The latest episode in the shambolic security at the European Parliament involved a journalist smuggling in a replica gun and managing to get within a few metres of Prince Charles and Jose Barroso.
The response from the Parliament has been to blame journalists, claiming that the reporter from French news channel BFM TV, had “broken the relationship of trust” between the institution and the hacks.
Reporters would counter that the incident, coming just four days after the third armed robbery in the Parliament, was in the public interest and that people had a right to know that the €35 million a year, spent on security of the building, seems to be ineffectual.
To be fair, the Parliament tries to be as open as possible, creating a public space for citizens and 10,000 visitors a year. The point, in this case, is that blaming the media is hardly the most appropriate response.
Perhaps we can look at some ideas on how to improve the security. First of all, let’s adapt the idea behind the US Marshalls, armed cops who work undercover on long haul flights to the US, who are expected to intercept a would be terrorist from taking control of the plane.
The press would be excellent candidates for this and a heavily armed press corps would make the Commission’s Mid-day Briefing much more fun if spokespersons could be questioned at gunpoint. This would be a great move towards increased transparency. The down side is that there would be cases of correspondents shooting themselves in the foot, or, unable to face another exciting briefing on herring statistics, may choose to end it all.
This could mean that the cleaners would need a small bonus for sweeping up brain fragments, but there are plenty more unemployed journalists around so disruption should be minimal.
Another major addition to the safety of deputies is about to come on the market. I refer, obviously to Colonel Gadaffi’s team of amazonian bodyguards, who are to enter the job market pretty soon. I’m sure many of our MEPs would appreciate some close protection from these ladies.
Identity verification is also a problem area. ID cards can be stolen, forged or misused. The only sensible approach is for all EU staff and deputies to be injected with a bio chip. This could contain their voting records and possibly their Metro Cards.
This could also be supported by tattooing a barcode, somewhere out of plain sight, on people. The new QR barcodes, in a square shape, can handle up to 700 words. These could be configured to a person’s tattoo could, when scanned. download contact details or perhaps, download and iPad app concerning the person’s website, latest press releases and so on.
Another use of technology has been pioneered on the US quiz show, Jeopardy, when a computer successfully beat two long standing human champions. The machine, named Watson, can answer questions put in natural English.
Wouldn’t it be much better if this was used instead of some of the meat based assets of the EU? Would it really be less interesting to hear Watson answer questions than a mid-level Commission official? It could hardly be less enlightening.
With these ideas, the European Parliament can offer a brighter and safer future to all who work there. And for far less than the current security budget.