Connecting Europe – EU Elections (1) April 21, 2009Posted by didacgp in Uncategorized.
Tags: communication, Europe, European Elections 2009, Internet, Media, Politics, Public space
By Dídac Gutiérrez-Peris
This is the first of a series of articles related with the June 2009 European Elections.
The starting point is something called Predict09 (www.predict09.eu), a website where we can find an accurate prediction of the European elections results. Combined with the conclusions of the last Eurobarometer (EB71) (http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb_special_en.htm) one thing is pretty clear: people don’t care about these elections, and more than 40% will probably not even vote. One could argue that that’s the natural reaction when you have an election with an incredible lack of “politicization” but there’s another crucial factor while explaining the social disinterest and that’s the absence of a tough strategy of political communication. What do we have to do to motivate the national media, the newspapers, the radio stations and TV to speak about different subjects from an European point of view?
At this point if someone expected a “yes, we can” and a list of things to do he will be probably disappointed. The answer to this question is that these medias will continue to inform mostly about national issues. And the reason is purely economical.
When you have an election where the second major party (the Party of European Socialists) does not present any candidate for President of the Commission (giving almost automatically before the vote the presidency to the conservative candidate J.M Barroso), you don’t have that much to write about.. No political battle, no political interest, no selling, no covering by the traditional media. That’s the equation. That simple.
How can we pretend that a newspaper will waste just one press character about an election without controversy, without implication of the politicians, without programs to discuss about, without faces that we can recognize trough all Europe. An election for an European Union that still doesn’t have truly “regalian” powers that we can diverge about how to use them (making allusion to the competences attributed to the Sovereign –security, diplomacy, army, justice, taxation…).
A new public space online
But let’s be optimistic. If I’m not wrong, there’s one media that doesn’t need to sell to survive. One media where the important thing is what the people want to discuss, and not the editorial line or the location of the central redaction. One media where a good idea can reach further without looking at the name of the person that had it. One media that can put together a Lithuanian, a Slovenian and an Italian to speak about the Champions League, Obama or the Climate Change from an European point of view. One media that, at the end, can supply this lack of public space where European citizens can deliberate, can discuss, can ask and can explain their thoughts and doubts about European elections.
The truth is that nowadays, if you are europeist, you have to care for, use and foment internet. It is our last lifeboat against the boredom, the tedium, the infinite disinterest. And there’s nothing worse for a democracy than the arrival of an era of bored people. Democracy is not something self-defensible and there’s nothing more easy to manipulate than our indifference and disaffection. Following this reasoning I was thinking how many MEP’s are in fact ready to do that. How many are fighting to promote the digital debate. How many use twitter, have a blog, update their websites… The result is far worse than catastrophic. And that’s the second point that I wanted to make in this article.
Mister Barroso, the most important institutional representative of the EU doesn’t have a blog. That means that probably 50% of my generation (the percentage that say that they only inform themselves by digital mediums) have never had direct access to his opinions. Of 27 commissioners, just 4 have a proper blog: the Danish Mariann Fischer Boel (Agriculture), the Greek Stavros Dimas (environment), the latvian Andris Piebalgs, (Energy) and the vice-president of the Commission, the Swedish Margot Wallström. Joaquin Almunia, the Spanish commissioner is not in this list. He doesn’t have a blog. Neither the French Jacques Barrot, the Italian Antonio Tajani, the German Günter Verheugen… Not even Viviane Reding, the commissioner in charge of Information Society and Media. And for twitter? Well, as the blog PublicAffairs 2.0 had put forward some days ago: “there are 535 members of Congress in the US, and 116 are using Twitter, or 22%. There are 785 members of the European Parliament, and 27 are using Twitter, or 3.5%”. I’m going to write it again, just for fun: 3,5%.
We are doing something wrong in Europe, and it’s not only because we are not politicized…
Follow the European Elections:
EuDEBATE09 (café babel website for the European elections)