Sunday 21 December 2014

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The EU is governed by seven institutions: the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council of the European Union (the Council); the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the Court of Auditors.

 

2015—Can We Make It Different?

Posted by on 18/12/14

The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on where we are compared to where we want to be. A few days ago I came across a post by British MEP, Richard Corbett. He wrote about how the pragmatism of the EU is important for solving problems, but “when we focus exclusively on self-interested arguments, we risk forgetting the underlying motivation for what we do – and this is dangerous.”

Mr. Corbett describes three reasons why this is dangerous, and why we should avoid isolationism. I would like to focus on one particular suggestion that he makes there: “The best way to fight the negativity of narrow-minded nationalism is to present an alternative, positive story which shows the myths up [about Europe] for the nonsense they are.”

The problems of self-interest and narrow nationalism that Mr. Corbett points to are definitely on target. And yet, merely pointing out the problem won’t make it disappear. The forces that push for segregation are far greater and deeper than meets the eye, and require a conscious effort on the part of many organizations working in sync to provide a sustainable, long term solution.

Self-interest is at the core of our society. It is the mindset of every society, even social-democratic ones. It is at the foundation of human nature. It is not bad in and of itself, but when idolized and cultivated to an extreme, it becomes nocuous. This is where we stand now on every level—personal, social, national, and international. We’re living in the Me, Me, Me, era, a culture of narcissism. But every therapist will tell you that narcissists don’t see reality for what it is. When the whole of the Western civilization is approaching that state, it is very dangerous indeed.

The cure, therefore, has to include steps toward reversing that trend and establishing a more cohesive society, where solidarity and mutual responsibility are deemed greater than self-promotion. I do subscribe to Corbett’s words that “The best way to fight the negativity of narrow-minded nationalism is to present an alternative, positive story which shows the myths up for the nonsense they are.” And I believe that if we build an education program that gives people a personal experience of social cohesion, we won’t have to worry about narrow-minded nationalism, or any other narrow-minded self-centered approach.

At the ARI institute, we offer such a method, called Integral Education (IE), where people learn to communicate and relate to one another in a completely new way, and on a completely new level. We have implemented it all over the world, from the US to Europe, to the Middle East, and more often than not, in conflict weary societies. The results have been outstanding. Using a few simple rules of discussion, people discover, then cultivate, a new sense of kinship, and wish to preserve it.

The logic behind IE is simple: the world is interconnected and interdependent. Our values, on the other hand, are the complete opposite: self-indulgence, brutal competition, and alienation. By learning the new method of connection among us, we align ourselves with the reality of our lives. This eliminates the conflict between our need to feel superior (due to our ego-prone education) and the interdependent reality of life. When that happens, the “positive story which shows the myths up for the nonsense they are,” as Corbett so nicely put it, emerges by itself, effortlessly.

I encourage you to visit my site, where you will find more information about IE, and please contact me for further discussion about promoting Europe toward a better, more united future.

May 2015 be a year of positive shifts for all of us.

 

A general regulation of administrative procedure for the European Union?

Posted by on 16/12/14

Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon the passionate desire of the European Ombudsman and European Parliament is to create a regulation for administrative procedures for all European institutions. Unfortunately the legal basis for such a proposal is far from solid.

By Pieter van der Ploeg

Currently, rules on administrative procedures for EU institutions are scattered throughout a variety of sources of EU law. In primary law article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union establishes everyone’s right to fair and impartial administration. At the level of secondary law, administrative procedures are regulated per policy area in a variety of binding and nonbinding instruments. The prime example is Regulation 1/2003, which contains the Commission’s procedures on competition law. Last, the European Court of Justice has established several principles of good administration in its case law. So far the court has recognized the principle of non-discrimination, the principle of proportionality, the right to a hearing before an adverse decision is taken by a public authority, and several other principles.

 

Towards a regulation of administrative procedure

In 2012 the European Parliament conducted an investigation into the current state of affairs of administrative procedures in the so-called European Value Added Assessment on the Law of Administrative Procedure of the European Union. To the European lawyer the results sound familiar and reasonable. Rules on administrative procedures are fragmented, are often legally nonbinding, or are completely absent in some policy areas. A general European administrative procedures law would enhance legal certainty, create a clear set of rules of procedure for all European institutions, increase the effectiveness of the European administration, and, most importantly, enhance citizens’ trust in the European Union. Consequently, on 13 January 2013 the European Parliament adopted a resolution urging the Commission to draft a proposal on the matter.

