Monday

11th Dec 2017

Opinion

How to save the EU

  • The Commission's virtual reality press briefings in Brussels are not enough to engage EU citizens (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Ideas on "how to save the EU" following the Brexit referendum have proliferated since 23 June.

These range from new political visions, through transferring power back to national capitals, and to launching ground-breaking initiatives to improve solidarity between member states.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

There seems to be a widespread belief that the main reason why citizens in some member states are turning away from the EU is that the EU did not take specific action in the migration crisis, and that it acted when it should not have, for instance by overregulating the economy.

Yet the main reason for declining trust in the EU is not the idleness of its institutions or that barmy Brussels bureaucrats are banning olive oil jugs.

The real reasons are (1) the near total absence of a genuine EU perspective from discussions in national and local media and (2) unabated Brussels-bashing by the national political elite, with a clear link between the two.

It was a major mistake of the past years of the European Commission to deliberately stay out of national and local debates on the EU - most recently on Brexit.

Experience shows that the Commission's "let's avoid communication conflicts" policy did not lead to a more EU-friendly public opinion.

To the contrary, it allowed national politicians hand-in-hand with part of the media to step up their anti-Brussels rhetoric.

As a first step, the Commission must get out of its virtual reality of midday briefings, colourful brochures and elitist conferences.

It needs two or three highly professional, native speaking spokespersons in each member state.

Their role is not to stand behind a podium in the Commission's local office, but to participate day and night in radio talk shows, television news programmes and online media, finally giving that much needed face to the EU.

These local spokespeople must explain the facts, debunk the lies, and defend the EU position. Politely and firmly. Let's not be naive: the so-called "citizens dialogues" events with European commissioners and press statements read out by the heads of representations will not do the trick.

At the same time, there is a need for a new and loud commitment to the EU by the moderate national political elites.

As a previous president of the Commission has said: "If you spend all week blaming Europe, you can't ask people to vote for Europe on Sunday”.

That is especially true if ministers are making Brussels a scapegoat for decisions they themselves took in the EU Council or for Brussels not doing something for which member states did not give it the powers to act.

National politicians must stop blaming Brussels for their own failings for the sake of pursuing short-term (political party) objectives.

They have to start acting like statesmen and stateswomen and explain where and why the EU benefits their citizens.

Otherwise, people’s anti-elitist sentiment - the very feeling that some national leaders are now happy to feed in their anti-EU communications - risks wiping them off the map also, once there is no more EU to blame.

The author is currently working for an EU institution and asked to use a pen name

Analysis

EU must protect its citizens

If the EU wants to reach out to disillusioned Europeans, it must offer more protection from the forces currently buffeting the political, social and economic landscape.

EU communications: how not to do it

Faced with growing disillusionment with the European project across the continent and slick, well-funded propaganda from its opponents, it is time for the EU to up its communication game.

Fighting the terrorist virus on the internet

EU home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopolous congratulates some media platforms on their efforts to take down jihadist terrorist content at the EU Internet Forum - but warns it is 'not enough to turn tide'.

News in Brief

  1. Greece to move migrants from islands to mainland, says NGO
  2. EU and Japan finalise trade deal
  3. Tusk: During transition period, UK will follow EU law
  4. SPD and CDU/CSU meet next week on 'Grand Coalition'
  5. Erdogan demands treaty update in historic Greece visit
  6. UK will contribute to 2019-2020 EU budget
  7. UK and EU agree: no hard border on Irish island
  8. Citizens' rights will be 'enshrined in UK law'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  3. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  4. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  5. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  7. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  8. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  9. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  10. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  11. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  12. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity