Monday 30 April 2012

A few comments on Euroblogging

Polscieu has written many interesting posts on the state of the Euroblogosphere from the lack of linking between blogs to the language barrier when it comes to reaching wider audiences. These are big issues that surface from time to time – I was amongst a few bloggers who tried to make a bigger commitment to communicating across the Blogosphere borders (between national blogospheres) and linguistic borders.

It was a failure, as Polscieu has rightly pointed out a lack of linking and cross-language debates. The natural question to ask is how can we solve these problems? I have to admit that I’ve always been a bit sceptical about blogging and its power, and I don’t think there’s any solution that can be advocated that would solve these issues simply because you come up against the Blogger. (For clarity, I’m not attacking Polscieu on these points since he was being analytical and not really suggesting actions, but what he wrote provoked me to think “yes, but...” a few times and an impression I have that there can [from several directions] be a general assumption about the Euroblogosphere’s “duty” to create a public space).


Say you know a lot about the EU. You know how laws are made (and what laws the EU can make), and have a vague idea about the headline national interests of the Member States (the UK doesn’t want certain financial regulation, for example). Are you going to read up on the progress of a law, the different interests and political faction views involved, then the different linguistic and national responses to the law (either press or blogging-wise) before writing a post? And perhaps translate the post or leave comments on the blogs you cited to alert them to your post in their original languages? It’s a bit of an exaggeration – not all these steps are necessary, and it could be a response to a press article – but for there to be links generated, there needs to be some level of wide-reading and the ability to be authoritative enough to encourage reactions to your post.

There are a lot of people who are good at languages and know about the EU, but this type of blogging is limited because of the time it consumes.


 (Probably not the best subtitle). My recent impression of the Euroblogosphere is that it’s grown, increased in quality, and become more niche and technical. Perhaps my impression is wrong, and there is simply a growth in blog numbers so I’ve just picked up on the number of niche topics now, but it does seem that as the mass media have become better at explaining the EU, Euroblogs have become more focused on certain areas of policy making, which lessens contact with national blogospheres (it’s harder to keep in contact so that when you do write something at a topical time, they’re aware of you). It may be that due to the financial crisis and the better coverage of the EU in the mass media, Eurobloggers have been put off writing in a more generalist way, since they are put off reading and reproducing views on issues that are already well covered.

In any case, apart from this, the topics at the EU level still do not have identifiable actors for national audiences that Euroblogs’ more Europeanised narrative can compete with the narrative of national interests and summitry. National mass media remains the gatekeeper in terms of readership and the narrative-setter for readers who read and write in the Euroblogosphere. This means that issues are only of interest in a national blogosphere/media when they cross national interests or the interests of national actors, and only cross linguistic barriers to a great degree when it crosses several national interests or a fundamental general interest such as human rights. For day-to-day work in the Bubble, there are a lot of political victories and defeats, but little market in readers for them. Even Euroblogs are – comparatively - more orientated towards national responses to issues, with not so much “screen time” for parliamentary battles.

But I think that national Blogospheres are taking up EU issues and politics more now, and national mass media might slowly focus more clearly on EU actors and issues (I agree that the next Euroelections could be big). The main point, however, is that these structural issues in the national media, personality politics in the Brussels Bubble, and the Europeanisation of national Blogospheres will lead to a change in the Euroblogosphere and heighten its effect and relevance, and that there is little that Eurobloggers can “do” as such to hasten that.


Growth in the Euroblogosphere will help solve a lot of these issues, as you will have more bloggers, and a greater likelihood of crossover of stories. However the development of traditional mass media in the EU will be key in driving people into EU blogging (to a lesser degree) and increasing cross-EU blogging links (to a greater degree) as more European issues become of more interest to a general EU public. The Euroblogosphere will be important in examining EU politics and providing a great platform of public debate and policy analysis, but I feel that the ‘sphere operates via the individual, and the direction of the ‘sphere will be a reaction to trends in mass media as bloggers decide what is worth blogging about and how many borders they cross.


I wrote this mainly because I feel there’s a bit of a general attitude surrounding the Euroblogosphere that it has the potential to drive a European public sphere, and I simply don’t think it can. Such a public sphere will probably develop partly through the Europeanisation of national mass media, and the greater personalisation or European politics which will feed into a bigger and better ‘sphere. I doubt that we can be the barrier-busting force that some seem disappointed in us for not being, since at the individual level the effort, organisation and dedication needed over a long period of time and across a great number of people is simply unrealistic.

I may not believe in blogging’s ability to break down barriers and create a European public sphere, but I firmly believe in blogging as a vibrant part of that public sphere. Blogging, I think, is a great way to become involved, and to learn by being involved, and that other ways, such as party or civil society organisation membership, are an aspect of being an engaged citizen, which is personally and publically enriching.


  1. I agree that the Euroblogosphere will not drive the European Public Sphere. It is however a proof that such a sphere is possible. And it has been a playing field to experiment with digital communications in the EU bubble, out of which some interesting things have evolved.

    My guess is that in the future it will be one of the many specialised spheres among a larger European public sphere, but the problems we have been facing in building the Euroblogosphere will be the problems that the development of a wider European blogosphere will also very likely face.

  2. The picture you paint (under the subtitle 'Time') looks a bit like a straw man - nobody could ever be expected to do all that, surely?

    For me, the starting point - someone who 'knows a lot about the EU' - is possibly the wrong place to start, because the Eurogeek's natural habitat is the Bubble.

    It's perhaps more interesting to talk about nationally-embedded bloggers, specialised in a particular topic, integrating relevant EU developments into their blog, and thus bringing them to their national audience.

    Of course, such an EU online public sphere will either emerge because the conditions become right, or it will not because those conditions never appear. These things cannot be forced, but they can be encouraged. Spraying propaganda into social media is unlikely to do so.

  3. A few years ago there was a serious discussion in the Euroblogosphere about those kinds of efforts, and when people talk about about the 'sphere failing, it puts me in mind of this because bloggers would have to do some of it to actually achieve what seems to be defined as "success", and even doing part of it is very time-intensive...

    National blogospheres are picking up on EU and wider European politics and issues. Hopefully they will grow closer together over time. I'd say that some level of knowledge of the EU Bubble is necessary for EU bloggers, I think (not that it needs to be formally learnt - it's something that can be picked up with blogging practice), since a lot of things can pass you by if you only know it in passing (it's still the case that national blogs tend to comment on [nationaly generated] news on the EU instead of producing articles based on their own experience/googling of EU affairs). But then I think you can be nationally embedded and a Eurogeek too, it just depends on the personal style and interests of the blogger.

  4. @Eurocentique: Interesting. Can you give (m)any examples of nationally embedded bloggers who are also eurogeeks?

  5. European poker sites that are licensed inside the EU are able to offer their citizens tax-free poker winnings; this is a great tax law that benefits players and implements the policy of open borders. But the law regarding gambling providers is taking another turn; with separate licenses in every EU country and even look-in in some countries (France). Is this in line with EU values and legal according to EU law?

  6. @ Mathew - Unfortunately, there aren't many, though I would point to Verfassungsblog in the German 'sphere and Stephen Spillane and Jason O'Mahony in the Irish 'sphere. For national blogs that have a good take on EU politics, Slugger O'Toole (Northern Ireland) follows the general trend of EU politics.

    @ Euro poker - there's a lot of case law on gambling by the ECJ, and bascially gambling is a moral matter for which Member States can regulate quite a bit. Also, it's better to look for legal advice from somewhere other than the comments section of a blog...