What interests Finns in EU is work, living, money, and moving around
Last year Finns asked tens of thousands of questions about EU
What interests the Finns in the European Union is moving around, work, and money. This is the conclusion drawn from the questions most commonly presented to the Europe Information network of 20 regional EU information officers.
The EU headlines often concentrate on office contests and turf-wars: will we get the Presidency, who will be the Commissioner, do small countries really have any influence?
From the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ Europe Information, on the other hand, people ask about practical matters in particular.
In 2008 Europe Information was contacted tens of thousands of times.
The organisation’s various information desks were visited 9,000 times. In addition, 5,000 phone calls and 4,500 email enquiries were received. The various organised functions also attracted no fewer than 21,000 visitors.
The compiled five most popular topics of the enquiries included moving around (travelling, working, living), the Lisbon Treaty, EU funding, general information about the EU (how various organs work), and the EU legislation and directives.
Perhaps slightly surprisingly in the runner-up position on the list of the most popular questions is the somewhat bureaucratic subject-matter of the Lisbon Treaty.
Information officer Hanna Päivärinta of Europe information in Helsinki and Uusimaa sheds light on the matter:
“Experts of various fields are interested in the actual text content of the treaty. Ordinary citizens more commonly have queries about how the treaty will affect Finland. Will the EU have more say in matters pertaining to Finland in the future? What will happen to Finland’s influence within the wider Union?”
If the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, the number of members of the European Parliament would rise to 754. Though this is 18 more than now, Finland’s number of representatives would remain unchanged.
In the June EU election, Finland will choose 13 MEPs to represent the country in Brussels.
Finland is fine with this, for in proportion to population smaller countries actually have more representatives than large countries.
What about influence? As a small country, does Finland have any say within the Union?
“Even a small country can exercise leverage if it knows how to offer its expertise, how to network, and how to influence the decision-making process in its various stages", says Päivärinta.
“Also the skill of building compromises is important, and in that department Finland has shown its proficiency.”
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs Europe Information is part of the government’s EU communication strategy.
Europe Information’s purpose is to produce and distribute information about European integration and Finland’s activities in the EU.
The customer service desks are often located in provincial libraries.
Information services for the general public are provided by the regional information officers. They assist private citizens, organisations, educational establishments, and the media and they act as the experts on EU information.
The European Parliament and the EU Commission are responsible for their own reporting.
The elections for the European Parliament will be held on June 7th. Advance voting begins from May 27th and runs to June 2nd. The Helsingin Sanomat candidate selection engine will be opened to readers on May 8th (Friday).
Ministry of Justice Election Site