However, is there a solid legal basis in the EU treaties for such a EU regulation for administrative procedures? The second paragraph of article 5 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU) clearly states that the Union shall only act within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the member states. In other words, the European Union needs an explicit legal basis in the EU treaties in order to adopt any form of legislation. The European Parliament claims to have found a legal basis in a combination of article 41 of the Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union and article 298 in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The first paragraph of the first article is:

Every person has the right to have his or her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time by the institutions and bodies of the Union.

Everyone has the right to a fair and impartial European administration, however, article 41 of the Charter does not prescribe how this fairness should be regulated. Article 298 of the TFEU states:

1. In carrying out their missions, the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union shall have the support of an open, efficient and independent European administration.

2. In compliance with the Staff Regulations and the Conditions of Employment adopted on the basis of Article 336, the European Parliament and the Council, acting by means of regulations in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, shall establish provisions to that end.

The second paragraph provides the much needed competence for the EU to adopt legislation. However, the aim of this competence is solely to regulate the relation between the EU institutions and the European administration. By its very nature a regulation concerning administrative procedures has both an internal and an external effect: it not only contains norms that regulate the decision-making process of the administration itself, but also norms of good administration that citizens can appeal to and norms which allow individual citizens to appeal unjust acts of the administration. There is considerable room for doubt as to whether article 298 TFEU actually provides a legal basis for a EU regulation on administrative procedure since the aim of the article is purely internal.

 

The case for a legal basis for the EU regulation for administrative procedures

The study carried out by the European Parliament (see above) fails to provide solid arguments with regards to the legal basis for a EU regulation for administrative procedures. An important argument is the interpretation of article 41 of the Charter by the Intergovernmental Conference in which a link between this article and article 298 TFEU is established. While the supposed weight of this interpretation may be brought into question, let us address the substance of the argument.  The conference does not explicitly mention that the two articles provide the basis for a European administrative act. It only states that both article 41 of the Charter and article 298 TFEU are connected. Furthermore, the conference does not mention the specific form in which these articles should be implemented. From the conference’s interpretation the conclusion therefore cannot be drawn that the manner in which European administrative law is currently shaped is insufficient.

A stronger argument is based on a systematic interpretation of the EU Treaties. According to this line of reasoning, the EU Treaty and the TFEU already have separate provisions for adopting internal rules of procedure and staff regulations. The scope of article 298 TFEU is wider than these provisions and therefore it provides a sufficient basis for an administrative regulation. Nevertheless, article 298 TFEU is still limited to establishing provisions aimed at the European administration. While the separate provisions on rules of procedure and staff regulations allow the EU institutions to regulate their own procedure article 298 TFEU allows the EU to regulate this matter across all EU institutions. The Commission, the Council and the European Parliament can regulate the entire European administration with one legally binding instrument.

This is not the first time that the European Union attempted to adopt an act with the best intentions in mind. In Opinion 2/94 the Court of Justice found that the (former) EC lacked the competence to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights. It took a formal change of the EU Treaties to gain this competence which is now codified in article 6 (2) TEU. Although the aim of the EU regulation for administrative procedures is admirable, this does not mean that the EU may adopt an act outside of the competences that have been conferred to it under the EU treaties. A change in the EU Treaties is a difficult process, but will provide a stronger legal basis for a EU regulation for administrative procedures.

Pieter van der Ploeg studied European law at the University of Amsterdam.

China and the Balkans

Posted by on 16/12/14

The presence of China in the Balkans is not new. During the years of the Cold War, China closely cooperated first with Albania and then with Yugoslavia. In fact, Albania was one of the key initiators of the UN resolution 2758 which led to the UN recognition of the People’s Republic of China in 1971.[1]

Towards the end of the 1970s, the relations between Albania and China deteriorated, largely due to the opinion of the supreme Albanian Communist leader Enver Hoxha that the Chinese leadership began taking the revisionist path regarding the classics of Marxism-Leninism.[2]

As the later developments showed, Hoxha’s assessment was right on the mark. It is not surprising therefore that, after the death of Mao Zedong, the Communist party of China began cultivating friendly relations with the openly revisionist and non-aligned Yugoslavia.

