Wednesday 1 September 2010

No National European Vision

In the EUobserver today, there's an article on Barroso's response to the Eurobarometer results. Barroso says that the member state governments have failed to defend the European project during the crisis:

""I admit that we should do more together in order to give confidence to citizens and consumers. But I also want to tell the truth: We won't solve the problems unless each nation sees the European project as its own," the Portuguese politician said.

"In fact this is not the case now. When things go well it's their merit and when they go wrong it's Brussels' fault," he added."

It's a tough position for the EU institutions, because it is hard for them to communicate with the public - hard to get information and debate on what's going on in the institutions into the mass media. The long process of passing legislation that is often technical does not help win column space in the newspapers. So I appreciate the difficulty that the institutions have in informing people about what the EU does, and the dependence of the EU on the member states to inform their citizens about the EU. However, I agree with Gawain Towler that it's not really the member states' role to promote the EU (though I don't agree with his other conclusions).

It would be nice if the national governments were candid about the good and bad work they do around the Council table, but it is unlikely to happen. Member state governments don't fall or get re-elected based on their Council voting record. Apart from that, national parties aren't designed for European politics and issues - quite simply, national parties are designed to get members elected to national office. A conflict negotiation lecturer I had in university highlighted this through referendums - generally civil society is better at running referendum campaigns because parties are more suited to getting people elected on broad policy platforms. Which is another reason why I support the PES Primaries Campaign: because making executive elections matter forces the issues of policy more clearly, and the transnational party bodies (and their national member-parties) have a clearer interest in explaining their voting records and policies. Though it is, in a way, simplistic to target institutional conditions, if these aren't changed, there will remain an in-built disincentive for explanation and debate over policy.

That's one way of promoting a "national European vision" and encouraging people to discuss what kind of policies and cooperation they want, if indeed they want it. It's all very well saying that national parties need to promote the European project - but, let's face it, it hasn't happened yet, and if things stay the same it will remain unlikely. Less blame, more ideas, please.

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