In 2021, people from across the European Union (EU) and elsewhere in the world turned to the European Parliament and its late President, David Maria Sassoli, to request information, call for action to be taken, express their opinions or suggest ideas on a wide range of topics.The Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP) replied in the 24 EU official languages.
In 2021, Ask EP received around 8 600 individual messages and 4 300 campaign enquiries. Citizens wrote on various topics, including the coronavirus pandemic, fundamental rights, migration and asylum, Afghanistan, Belarus, and many others. Ask EP also received many questions related to the European Parliament and its Members, its traineeship offers and how to visit Parliament.
Most frequent topics in individual enquiries in 2021
The most frequently addressed topic in 2021 was matters concerning the European Parliament itself. The Parliament received over 1 850 enquiries, in which citizens expressed interest in Members of European Parliament and their activities, enquired about traineeship and job opportunities and the possibilities to visit Parliament during the pandemic. They also requested information on topics such as parliamentary questions, committee meetings and the right to petition.
The second most frequent topic on which citizens contacted Ask EP last year related to civil liberties, justice and home affairs matters, with around 1 450 enquiries. People voiced their concerns, for instance, about fundamental rights, the rule of law in Poland, Brexit, the situation of persons with disabilities, as well as migration and asylum.
Citizens were concerned about public health, in particular health care and the coronavirus pandemic, with around 950 enquiries received in 2021. Many citizens wrote questions and comments about the EU Covid‑19 certificate, travel restrictions during the pandemic and the management of the crisis by individual EU countries. In particular, many enquiries related to Covid‑19 vaccines and the EU countries’ national Covid‑19 vaccination strategies. More information about the EU response to Covid‑19 is available on the European Parliament’s website.
Issues concerning foreign affairs were another key focus, with over 850 enquiries. Many of the comments and questions focused on Afghanistan, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the situation at the Polish-Belarusian border. Regarding the situation in Afghanistan, the European Parliament called for more humanitarian aid and a coordinated response to protect those most vulnerable, in a resolution adopted in September 2021. Parliament also adopted several resolutions about Russia, in particular concerning the case of human rights organisation Memorial, EU-Russia political relations, the situation of Russian activist Alexei Navalny and the Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s border. In December 2021, the European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Alexei Navalny.
Finally, the European Parliament received many enquiries about citizens’ personal situations with requests for assistance to help them solve problems (financial support, legal aid, cross-border administrative issues, cases of discrimination, etc.). Although neither the European Parliament nor its President are able to resolve many of these types of requests directly, the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit tried to provide citizens with a contact point and sources of information whenever possible.
Campaign messages sent to the European Parliament in 2021
As a response to political, humanitarian and economic events, citizens often send messages to the President of the European Parliament, expressing their views on current issues and/or requesting action from the Parliament. These messages may sometimes be identical, as part of wider public campaigns.
Since March 2021, the President of the European Parliament received 750 messages on the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. Citizens called on the EU not to ratify the agreement, citing human rights abuse in China. The European Parliament needs to vote on the agreement between the European Commission and China for it to come into force. However, it is currently still on hold. The answer given by the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit mentioned Parliament’s scrutiny of the agreement and recalled Parliament’s resolution on the crackdown on the democratic opposition in Hong Kong (January 2021), as well as its resolution on forced labour and the situation of the Uyghurs (December 2020).
In the months of May-June 2021, the President received almost 1 730 messages regarding a non-binding own-initiative report adopted by the European Parliament committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the European Union. Citizens expressed concerns about the report, which they saw as threatening the powers of EU countries to regulate access to abortions. The answer given by the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit notably reminded citizens that the President of the European Parliament is not permitted to give voting instructions to Members who, under Article 2 of the Statute for Members of the European Parliament, exercise their mandate freely and independently.
Over the summer, the European Parliament received around 230 messages calling on the President of the European Parliament to intervene in favour of the release of Native American activist Leonard Peltier. On 23 August 2021, President Sassoli announced that he would address a letter to the United States authorities asking for clemency for Leonard Peltier. The full answer given by the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit is available on the EPRS blog.
Are you curious about our answers to other campaign messages in 2021? You can find all replies to campaigns totalling over 50 enquiries, as well as posts on topical themes on the EPRS blog.
We are looking forward to your enquiries in 2022! Your Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP)
The Citizens’ Enquiries Unit provides information on the activities, powers and organisation of the European Parliament. You ask, we answer.