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Commissioners get up close and personal - 07/08/2008

Margot Wallström sitting at a desk in front of a laptop

Blogs not only provide direct access to commissioners - they also reveal a more personal side to the EU’s top officials.

Margot Wallström was moved to tears by the rescue of Ingrid Betancourt from the Colombian jungle. When Janez Potočnik was in high school, he gave little thought to politics. Vladimír Špidla is a big football fan.

Like government officials around the world, EU commissioners are sometimes accused of being faceless bureaucrats. But their blogs – now numbering six, with commissioners Dimas, Fischer Boel and Piebalgs also blogging regularly - tell a different story.

In her most recent entry, communications commissioner Wallström pays tribute to Polish anti-communist dissident Bronislaw Geremek, who died in a July car accident. She draws a contrast with former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic, recently arrested as a war crimes suspect.

“Both of these men played a huge role in changing the countries they lived in and their actions affected the lives of millions of people. But in what radically different ways.”

Writing earlier in July, Wallström welcomed the news of Betancourt’s rescue after more than six years as a hostage. “I must admit there were tears in my eyes as I watched Mrs Betancourt’s wonderfully articulate son and sister at their press conference last night,” she said.

Science commissioner Potočnik recently visited his former high school in Slovenia to talk about his job in Brussels. “Going back to my high school certainly brings back lots of memories,” he writes. “When I was at school I never gave any thought to politics, the European Union, and things alike. It was more about girls and sports - or the other way around.”

Employment commissioner Špidla talks about efforts to improve conditions for minor league professional footballers, a timely subject after the European championship in June. But he doesn’t let the seriousness of the subject conceal his enthusiasm for the sport. “Europe’s top footballers wowed us yet again with fantastic playing and some amazing goals,” he says. “It’s hard not to be a bit jealous of these guys.”

The blogs, which invite feedback from readers, are just one way the EU is trying to connect with the public. A new website lets people chat with EU commissioners in real-time. The EU also has a formal public consultation process it often uses when considering changes in policies.

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