During the wars that followed the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, China generally took a neutral standpoint and supported the decisions made by the UN Security Council concerning the situation on the ground. This attitude changed during the NATO attack on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (the rump Yugoslav federation, consisting only of Serbia and Montenegro).

At that time, during one of the NATO raids on the Yugoslav capital Belgrade in early May 1999, NATO bombs hit and severely damaged the Chinese Embassy. Three people were killed and twenty injured, including Chinese diplomats.[3] NATO officials blamed outdated maps and other technical details, but the Chinese government was not convinced. Large-scale protest demonstrations took place all over China in condemnation of what was seen as an unprovoked aggression by NATO.[4]

It appears that this brutal infringement by NATO on the sovereign space of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade made the Chinese government re-consider its Balkan policy. Instead of more or less pronounced indifference which prevailed for a decade, it decided to accept the challenge of its Atlantic geopolitical adversary and get involved in the region more closely.

In fact, since 2000, the Chinese trade grew on average 30 percent annually not only with the Balkan countries, but also with their neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe.[5] In April 2012, the Chinese relations with this part of the world were raised on a higher level by the organization of the so-called “16+1″ summit in Warsaw.

The “16″ stood for the sixteen countries of the Central and Eastern Europe (11 EU members and 5 EU candidates) and “1″ for China. There was even the talk of setting up a formal Secretariat and hence becoming an international organization with a legal status.

The first summit in Warsaw focused on the economic side of the relationship and especially on the possibility of Chinese large-scale investments.[6] Having just gone through a deep economic crisis, the Eastern and Central European countries were looking for ways to jump-start their economies and China was basking in the newly found but deserved role of the global player. No wonder that this summit attracted a lot of attention from the European Commission and their transatlantic US allies.

Some observers claimed that yet another rift was being created in the European Union between the so-called “old Europe” (the EU founding members) and the “New Europe” (the former Communist countries). These two “halves” of the EU had already gone through a spate of animosity over the involvement in the Iraq war in 2003.[7]

However, most experts have been uncertain as to whether there is any cause for concern by the EU Commissioners in Brussels and the officials of the US-NATO Empire.

On the level of personalities, last year’s summit in Bucharest involved a new figure on the Chinese side. In between the two summits, Li Keqiang replaced Wen Jiabao, who many consider the ideologue of the Chinese Central-Eastern European-Balkan pivot, in the post of the prime minister. But the Chinese political line remained unchanged.

The Bucharest summit participants adopted certain formal guidelines, concerning increased cooperation in the fields of infrastructure development, science, technology, tourism, etc.[8] The key element in all of this constitute, of course, the credit lines of Chinese banks.

As far as the concrete things go, the prime minister of Hungary, the perpetual EU “rebel”, Viktor Orban got a Chinese commitment to invest more than $2 billion dollars in the Budapest-Belgrade rail line and the host nation Romania was offered up to $8 billion dollars in investments.[9] This is much more than the EU could offer these countries in recent years and I think that it is likely to lead to more problems in the EU internal functioning in the future.

However, no doubt due to the historical as well as recent political ties, Yugoslavia’s legal successor state Serbia, a non-member of the EU, was singled out by the Chinese for a particularly important bridge building project on the Danube. The construction of a 1.5 kilometer long bridge started in 2011 and, though it took longer than expected, the bridge will be officially opened during this year’s “16+1″ summit in Belgrade on December 16 and 17.[10] This is the biggest infrastructure project completed by a Chinese state company (in this case, China Road and Bridge Corporation) in the Balkans so far. Both the Chinese and Serbian officials are announcing “many more” projects to come and this is definitely in line with the Chinese Balkan strategy.[11]

This trend can be seen in the neighboring Montenegro as well. In October 2014, the government of Montenegro signed an agreement with the Chinese Exim Bank on a $1 billion loan for the construction of a stretch of a highway through Montenegro to be built by the already mentioned China Road and Bridge Corporation.[12] This decision, however, encountered strong dissent from the opposition parties which claimed that the loan would enormously increase the already high public debt and that the government entered into a corrupt construction scheme in order to further enrich its business cronies.[13] Many even questioned the necessity of constructing the highway at all.

