I attended the European blogging event held by the Cypriot Council presidency two weeks ago (you can find the event on Twitter with the hashtag #cy2012eublogs). It was a well-run event, with four panel discussions between bloggers on Europe in the World, the EU and citizens, the economy, and a more sustainable Europe, before a general panel discussion on the results from group. There were also some Cypriot bloggers present to talk about the Cypriot blogosphere.
It was definitely a good experience, and a great opportunity to talk with other bloggers from across Europe on different issues. I largely agree with Protesilaos that the event was a success, and hopefully this will be the start of an engaged dialogue between the presidency and the Euroblogosphere that will leave a legacy.
1. Panel #2: A Europe of Growth.
I took part in the second panel on the economy and growth. The panel was chaired by Bernardo de Miguel, and we had the opportunity to talk to a Commission civil servant working on the Multiannual Financial Framework and to Cypriot presidency representatives. Some of the debate can be seen here:
(Part of the debate was broadcast via Google Hangouts, though there were some technical difficulties and the feed was off for part of it. We didn't have any interaction from those watching, but some of the other panels did. You can watch all the videos on this YouTube Channel).
The debate started off focusing on the Multiannual Financial Framework and what the EU could do, and there was some discussion about structural funds, which were agreed to be a positive aspect. The austerity debate was naturally a central issue, including how the EU budget would either live up to the austerity being pursued across Europe, or how the EU could offset the effects of austerity. Much of the debate also focused on perception of the budget and how citizens/bloggers could/should be involved - that the budget has to pay for commitments already made by the European Parliament and Member States, and whether we would be comfortable with the implications of more EU control and oversight that might come with any specific funding of national welfare states.
Overall it was a good debate. It's hard to get to grips with the details of the MFF, so the discussion remained quite general, but hopefully there will be follow-up in the Blogosphere.
2. The Cypriot and European Blogospheres.
Cypriot bloggers Petros Mavros and Mike Simopoulos where in a panel discussion on the Cypriot blogosphere, which seems to be seen in a similar way to the nationa media (that there is a specific party political agenda).
Will there be more connections built between Cypriot and EU bloggers? With Cyprus in the Council driving seat for the next few months, EU blogger interest in Cyprus will be much higher than before, and the Cypriot blogosphere could be a big help in getting to know the domestic politics better. Personal connections matter too, so meeting with Cypriot bloggers was a great idea and will encourage me to look out for Cypriot blogs.
If there are more blogging events (not necessarily physical) with the Cyprus presidency on specific issues that include both EU and Cypriot bloggers, this would promote connections and a more vibrant exchange of views.
3. #Cy2012eublogs: Success and Sustainability.
The aim of the event was to connect EU bloggers with the Cyprus presidency, and I think it made a great start. As a blogger when I look to institutions and their websites, my main stop is the European Parliament because it is easy for me to follow the policy areas I'm interested in and, if I have time, the debates in the Committees. The Council has nothing approaching this level of openness (though VoteWatch.eu is trying to shed some more light on the Council), so I don't use the Council website that much - in fact, I use it the least of all the main EU institutions.
This event has drawn more attention to the Cypriot presidency, and I'm already much more interested in this presidency than in previous ones. For bloggers the event has raised interesting discussions that desrve follow-up in our blogs - and a closer look as the presidency develops.
Further events on specific areas or issues would be a good way for both bloggers and the Cypriot presidency to capitalise on the goodwill and interest generated by the event. There are plenty of interesting topics coming up or already under discussion: the Multiannual Financial Framework, the new general Data Protection Regulation, in the area of justice and home affairs (measures such as EU PNR or and EU Terrorist Financial Tracking System ["EU SWIFT"]), and the collective management of music copyright. Upcoming work on these kinds of issues could be flagged by the presidency in advance as a way of highlighting both their work and areas where civil society can debate before matters have been decided. Using these initiatives as the focus of future meetings or blogging events could generate interest and useful debate on these points and on the work of the Cypriot presidency as a whole.