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EU intros site, freephone service to solve citizens' problems

Their internal market problems anyway. Yum...

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The European Commission has unveiled a brace of advice-giving and problem-solving services for European citizens and businesses, both being designed to make it easier for people to exercise their internal market rights and - we surmise - to give the Commission lots of sticks to bask recalcitrant EU governments over the head with.

The citizen's service, Signpost, looks most interesting at the moment, consisting of a pan-European freephone number, 00800 67891011 (works from the UK, but we haven't figured out anything to ask them yet, apart from the one about why UK Customs and Excise won't let us bring in more than four cartons of cigs at a time) and/or an online form, which you can find here. The Commission suggests it could be used for getting help in getting qualifications recognised in other countries, claiming social security benefits, finding out what your rights are if a flight is overbooked and so on, but the scope is practically limitless, as you can see if you begin to browse here.

The Signpost service is intended to have questions answered by a legal expert native in the language of the questioner within three working days if it's not a complex one, and it's also possible to have follow-up "telephone appointments to discuss in more depth details of particularly complicated cases."

Must cost a fortune? Sounds like it to us, but here's what we think is the underlying agenda:

"After it has been answered, each question is entered into the Commission's Interactive Policy Making database (see IP/01/519) This ensures that the Signpost Service not only gives answers to citizens, but also provides the Commission with invaluable feedback on citizens' needs and expectations and helps the Commission to assess how European law is being applied in the Member States. This in turn will help shape action to prevent problems occurring in the future."

So there you go, sticks and heads, as we said at the outset. The business service, Solvit, has its home page here, where it lists Solvit offices throughout Europe for you to contact. The contact points however seem to be individuals operating within existing government departments (the Department of Trade & Industry in the UK's case), so we're not entirely convinced proper offices exist as such. Still, if they don't you can always complain. ®

Further information:
Commission news release

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