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by RAY FLEMING
THE European Parliament marked its 50th anniversary yesterday. I didn't see any celebratory articles in the newspapers or discussion of the importance of the occasion on TV. Par for the course, really. Everyone knows that the Parliament is a “gravy train” but no one knows -- or cares -- where it's going. This apathy should begin to change fairly soon because next year the Parliament will take on responsibilities that touch the lives of all Europe's citizens. It already has the power to dismiss the EU Commission if it is dissatisfied with its performance, it approves the Commission's budget and oversees many of its policy proposals. From 2009 the Parliament will have a voice in subjects ranging from agriculture to transport. It is easy, of course, to point to the Parliament's deficiencies and shortcomings. With 785 Members it is too large and the use of 23 official languages slows down procedure considerably. Nonetheless, as it gets more powers it will begin to be the answer to those who complain about the “democratic deficit” of an unelected Commission. But the full functioning and effectiveness of this role depends on the citizens in EU member states taking the trouble to vote for their MEP (the average turn-out in the past has been 45 per cent) and this in turn requires the media to take more interest in the work of the EU Parliament than it has done in the past fifty years.