Richard North, 11/01/2005  

If the commission ever wanted to know why they have such difficulty communicating with the "citizens" of Europe, they need look no further than their former environment commissioner Margot Wallström.

Now the "voice of the commission", responsible for the commission’s communication strategy, her formal title is: "Member of the European Commission responsible for Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy". The very idea of a title so long tells you that the officials who devised it are not of this world.

Nevertheless, the "Member of the European Commission responsible for Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy" (MECRFIRACS for short? – we all know how much the EU likes acronyms) is important to us Euro-nerds as it is she, as her title suggests (it doesn’t always) that she is commissioner-in-charge of communications, charged with the responsibility of convincing us plebs that “Europe” is soft and cuddly and we should vote for its constitution.

Today MECRFIRACS was very much on the job, filling in the time for bored MEPs in Strasbourg until it was time for their £262,000 extravaganza – their party to toast the new European Union constitution in Strasbourg.

Addressing the plenary session of the EU parliament, she gave a stirring speech to the converted, telling the MEPs how wonderful they all were and how the EU constitution would not have been possible without them

But her task was to speak to the 132-page Corbett/Mendez de Vigo report (after its authors, Richard Corbett and Iñigo Mendez de Vigo) on the EU constitution.

"This excellent report", says the lovely MECRFIRACS, "conveys a clear message (in 132 pages?) about the benefits of the Constitution and the need for its ratification." So taken with it is she that she gushes her wholehearted congratulations, making the MEPs feel all warm inside.

Surprisingly enough, the commission fully supports the reports it firmly believes that the Constitution allows the Union to make significant improvements.

And here comes the soft and cuddly bits. In "simple terms" declares the MECRFIRACS, "for the first time, the powers, competences, rights and duties of the Union are set in a single Constitution. The Constitution consolidates and simplifies half a century of Treaty changes allowing us to move from 12 basic treaty acts to a single text: it makes the Union more open and simpler to understand."

The constitution, she says, modernises the institutional structure, increases the powers of the European Parliament and provides for citizens to actively participate in the decision-making process by an initiative of one million signatures: we have more democracy.

It sets out in 54 concise articles the fundamental rights we will guarantee to our citizens. The Union will also for the first time accede to the European Convention on Human Rights: more rights for our citizens.

And now fro the message from your sponsors: In these three simple concepts: more rights, more democracy and more openness we can explain why this constitution should be ratified.

That's the pitch folks – all warm and cuddly: more rights, more democracy and more openness. Beat that! The MECRFIRACS has spoken.

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