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Thursday, October 25, 2007

A new plan(s) to gain popularity for EU

A new plan to "Communicate Europe in partnership", to be unveiled on 3 October by the Commission, proposes an "inter-institutional agreement" to align communication priorities among EU institutions and member states.

Priorities are to be laid down in "management partnership" agreements negotiated with each national government, in order to try to get the message across at the local level.

Climate change and energy, the EU's new 'Reform Treaty', growth and jobs and mobilising voters in the run-up to the 2009 European elections should all be among the common priorities for such an inter-institutional agreement, said Margot Wallström, Commission Vice-President in charge of institutional relations and communications strategy.

It is also the Commission's wish that member states do more explanatory work at an early age with the inclusion of basic education about European integration in school curricula.

"It has to start with the civic competences and the civic education. EU citizens have a right to know and to be heard," Wallström told a group of Brussels journalists on 2 October.

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The plan:

  • Greater cooperation among institutions

The Commission proposes an inter-institutional agreement to improve cooperation among the EU's institutions on how they communicate. At the same time, it underlines that this will not "prevent each EU institution from having separate communication activities".

  • Greater involvement from member states

The Commission proposes to conclude so-called 'management partnership' agreements with member states as the "main instruments to carry out joint communication initiatives". The aim is to "go local" in communicating the EU and to encourage "active European citizenship".

The partnerships would be concluded on a voluntary basis and tailor-made to each country's needs and challenges.

  • Fostering European Public Spaces

The paper proposes the development of "European Public Spaces" in the representations at national level. This should lead to "joint communication plans" between the Commission, Parliament and member state, which would allow communication to be specifically tailored to each country.

Other proposals include taking a look at the role of school education, strengthening Eurobarometer polls and setting up information networks.

The Commission further sets out its plan to strengthen new media, such as the Internet and audiovisual communication and follow up on "Plan D" civil society dialogue projects. The Commission will also "take stock of Plan D and present proposals to widen the democratic debate throughout Europe". Even though it will be too late to feed into the Reform Treaty, this shall be done with a view to its ratification and the run-up to the 2009 European elections.

Meanwhile, Communication Commissioner Margot Wallström is still pushing to insert a formula acknowledging the need for EU communication in the draft Reform Treaty, which is currently being finalised.
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My comment: As you all know, I'm in love with European Union. That's why I think it's essential to start educating people about the benefits of this Union. They should be informed why living in EU is so damn important. People from the older states often take for granted the FREEDOM which living without boundaries gives them and the COMFORT that the common currency offer. Not to speak about the lower mobile rates-made reality thanks to EU. As a person who saw the time before EU and after, I'm ready to pledge allegiance to EU and I think it's important that people are told what was before and what is now even from earliest age. Because the world now is so much better. You can trust me on that!

Europe must politicise or die

Europe "urgently needs a proper debate as well as choices about its political direction" if it is to "regain the interest of its citizens" and include them in its deliberations, writes Olaf Cramme for Open Democracy.

The 17 September article states that the Reform Treaty's changes in favour of more democracy and subsidiarity are "a step in the right direction", but will not generate more enthusiasm for the EU – and so decisions on issues such as the single market, social Europe, competition rules and the EU's role in a multi-polar world thus need a "stronger political underpinning".

Cramme fears that once agreement on the new treaty has been reached, supporters of integration "will go back to sleep" and Brussels will "restart its autopilot" and concentrate on "nonsense" issues such as imports of Chinese light bulbs and the European Institute of Technology.

This would be "detrimental" to integration, he believes, as for too long the EU has been in a "technocratic bubble". This notion allows national politicians to "underplay the increasing influence of Brussels", and thus, intentionally or otherwise, nurture feelings of Euroscepticism, despite the "profound economic and social impact on our societies" of EU decisions.

Cramme claims that there is a "chasm" between policies and politics at EU level, while the opposite is happening nationally – and that only a few leaders such as French president Nicolas Sarkozy realise this.
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My comment: Wait a minute- the import of light bulbs from China is IMPORTANT! As it's a European company that produces them and another European company that lobbied the higher import taxes. And thus prevented the poorer countries like mine to go green. Because the price of one fucking bulb is 9 euros and those are half mine pocket money for a week! But I agree that visions should come first if we want a strong and flourishing EU.

Europe: The empire of emptiness

The political crisis in Belgium, the deterioration of the relationship between France and Germany and the EU-Russia crisis raise a number of questions:

  • Has the time finally come for the EU and its member states to adress existential issues?

  • Does the EU-27 still need the Franco-German engine as its motor?

  • Are we entering a period of competition between projects: eastward glances versus the Euro-Mediterranean dream?

The EU-Africa relationship is characterised by a lack of values and projects as well, the author adds. The next EU-Africa summit in Lisbon on 8 and 9 December 2007 is being prepared without any conviction, he notes.

Despite the fact that many Europeans are waiting impatiently for the end of US President George W. Bush's mandate, this will not suddenly provide miraculous solutions to the issues of security, global terrorism and sharing western values, Lesueur says.
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The Reform Treaty is a "relatively small step" in the EU’s institutional development, marking "neither a major development" nor a "substantial change of direction" in that process, writes Brendan Donnelly of the Federal Union. source

Deliberative democracy can help EU address democratic deficit


Consulting elites offers deliberation but without political equality, whereas consulting the people offers political equality but without deliberation, writes James Fishkin of Stanford University for the Tomorrow's Europe project.

Fishkin advocates the "deliberative poll", dating from ancient Athens and involving the election of a random microcosm of citizens chosen by lot, a "discussion group", as a way of addressing this deficit.

This system embodies deliberation through carefully-balanced background materials, moderated small group discussions and plenary sessions which answer the groups' questions, and culminates in a confidential questionnaire, the results of which are compared to poll results at the beginning of the process, the author explains.

Fishkin highlights three fundamental problems addressed by the deliberative poll:

  • Rational ignorance: Voters believe that as their vote is only one of millions, it will not count for much.

  • Non-attitudes / phantom opinions: People who have not thought about an issue do not want to admit it, so instead they randomly choose an option, or react to sound bites or headlines.

  • People who are interested in politics tend to talk to people, and consult media, who they agree with.

He claims that the deliberative poll solves these problems by:

  • Each person knows that his/her vote counts as they are one in fifteen or so in a discussion group, giving people reason to be informed and solving the rational ignorance issue.

  • It replaces non-attitudes with considered, transparent judgements, formed in the small groups from balanced materials, accurate information, and expert opinion.

  • The composition of the groups exposes participants to different points of view.

Fishkin concludes by stating that "we need to experiment with different modes of democratic consultation and use social science to ensure that processes are balanced and representative".

Only by "experimentation" can the dilemma of deliberative but unequal elite processes versus equal but not deliberative plebiscitary processes be surmounted, he adds.

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My comment: Interesting idea, I'd really like participating in such discussion group. And people really should feel involved, to know they are important, that they are the one that choose the ruling body.

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