Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Communication, propaganda, and EU

It’s tough being communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom these days. Sure, she's youngish, kind of cute and has a popular blog. But still, her mission to improve communication and participation between the EU and its vast, disenchanted citizenry is not easily accomplished, despite the urgent constitutional task at hand:

"We need them on board, we cannot do without them in 2007. [This year] is not enough to have a project for the political elite, citizens have to be there,” she claims.

And so, in the latest example of the EU’s efforts to improve its image and reach out to ordinary citizens, the EU has announced that it is working hard on… improving its image and reaching out to ordinary citizens.

This well-intentioned program is probably doomed, of course, for the same reason that most EU programs are doomed: they infringe upon the sovereignty of the mighty nation states—who have technically agreed to support the organization whose evolution they then thwart at nearly every turn.

Given this inevitable problem, the commissioner will—logically-- publish a paper in the Fall on how to "structure debate" with citizens. Once again, a good idea gets shredded in the vicious circle of EU logic:

While MEPs are generally supportive of the idea, member states are reluctant to let the commission go down this path believing communication is more of a national domain and concerned that Brussels will spread "propaganda."

Ah-ha! So let me get this straight. The EU and its member states agree that a great gap exists between the organization and its vast, non-elite membership. Essentially, the EU needs to warm up to its citizens, and vice versa. But at the same time, states are not only weary of letting the EU fully address the issue, but, to the contrary, continue to allow domestic politics to make the EU look even worse. Dios mio man!

But there’s a silver lining to this stormcloud. Isn't this a hopeful sign that, finally, after years of blissfully ignorant childhood, the EU is beginning to display the traits of intelligence and self-awareness for which human adults are known?:

Member states also made it clear they were going to do everything possible to secure a new look treaty document that did not have to be put to a referendum again – with both France and the Netherlands keen to avoid the unpredictable ratification path.

See? They’re learning from their mistakes! If the people vote you down, then for the love of mother Mary and baby Jesus don’t let them vote next time. ‘Elite-driven project’ certainly doesn’t sound good, but if it’s the only thing that works—I mean, if the people don’t know what’s good for them—then whose fault is that? 

Well, it’s the people’s fault for being reactionary and scared. And it's the EU’s fault for its aforementioned communication issues, and for generally not giving any attention to its social realm until now (Jacques Delors infamously regretted this error).

So if its both of their fault, then what happens? C'est pas evident. But I think we can all agree that the political elite understand the situation a bit better than the rest of the lot. So at the risk of alienating their constituencies, they’re going to push through the constitution and that will be that. This is called leadership. Vision. Even if you, the citizen, don’t see it that way.

Jeez, it was so much easier back when propaganda wasn’t a bad word!

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