However, it is not for those reasons (no matter what they say publicly) that the global economic levers of the US-NATO Empire, the IMF and the World Bank, oppose not only this particular highway project, but also other Chinese investment projects in the Balkans and the Central and Eastern Europe. They know well that what is taking place here is truly a battle for geopolitical influence and power. The US-NATO Empire has lost the aura of invincibility it had during the last two decades and the emerging multi-polarity of the world is getting its Balkan reflection as well.

This geopolitical battle is still in its beginning phases, but I expect it to intensify in the coming years, especially as China and Russia (which is a traditional ally of many Balkan countries) come to cooperate more closely not only in the economic, but also in the political and the military sphere, and as the daily functioning of the EU institutions begins to show more and more tear & wear under the pressure from the warmongering circles in Washington and London.

NOTES

[1] http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/ziliao_6…

[2 http://www.enverhoxha.ru/Archive_of_book...

[3] http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/europe/9905/08/…;
 http://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/oc…

[4] http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates…

[5] http://www.eias.org/sites/default/files/…

[6] http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/…

[7] http://www.eias.org/sites/default/files/…

[8] http://www.eias.org/asian-news-outlook/l…

[9] http://www.cnbc.com/id/101237467#.

[10] http://www.24sata.rs/vesti/beograd/vest/…

[11] http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/874768…

[12] http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/3…

[13 http://www.cdm.me/ekonomija/opozicija-au…

Originally published by Sibel Edmonds’ BFP. December 15, 2014.

//

Is ‘digital native’ government possible?

Posted by on 15/12/14
An interview with Jim Bankoff, who just raised another raised $46.5 million in funding for Vox Media (“the fastest growing Web brand of 2014″), caught my eye: “Vox.com’s main draw [is] making sense of complicated issues in ways that are easily digestible for online readers… Our content platform is less about the 1s and 0s [...]

Idealism as much as pragmatism are in the heart of the European project

Posted by on 09/12/14
By Richard Corbett MEP Europe has come a long way since the 1950s. Ideals are important, but our world has changed, and political reality has a habit of bringing them back down to earth with a bump.

A Strasbourg, le pape François stimule l’Europe

Posted by on 26/11/14

«Que l’Europe, consciente de son passé, regarde avec confiance le futur pour vivre avec espoir le présent.»

C’est par cette phrase écrite sur le livre d’or du Parlement européen que le pape François a ouvert sa rencontre avec les députés européens représentant les 507 millions

de citoyens de l’Union européenne. Puis un temps plus tard devant les représentants des 48 pays membres du Conseil de l’Europe, parmi eux les représentants de la Russie, de l’Ukraine et de la Turquie.

Deux discours puissants qui laisseront des traces dans l’histoire des deux assemblées. Devant le Parlement européen, le pape a appelé l’Union européenne à se réveiller. Comparée à une dame vieillissante, il l’a exhortée à être vivante et animée, c’est à dire douée d’une âme. On retrouve, ici, en termes plus politiques, le contenu théologique et ecclésiologique un peu habituel pour les catholiques et les chrétiens du monde entier mais peut-être nouveau pour des députés d’origines diverses et pas forcement versés dans le langage du Saint Siège. L’Europe doit rayonner dans le monde. C’est à dire regarder devant elle. Cela veut dire aussi que l’Europe doit être fière de ce quelle est, de ce qu’elle fait. Appuyée sur ses cultures et sur ses peuples elle doit se construire par harmonisation de ses politiques communes mais ne pas s’uniformiser. Le dialogue interculturel a sa place. D’ailleurs, le pape a souligné l’importance du principe de subsidiarité avec cette idée qu’il faut regarder les environnements pour innover dans tous les domaines avec ceux qui en sont les acteurs locaux. Mais pas seulement dans le domaine de l’économie. Non cette dernière est un outil mais l’élément central de la construction européenne est la personne humaine. C’est en ce sens que le message européen doit encore porter dans le monde. C’est la doctrine sociale que François propose en chantier pour l’Europe. Les termes sont d’ailleurs inscrits comme valeurs européennes : la dignité de la personne humaine, la recherche permanence du bien commun et l’exercice de la subsidiarité.

