Last week, I attended a conference in Brussels organised by the EPP Group within the EU Committee of the Regions. Some 64 journalists, broadcasters and columnists drawn from across the member states attended. The three days of interactive training provided the opportunity to hear from MEPs, Commission Spokespersons and Media consultants.

While the meeting was hosted by a political grouping, it was not political in content. The agenda was to encourage and enable the local press to report and comment on the work in which the Parliament is engaged.

Since direct elections commenced in 1979  the per cent turnout has dropped at each successive election.  The EU Parliament has now launched a campaign with the slogan: Act. React. Impact. Communicating with local and regional voters. This is designed to encourage participation in the election next year. All political groupings have agreed that they must nominate their candidate for the Presidency of the Commission, prior to the election.

Also in Brussels last week, Ruairi Quinn spoke at the press conference, the Party of European Socialists (PES), at which it was announcement that the German, Martin Schultz who is the current President of the EU Parliament, is their candidate designate for the office of President of the EU Commission. Most of the Political Groupings have either selected their candidate or are in the process of doing so over the coming weeks.  The EPP to which Fine Gael is affiliated have decided to hold off their selection until the EPP congress which meets here in Dublin next March. Their spokesperson told us that they wanted to have the last word on the matter.

This will be the first time that the electorate will be consulted in the filling of this vital post. Since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, it is agreed that the Council of Ministers will have account of the out turn of the election and on that basis make a nomination to the newly elected Parliament as to who they should elect a Commission president. It will be interesting to see how this process actually will work.