Sunday

24th Jun 2018

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.

... our 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.

Europe's tech race - trying to keep pace with US and China

There is not a single European company among the world's top 10 computer hardware companies. Within the EU, Germany and Sweden rank among world leaders, but Bulgaria and Slovakia among the worst-performing developed nations.

The risks behind the 'green bond' boom

The EU should not overuse the financial system in order to achieve environmental goals, or it risks the emergence of a green bond bubble which would be detrimental to the financial sector and hinder the achievement of climate targets.

EU needs comprehensive 'sexuality education'

The subject is mandatory by law in some form in nearly all EU countries - but it is mostly reproduction- and biology-centred, covering topics such as unwanted pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections.

EU needs comprehensive 'sexuality education'

The subject is mandatory by law in some form in nearly all EU countries - but it is mostly reproduction- and biology-centred, covering topics such as unwanted pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections.

Long-distance animal transport: unthinkable still happening

A complete overhaul of animal products' supply chains is needed, privileging local food chains including local slaughtering which is proven to benefit the environment, the resilience of our economy, food safety and animal welfare.

News in Brief

  1. Venice Commission: Hungary should repeal NGO law
  2. Trump threatens to slap 20 percent tariff on EU cars
  3. EU closes deficit procedure against France
  4. Romania's ruling party leader gets jail sentence
  5. EU states defer individual decisions on asylum reforms
  6. Commission opens case on Qatar gas flow
  7. EU adopts posted workers directive
  8. EU leaders to call for 'coordinated plan' on AI

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  3. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Latest News

  1. EU leaders still in search of migration plan
  2. Migration row at centre of EU summit This Week
  3. Merkel's woes cast shadow on EU's future
  4. Europe's tech race - trying to keep pace with US and China
  5. Merkel and Juncker's mini-summit risks fiasco
  6. Greece and creditors proclaim 'end of crisis'
  7. How a US firm pushed for EU €2.1trn pension fund
  8. Commission defends Africa migrant plan ahead of summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  2. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  4. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  7. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  9. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  10. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  12. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us