I don't think I can say it any more clearly than the title: we really do need to start paying more attention to the European Parliament. Every so often there's a blog article about how the European Parliament is no longer a talking shop, but a strong co-legislator with the Council, usually citing as an example the Parliament's rejection of the first SWIFT Treaty as evidence. It's true, but though the idea that the European Parliament is more powerful now seems to have caught on a bit more, there's no real debate on what Parliament does, and it's a real failing of our media and a lost opportunity.
What do I mean? Well, the Fiscal Stability Treaty that everyone's discussing now makes hardly any changes to the current state of EU law, given that the European Parliament passed around 90% of it last year. These are big issues on how we run our Eurozone economy that we have been debating for the last two years, not a sudden report of this or that treaty* - legislation supposed to help deal with the economic crisis! They are already having an effect nationally and in national politics. And yet there has been little public debate on this until the treaty, and little attempt by the public to use the Parliament as a means to influence EU policy and law.
That's the most damaging part of this: we're not using the European Parliament to its half potential, never mind it's full potential. It's supposed to be there to represent us. There are issues with the distance between the EU institutions and the public, but I'm not satisfied with the attitude that the institutions should bring themselves closer to us - we should be demanding and dragging them closer to us, and calling them on what they get wrong. Our media has improved its coverage of the EU for the economic crisis - a lot of it has been extremely good - but it's missing out on how decisions are being made by focusing on the European Council and all the summits. These are important, but European politics should not be a spectator sport: we need to let the Parliament know that we're demanding participants.
*The European Parliament does deal with lots of security issues - like surveilliance of air travel through the PNR system, which is still going through Parliament.