Rayonner dans le monde mais aussi auprès des Européens. Ils doivent retrouver leur force vive, leur vigueur dira-t-il, l’espoir de porter l’entité voulue par les Pères fondateurs. Parlant, en autre choses de la laïcité, le pape a affirmé qu’elle n’était pas un danger pour les États membres ni pour les instituions européennes mais au contraire, et la définition restera : une contribution positive à la société.

Il renouvelle alors sa proposition : l’Eglise reste un partenaire des institutions européennes et les catholiques participent à la construction européenne en apportant ce socle de valeur et d’Esperance qui est le leur. Mais ils ne sont pas seuls et c’est les autres, non catholiques qu’ils participent à la société.

Chronique d’Emmanuel Morucci – 26/11/14

Quelques instants plus tard, au Conseil de l’Europe, devant les représentants des Européens du Continent et devant les juges de la Cours des Droits de l’Homme, le discours du pape était plus philosophique. Dans la continuité de son premier message ou suppliait les députés européens de ne pas faire de la Méditerranée un cimetière, il a invité à reconnaître dans l’autre non un ennemi à combattre, mais un frère à accueillir. Il faisait ici référence aux deux guerres. La voie privilégiée pour la paix devait interroger les représentants de l’Ukraine et de la Russie. La paix c’est un constant chemin d’humanisation nécessaire.

Pleinement dans son rôle de souverain pontife, François insiste sur les racines communes que l’Europe doit retrouver et reconnaître. Il fait une analogie avec un tronc d’un arbre déraciné. Il a toujours l’apparence d’un tronc mais de l’intérieur il se vide, il est sans substance. C’est sur ses fondamentaux que l’Europe est invitée à se réveiller. Il introduit alors les deux concepts de multipolarité et de transversalité sur lesquels les européens sont invités à s’appuyer pour vivre les temps de globalisation. De multiples pôles culturels, religieux et politiques qui doivent s’interroger les uns les autres. Dans sa parole, le dialogue interculturel devient alors essentiel.

Emmanuel Morucci

 

Innovation Summit: better policy-making, beyond R&D programmes

Posted by on 26/11/14
The Innovation Summit hosted by the European Parliament on 17-20 November reviewed policies under the headline ‘a mandate for innovation’. The MEP-led organiser, K4I (Knowledge for Innovation), gathered 4 Commissioner, including for example the one for research , many MEPs including several committee chairs, and a large number of corporate and association representatives. Below are [...]

Parliament’s support for innovation and inter-institutional approach

Posted by on 26/11/14
Knowledge for Innovation, an MEP-led association, organized its 6th Innovation Summit this week, in partnership with several organisations including EurActiv, which covered several sessions, and moderated the conclusions (separate post). The timing was good: just after the start of the Jucker Commission and before Mr Tusk arrives: which I addressed in an Opinion piece. Having [...]

What tech can do for policy

Posted by on 23/11/14
ICT is coming to the aid of policy makers, with a number of EU projects using into tech and computation tools to figure out what's happening in policy making. EU Community, too, is on the cutting edge of this development.

Join Us at the One Europe Convention in Verona

Posted by on 18/11/14

In my first post here on BlogActiv, I am very pleased to welcome you to our annual One Europe Convention with attendants from 70 countries. The convention will take place in Verona on November 21-23, 2014. For 10 years running, the annual European convention, hosted by Kabbalah.info, a non-profit organization, has established itself as one of the world’s most culturally diverse gatherings for spiritual growth—a 3-day celebration of human unity and deeply transforming personal experiences.

At this historic event where participants will come from 70 different countries, all the lessons and activities throughout the event such as workshops, meals, and cultural evenings, will focus on the central theme of achieving harmony and sustainability throughout Europe. The purpose of these gatherings is to create exceptional human bonding experiences that leverage the collective powers of any group of people. The force of this connection increases awareness of the importance of benefiting others and creating sustainable environments that allow us to accomplish more collectively.

