FOR most of the European Parliament's life its elections have primarily provided a way by which the voting public could express its views on national issues between national parliamentary elections. Useful though this may have been, it was not the idea. Candidates standing for election to the Brussels/Strasbourg institution have not helped either. Instead of campaigning on truly cross-European issues they have been content to rely on the standing of their party on national issues. It is unfortunately unlikely that the polling taking place over the next few days will change this situation significantly although there are special factors that may result in an atypical outcome in Britain. The European Parliament has an image problem. The great majority of people have little or no idea of what its powers are or how it goes about its business. This is a pìty because increasingly this parliament is doing something which Euro-sceptics have been wanting for years -- providing greater oversight and control of the unelected European Union Commission in Brussels. If the Lisbon Treaty becomes law it will help Parliament to extend its responsibilities still further. But the best way of ensuring that this role is enlarged and strengthened is to encourage a much better turn-out of voters than the 45.6 per cent of the electorate who bothered four years ago. One of the first tasks that the new parliament should address is how it can make itself better known and respected.