Meeting with MEP Hennis-Plasschaert, aka @jeaninehennis

Screenshat of @JeanineHennis Twitter page

Screenshot of @JeanineHennis Twitter page

I have been following @jeaninehennis for several months now, both on Twitter and Facebook, and I must say she has definitely rekindled my faith that yes, web 2.0 tools (or whatever you want to call those new tools aimed at making communication on the net two-way rather than one-way) are definitely an excellent manner for EU politicians and civil servants to communicate about Europe and, more importantly, to create a bridge between the rather cold looking EU institutions and people in the street. Meeting her this week in the European Parliament for a short interview on her use of Twitter namely, she certainly confirmed in person all of the impressions she conveys over the net: “closeness to the people”, “straightforward”, “involved and concerned about what she does”…all of that, and fun too! And believe me, I have been around Parliament for long enough to know that, if there are people with great qualities in that glass and steel building, “exceptional” is not as common!

So what did we talk about, once introductions were done (and for those worried about transparency and lobbyists: yes;, I’m in all the registers and yes, I start off rambling out the full list of my clients so there’s no mystery about who pays my living)?

Well, basically, about @JeanineHennis’ enthusiasm about Twitter and Facebook. On the positive side, she notably quoted the fact that it allowed her to have an immediate contact with people she would not have the time to interact with otherwise, to feel challenged by people, to have them convey their concerns…@JeanineHennis strongly believes Twitter and other social networking tools will help bridge the gap that exists between people in the street and the EU, and that it contributes to more direct democracy...and what I liked most is when she summarised it all by saying “…and it’s really fun! Some people just call me “my dear” and I like it when I have a spare minute to let people know what I’m doing and what I’m concerned about…For me, it is absolutely not a burden, but something I do spontaneously”. In over a year of using Facebook first and Twitter second, she did not find any negative aspects to it, even if she did recognise that sometimes people could be somewhat aggressive in their replies…but that is part of a dialogue and she did not see it as a deterring point. She had tried to convey her enthusiasm to colleagues over the past months and considered some did “get it”, whilst others seemed to treat it as a channel to issue press releases or worse, just a burden.

We also discussed the “Woman @ EU Top” twibbon initiative, and the fact that when Ms Hennis adopted and supported this initiative, she received quite some criticism about people considering this meant she was pro-affirmative action. She jokingly quoted Ms Neelie Kroes who once said the biggest cartel in Europe is probably the “old boys’ club” at the top…

Funnily, just when we were wondering if Twitter was maybe something more for our generation then the younger ones, @WimvandeCamp , another fervent Dutch MEP-twitterer, intervened to state that it was obviously for all ages: the young like Ms Hennis, and the less young like him!

Julien Frisch, one of the key eurobloggers, once wrote a post about the fact that bloggers rarely write positive posts (see here). I guess today I am the exception that confirms the rule!

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