A new, global world is taking shape before our eyes, a reality in which humanity and nature are all interdependent. We need to study the global laws of our world in order to find our way in it. Kabbalah is a 4,000 year old wisdom with the sole purpose of teaching humanity how to achieve balance and complete harmony amongst ourselves and all of nature in a global world. Come join us to set the path for a better future for Europe and for the entire world. People from around the globe are invited to embark on this groundbreaking journey as we strive to build a European spiritual union, based on love and friendship – a model for the entire world to follow.

The convention is open to anyone with a desire to change him or herself and the world we live in. Students currently studying with Kabbalah.info, or anyone who wants to take a proactive approach to uniting Europe is welcome to register.

I will be giving six lessons throughout the congress. The lessons will be given in Russian, with simultaneous interpretation into English, German, Hebrew, French, Spanish, and Italian.

To register for the event please visit http://eurocongress.info

 

 

25 years later

Posted by on 11/11/14
The photo of Chancellor Helmut Kohl in front of the Brandenburg Gate is incredible. But how will it be viewed in 25 more years? Chancellor Helmut Kohl in front of the Brandenburg Gate, 25 years after the launch a process that led to the reunification of much more than Germany (@bild). Of course it’s supposed [...]

What does it mean, a European Commission “with a very political nature”?

Posted by on 05/11/14
Experts noted the message of President Juncker that it is his desire that the “European Commission will have a very political nature”. Member countries have reacted to this message offering mostly politicians as Commissioners, albeit some less experienced in the mysteries of EU policies. As a result, the current team of Commissioners is more connected [...]

EU Community: What is coming up?

Posted by on 05/11/14

Making EU policy more efficient. That is the goal with which EU Community was launched, about one year ago.

The project is built on the understanding that EU policy making is changing. More and more people engage with EU decision makers. More and more information is available.

This should help us better understand the EU’s day-to-day law making… but has it done this, so far?

Policy makers and EU professionals are swamped with information. The challenge, today, is not so much finding information to support certain policies, but finding the right information to base better policy-making on.

The EU Community team has been working hard, behind the scenes, to create a number of tools that will shed light on what really matters.

We are now close to launching the beta version of our first application: EurActory.

EurActory is our application that focuses on ‘people’. It tells you who the most relevant EU experts are, and what you need to know about them.

It scans the growing amount of information about people involved in EU policy making. It analyses the information to understand EU professionals’ reputation and fields of expertise. You can browse experts by policy area or dive into profile pages.

It will act as a rich database, containing all the essential information about the people making, influencing and studying EU policy making. But there is more…

Machines can’t have it all. Your input, as a person working on EU affairs, is key. Who do you think is a ‘must-follow’ person on climate & energy policy? Or who is, in your experience, the best speaker for a conference about innovation & entrepreneurship in the EU?

As more and more EU experts get involved, they will benefit from your input and you’ll benefit from theirs. EurActory will open up EU policy making to the combined expertise of those studying, lobbying or making it.

The goal? Working together towards more efficient EU policy. And saving you time.

Any thoughts?

Connect on Twitter or on LinkedIn or drop a line below, in the comments!

Laurens,

EU Community

L’Europe germano-allemande

Posted by on 04/11/14
By Georgi Gotev For several decades we were used to the French-German tandem. Now we have Germany all over the place.

A European narrative: Propaganda or debate?

Posted by on 23/10/14

Kathleen Garnett

Last week the Committee of the Regions organised its fifth EuroPCom conference at the Committee of the Regions on how to communicate Europe to a wider public. With the rise of vocal, populist right-wing parties that tap into people’s fears, never has the need for Brussels to present it’s case been more important. It is estimated the EU has approximately five years, before the next Parliamentary elections, to do so. If it fails there is the risk that the EU’s very legitimacy will begin to crumble and give way to forces that promote fragmentation rather than union, rupture rather than settlement, chasm rather than understanding.

