Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Opinion

More spokespeople is not how to save the EU

  • A demonstration in Warsaw. The EU commission needs to recognise civic movements and NGOs as its new number one "communications strategy". (Photo: Aleksandra Eriksson)

In his opinion piece from 13 September entitled “How to save the EU”, the author, an incognito EU official, offers advice on improving the commission’s communications.

But the first - understandably self-preservatory - point he makes, is to shift the blame for the declining trust in the EU from institutions to national governments.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

One doesn’t need to be a eurocrat to know that member states, in the best case scenario, put their own interests first, and in the worst case just have the governing party’s self-interest at heart.

Asking for national political elites to actively campaign for the EU, act as its spokesperson of sorts, is unrealistic.

Reclaiming European identity,

It was a task difficult to achieve back when the EU was still largely viewed positively and “jumping on the EU train” was a popular way for a political party, or government, to gain popularity.

Now, when member states are experiencing a flood of nationalistic and conservative powers, with Poland or Hungary run by politicians who made their careers on euroscepticism, the institutions have to radically change their way of thinking.

Take Poland for example. The PiS party government, backed by the nationalistic Kukiz’15 party, is steadily moving the country away not only from liberal democracy, but from European ideals in general.

But the first signs of that trend sparked a series of mass protests on a scale the country hasn’t seen since the fall of communism.

The biggest one to date, with over 200,000 participants in Warsaw and even more nation-wide, marched under the motto “We are and will remain in Europe”. These protests, organised by a grassroots movement, the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD), were by far the biggest European morale boost since the pro-EU protests in Kiev in 2014.

An effect such as this, the mass reclaiming of European identity, isn’t something any amount of EC spokespeople, in any number of talk shows, can achieve. And that’s what the EU badly needs.

For every action there’s a reaction. For every rise in nationalism there are civic movements and NGOs sprouting to defend European ideals.

The commission needs to recognise them as its new number one “communications strategy”. It can’t just pass pro-European messages down to citizens through their local offices and spokespeople, but most of all it should support the citizens who still want to fight for the EU on the ground.

Currently the only initiative the commission has in place to support civil society is the “Europe for Citizens” programme.

It’s a largely outdated machine, annually granting financial support to a lucky few, long-established NGOs. It was fit for an EU needing extra patting on the back now and then, not an EU requiring a heart transplant.

Empowering people

But the institutions could do so much more. Here are some ideas:

They could establish a civil society development fund, providing seed money to pro-European “start-ups”, just like it’s done in the IT world.

They could monitor member states for nationalistic “hot zones”, like the recent eruption of extreme-right (or, more bluntly, neo-Nazi) militias in Poland, marching through the streets of Gdansk on the occasion of a state funeral. The right-wing government turned a blind eye, but organisations such as these are an outright assault on the EU, so the EU should strike back.

They should also get actively involved in any initiatives providing a positive message, struggling to reclaim people’s minds for European ideals. They are the change agents, not the commission’s spokespeople.

Just in Poland there are dozens of movements and initiatives, some of them very young, combating hate speech, intolerance, racism and other close-minded ideology.

All around Europe there are hundreds others. Empower these courageous people and they will empower the EU. Let them know you’re standing behind them with more than a pat on the back.

As former US president Bill Clinton commented on the current presidential campaign on The Daily Show last Thursday: “We need to empower people, not enrage them, we need to give them answers, not anger.”

That’s how to save the EU.

Martin Mycielski is plenipotentiary of the Board for International Affairs at the Committee for the Defence of Democracy and founder of KOD International

How to save the EU

The main reason for declining trust in the EU is not the idleness of its institutions, but constant EU-bashing at national level and flat talk by Brussels.

Analysis

What is KOD, the Polish pro-democracy movement?

Thousands of Poles will celebrate 27 years of freedom on Saturday by joining protests organised by KOD, the Committee for the Defence of Democracy, which wants to oust Kaczynski from power.

Poles must defend hard-won democracy

The Law and Justice party is chipping away at Poland's hard-won democracy. Now polls are showing that many people are unhappy with the changes, and a new alliance around the Committee for the Defence of Democracy has sprung up.

Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?

There can be no more excuses for business. They will be held for responsible for their failure to take action to prevent the risk of human and labour rights through their supply chains.

Brexit vs Grexit: The six stages of losing to the EU

Theresa May's venture seems very similar to the attempt by Alexis Tsipras in 2015 to persuade Brussels to accept his terms for the bail out - a huge negotiation failure, presented to the public as the best possible deal.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

What does Poland want from the EU?

We propose several changes to the EU, derived from the political philosophy behind the current Polish government, and what Poles expect from the EU - this could be seen as a manifesto Poland wants the next European Commission to tackle.

Migration and May elections - time to get facts right

If misinformation in the field of migration can bring a government down, as in the recent case of Belgium following the country's adoption of the UN migration pact, then it can doubtless produce a populist majority in the European parliament.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us