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22 May 2013

You don’t often hear news of victorious achievements for the European Parliament but I bet you have heard about the latest one. In the middle of the financial turbulence crippling Europe, the parliament has come up with a new directive that targets the very thing that we didn’t come to worry about: the way olive oil is served in restaurants.

The world’s media has reported on a new directive that bans olive oil from being served in jugs or dishes. Instead, from now on, olive oil must be in pre-packaged, factory bottles with a tamper-proof dispensing nozzle and labelling that is in line with EU standards.

Undoubtedly this new piece of legislation will join the list of directives that have been a laughing stock for Europe’s Eurosceptics for years. Remember the legislation that set up tight rules on how bent bananas can be?

A while back I went to Brussels to speak to some Finnish MEPs. Over numerous cups of Finnish coffee, the MEPs all admitted being worried about the same problem: how difficult it is trying to make people understand what actually happens in Brussels. Between the lines I was able to grasp that they were also all concerned about their reputations and the next elections – why would anyone vote for them again if there had been no actual evidence of them having done something? That is, unless the voters want to keep them away from domestic politics on purpose.

Maybe someone should finally wake up and direct a few million euros towards doing some real PR for the EU. Because even though we laugh at these stupid laws there are actually valid reasons for their existence. Bananas that were above the threshold of bendiness were not actually banned, just assigned a different class. The olive oil law is there to protect restaurant customers: it’s been found that sometimes the olive oil in restaurants’ own jugs is just not very good.

And there have been successes. Nowadays I enjoy travelling around using my mobile phone without the annoyance of greedy operators ripping me off with their massive roaming fees. I travel around Europe and see new construction projects funded by the EU. I bet a knowledgeable communication expert would be able to turn all of this into good publicity. So, European Union, be more aggressive, go and do a publicity attack and stand up against those bullies who don’t know any better. Make yourself more public and easily approachable instead of relying people to gradually discover you. You are a bit too important to be valued only by a small circle of people.

Markus Hippi is a presenter and producer for Monocle 24.


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