406 or the long story, when the dream came true (May 20)

On May 12, European Parliament announced the first adopted Written Declaration of the year 2011 - Declaration Nr. 3, signed by 406 MEPs who decided to give their support to World Cleanup 2012 and ask the Commission to enforce EU waste legislation. Julie Clancier, the moving force and magician behind that dream-come-true is sharing the backstage story about how it all came to happen.

We had the number 3, the first written declaration of the year 2011 and we turned it into the number 406!

I promised to come back  with the big picture, well you’ll have it today.

The big picture is also composed of plenty of smaller stories, which are the most beautiful ones, which are hard to write down. For that we would need to show you videos and pictures. You can also contact and speak separately on Facebook with Epp and Triin, with Pärtel, Daniel, Indrek, Nara, Mircho, Mina, Aleksander, Toomas, Kadi and me… But for today, you’ll find here the path we took and the methods we put in place with the people we had in the team!

When did you start and finish the work on getting the signatures - how much time did it take on the whole?

The work started at the end of January - beginning of February, the time to elaborate and draft the text, decide who would be the initiators, get them on board, involve them in the modifications of the text and start speaking in the corridors of the Parliament to our colleagues and friends about Let’s Do It and the World Cleanup 2012,  show to the different political groups of the European Parliament the Let’s Do It video and/or report on what is WC 2012 and who are the Let’s Do It people.

Depending on when you submit the text, you get more or less time to get the signatures. We thought about that and postponed the submission. We had three months in which mainly counted the  monthly plenary sessions in Strasbourg and one mini plenary session in Brussels. A total of 14 days. 

There were two different moments:
  • The preparation and planning of the work , which was a lot of efforts: like preparing flyers in different languages, posters, excel tables, promotional material like our now well-known yellow T-shirts, emails spaming, identifying MEPs according to committees and political groups, recognizing them with the help of the vademecum (picture and name book of MEPs)…
  • The action, which was challenging, fun and the best part! The action took place at 5 occasions, each time for 2 or 3 intense days, during which we physically collected the signatures.
However, the official start for the signatures was February 14, Valentine’s Day – how beautiful! And it officially ended on May 15. 

In April, when Slovenians and Estonians from Let’s Do It came to help for the collection, we went from 174 to 300 signatures collected! It was just amazing!

Let's do it! World team members helping to collect signatures in Strasbourg, April 2011. Photos by Kadi Kenk

Once you reach 300, you get one additional month if needed. We didn’t use that possibility - we wanted to get all of them as quickly as possible. On May 10, we knew that we obtained the majority and that it will be anounce two days after. A written declaration is adopted when it is signed by the majority of the MEPs, i.e. 369. But we wanted to get even more signatures, that’s why we didn’t say officially proclaim the results by then. On the 12th of May, we got 406 and our written declaration was officially  declare adopted and anounce as such by the President of the EP.

How many written declarations are launched in the EP every year? How many of them get the needed amount of signatures? How many signatures could one possibly get?

It depends really, every year is different. For example, between 2004 and 2009, 37 have been adopted out of an average of 100 initiated every year. Since the new legislature, 16 have been adopted included ours. Depending on the additional month you can get, use it or not, depending on the subject also, if you pass 300, you can more or less collect between 369 and 420 signatures.

How many people were involved?

I am not good at maths but around 22 people. Officially of course 5 MEPs. But MEPs have their advisors, assistants and trainees and the collaboration with the Let’s Do It! World Team was crucial. I would say that the success relied  on 1,5 MEPs, 6 advisors/assistants/trainees of 1 office and 9 people from the Let’s Do It! World Team.

What were the main efforts or tactics to get the MEPs to sign?

Getting the official initiators of the text fully involved, planning, distributing tasks and keeping people involved, getting authorisations from the EP to do our planned actions, going through all the bureaucracy to make things happen, giving phones calls to MEPs’ offices at the beginning; then knocking on MEPs’ heaven’s door.

You need huge persistance and presence all way long during plenary sessions especially. You need advanced computer skills, rapidity, beautiful smiles, no shyness, incredible soft ways of touching people emotionnally, great sense of diplomacy in knowing when to push and when not to, speaking with hands!

The challenge to put the tactic in place: knowing where and when it is fishing time!
Tactics ? Once we discovered the right ones, then we fished a lot!
It is : doing before asking, being  physically visible all the time everywhere, physical approach, keeping on questioning until you get what you want, whatever the way! 

Some say the beginning was the hardest time, but there it was a bit the opposite. In the beginning, we didn’t dare, but we improved our techniques with time and in the end everybody would recognize us and know us as "the yellow T-shirts".

The hardest part: succeeding in making people know this declaration existed and make it stand out.  But wearing and showing us with the T-shirts, going against the bothering rules inside the EP forbidding the T-shirts, struggling with security people….that was fun!

At the end, Mr. Buzek, the President of the Parliament would wave at us every time he would see a yellow T-shirt !

What next? How will it help the volunteers and organizers in different countries?

At the end of the day…unfortunately it’s only a text.  So YOU PEOPLE need to make it live, and I’ll tell you how. 

You can use this declaration country by country, analyzing in the list of MEPs, who signed the one from your country and look also eventually in which municipality of your country he/she is elected in or responsible for, contact him/her, once it comes to specific needs or problems you have in the organisation of the cleaning.

How each team can contact their signed MEPs and ask for their support?

Please write them an email to their Parliament’s adress (firstname.lastname@europarl.europa.eu), wait three days, then call if you have the possibility or write again the same email. In any case, put me in copy, if needed I will help to do the follow-up with the others in the Parliament.

As an addition, we have choose 50 most influencial members inside the list of people, who signed, we will send them a letter and try to meet them to see, who are the ones, who agrees to be in the pull of Meps, who are anyway at our disposals and in advance aware that such requests could come from YOU GUYS!
Once it has been done, I will send you a letter to inform, who are the ones. But in the meanwhile, do your part!

Finally, I would say :

The key in all that mess, the way of getting to the results was: find the way to have fun and you'll get the fish!

Wishing you all to make the best of it!

Julie Clancier