Many within the EU are trying. God knows they are trying. From catchy You Tube style videos, to social media tricks, from glossy brochure, to children’s comic-strip info-pack, from out-reach programmes to all-singing, all-dancing local youth events. Every single aspect of communicating the EU to a wider European audience has been and was analysed. All interesting. All very expensive. All pretty useless. Those tools can best be described as the props. They are not exactly defining the plot. Nor can they act as the foundation on which to build an effective, accurate communications strategy.

The only tool capable of reaching out to a wider European audience is a pan-European press that presents the European, as opposed to the national, perspective.

For the moment, however, the European narrative is being written elsewhere far away from Brussels by largely hostile script-writers and no amount of social media, You Tube videos, glossy brochures, awards and out-reach programmes alone will be capable of communicating Europe to the wider European public audience.

Never underestimate the vital role that an independent and varied press plays in communicating local, regional and global affairs to a wider public. At the moment most Europeans read, listen and watch the news as presented to them by their national media and they have proven time and again that EU affairs are not their priority.

Worse than blanking out or ignoring EU policies is the continual drip, drip of negative and blatantly exaggerated coverage of the EU by writers who are more than happy to write a hostile narrative. Those controlling the plot portray the EU as the villain – either an egocentric, power-hungry, corrupter of national sovereignty; a bureaucratic tormentor intent on destroying national values or as a petty autocrat imposing tangled diktats on hard-working member sates.

As long as the good times roll such a narrative is largely ignored and put down to the ranting’s of the loonies that are known to inhabit the shadowy swamps of the periphery. By and large the EU is viewed, as an engine for growth, prosperity and peace. Although little understood most Europeans view the EU positively at best, with indifference at worst. Yet years of unchecked snipping from the side-lines by bored journalists, ignorant of EU affairs have slowly but surely begun to tilt the balance. It is their narrative that is creating an opening for the loonies to migrate out of the shadows and colonise the mainstream.

One need look no further than the announcement yesterday by UKIP that it is forming an alliance with a party that denies the holocaust and promotes wife bashing to realise how mainstream the loony views of UKIP have become. The sad reality is that far too many in the UK have become so brain-washed by the constant stream of negative coverage they are now more prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to a Polish holocaust denier than they are the EU. Something is very flawed indeed when UKIP can ally itself with such extreme views and still hope to win thirty seats in Westminster.

For too long the EU has allowed the narrative to be written by editors who have stated, in public, they oppose the EU. Unless a pan-European media is developed to act as a counter-balance to such hostile positions it will be the national media that will shape how Europeans perceive the EU not those in the driving seat. This is problematic. It is the script-writer who has the power to decide the fate of the protagonists. Does the EU really want its fate to be written by an openly antagonistic media?

Yet, the development of a thriving, well written, newsworthy, independent pan-European press to counter-balance the views of the national media was barely touched upon at the conference. When it was, it was dismissed as too expensive, unprofitable, impossible to realise and too politically sensitive to organise. Past failures were cited as evidence that a pan-European media is economically unviable.

Over and again it was said that the promotion of a pan-European media could be construed as EU propaganda. To which euperspectives replies why such timidity? Has Brussels become so brow-beaten and bullied by the snarlings of the euro sceptics that they actually believe there is any merit to such an argument?

In the free world it is vital that news is presented from a variety of sources capable of expressing their own interpretations of world events. In the UK, The Guardian is a left-leaning paper whilst The Times leans to the right. The Mirror panders to Labour voters. The Daily Mail to UKIP. Few question the legitimacy of this approach. As far as the EU is concerned the only voice being heard is that of the national perspective, which is why there is such an imbalance in the reporting of EU affairs.

The EU has but a few years in which to rethink its communication policy. Now is the time for it to seize the initiative and develop a fully functioning, well respected media staffed by experienced journalists and commentators, capable of presenting broad stories that touch a cord with all Europeans. Only in such a way can Europe regain the initiative, write its own narrative from a European perspective and let Europeans decide whether the EU is worth investing in or not based on accurate, informed stories not on half-truths and deception.

Such a project is not only viable, it is the only way to communicate European objectives to a wider audience. Call it propaganda if you will but it you do the EU would only be doing what the national press are already culpable of – no more, no less.

 

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