agenda where we have made huge progress now having in place a lobbyists register which is being copied elsewhere in Europe and from which Westminster could learn a thing or two. Yet overall it is with the national parliaments and the electors of Europe that the Parliament needs to build better resonance and understanding from the ground up.

I have said that I want the law making committees of the Parliament to be seen in the countries of Europe. I challenge each one to hold a meeting, an exchange of views somewhere in a European country so that our work can be more seen and understood.

We spend too much time visiting ministers in capitals and not enough connecting with people. For example, it would be exciting to have the Energy Committee meet in Hull given the offshore renewable and carbon capture projects planned for Yorkshire & the Humber.

I want to blow some winds of change through how we operate internally and externally. I believe that after five years as a Vice President. I am in a unique position among the candidates for the post to do this.

On top of which, it would be wonderful to be able form a bridge between our country (and indeed our region) and Europe in these difficult times.