On a daily basis, citizens from all across the EU and the wider world address the European Parliament to request information, express opinions or suggest ideas on an extensive range of topics. The Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP) provides answers to citizens on the issues raised. In 2017, citizens put more than 52 000 questions, suggestions and comments to the European Parliament or its President.
Topics of the year
A central topic of the year was the situation in Catalonia, which was discussed by the European Parliament and the European Commission in a plenary debate entitled ‘Constitution, rule of law and fundamental rights in Spain in the light of the events in Catalonia’. The ongoing Brexit negotiations was another subject of significant interest, with questions often linked to the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and British citizens living in the EU.
As for the last few years, migration policy both at the EU and at the Member State level was an important issue for citizens addressing Ask EP. Citizens wanted to know how the EU was reacting to both an increase in the number of asylum seekers and migrants, as well on how to tackle its root causes. In addition, many citizens addressed the European Parliament on the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union to dismiss the case brought by Slovakia and Hungary on the mandatory relocation of asylum seekers, which the two Member States had opposed.
Also in central Europe, the situation of the rule of law and democracy in Poland triggered a considerable number of reactions from citizens, who wrote to the Parliament expressing their concerns on the separation of powers in the country and the independence of the judiciary.
Concerns on human health relating to the use of glyphosate-based herbicides was another key issue. The European Parliament received many comments from citizens requesting it to take action and reject the renewal of glyphosate in the EU list of approved active substances.
Moving outside of the EU, citizens turned to the European Parliament for answers on the situation in non-EU countries such as in Turkey, Ukraine, Syria, Russia, Venezuela, the Philippines and Iran. Citizens also wrote on the EU-Canada Trade Agreement, approved last year by the European Parliament.
As in previous years, the functioning and activities of the European Parliament sparked citizens’ interest. Many citizens wanted to know about the activities of Members of the European Parliament and how to contact them, as well as how to exercise the right of petition, how to visit the institution, and how to apply for a job or a traineeship in the EU institutions.
Another fundamental concern frequently shared by citizens writing to our service relates to employment, social affairs and inclusion policies and activities, in particular regarding pension schemes, social-security benefits, working conditions, persons with disabilities and health care systems.
Once again, citizens expressed their views to the European Parliament on human rights around the world and the fight against terrorism, the fight against corruption in some EU Member States, the EU’s climate change policy and its consequences, air quality, waste management and water policy and the production of foie gras inside the EU.
Twice a year, wintertime and summertime arrangements, and the subsequent changing of the clocks, prompt citizens to share their views with the European Parliament, both in favour and against these arrangements.
Organised civil society
As the European Parliament is a key player in the EU decision-making processes, it regularly receives suggestions and comments from civil society actors. Some of the main topics in 2017 included animal testing, with many citizens requesting a Europe-wide moratorium on the use of animals in scientific research, and the visit of the Parliament’s Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee to Poland, where Members of the European Parliament observed the situation of women’s rights in the country.
A further topic of interest was the recommendation addressed by the European Parliament to the Council on the so-called ‘global gag’ rule, which ‘prevents international organisations from receiving US global health assistance if they provide, counsel for, refer to or advocate for abortion services’.
Furthermore, citizens wrote on the proposal for a regulation concerning the respect for private life and the protection of personal data in electronic communications which is awaiting its first reading in the plenary. The proposal seeks to achieve the modernisation of the Union data protection legal framework started by the General Data Protection Regulation.
Continue to put your questions to the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP). We reply to you in the EU language that you use to write to us.