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Monday, November 24, 2008

La la la la I can't hear you

On Friday I went to Paris for what was billed a "very special birthday party" - the 35th anniversary of the Eurobarometer (what, you missed it?)

Well it was worth it. Not in a fun way - more in the sense that it was an invaluable insight into the Commission's attitude to the latest 'no' vote.

When I walked in I was handed a nice canvas briefcase (full of stationary) which would otherwise prove useful in future were it not for the '35th Eurobarometer anniversary' logo on the front. Good to see the Commission is still rolling out the expensive taxpayer-funded propaganda in these times of recession...

Despite expecting it to a certain extent, the message of the whole thing was still alarmingly patronising. The dominant theme was that the Irish did not know what they were doing. In 8 hours of conference and 23 speakers, plus comments from the floor, there was not a single suggestion that anyone at all had voted no out of dissatisfaction with the EU's policies or its direction.

Everything was blamed on the EU's "communication problem."

The Commission and its supporters truly believe that no voter in their right mind has any valid reason whatsoever to want to question EU integration. Those who have voted no simply don't know anything about it, and clearly thought they had some kind of right to upset things in Brussels without consequence.

MEP and former EP President Nicole Fontaine said: "We have a communications problem... We haven't explained enough the benefits of European construction... We have been too modest."

French Europe Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet confidently stated that "The Irish are very much in favour of Europe, but think they are badly informed." He said that "Europe's main problem" is that although Europeans share "common values", this has not lead to a "European consciousness" and "European citizenship."

Communications Commissioner Margot Wallstrom observed that "You cannot impose citizenship on people - it must come from democratic legitimacy". Er, isn't that what we've been saying all along? Isn't that exactly what the EU is now doing, by pressing ahead with the Lisbon Treaty, in spite of the no votes?

She said that in order to "build a feeling of belonging to the EU" we need to "engage and involve citizens in a much more democratic way." More referendums, then? No. According to Walstrom "Referendums... have built-in problems" for subjects as complex as treaties. Jouyet said: "Referenda... allow a populist demagological exploitation of people in a given setting."

According to Former EU Commission President Jacques Santer: "A referendum is good for democracy; it is not always good for a country. We need to make a distinction between democracy and what is good for the country."

Jacques-René Rabier, Founder of Eurobarometer and a former Director-General of the press and communication department, said that people needed to be made more aware of the EU's "common symbols" - the flag, the 9th May 'Europe Day' etc. Jouyet agreed, saying: "Symbols are necessary for Europe... they are the way to reach full European consciousness for the people. There is no identity without symbols."

At least Irish Europe Minister Dick Roche admitted that: "If any other member state had held a referendum on the Treaty, the same issues would have been raised and in many cases the same result." He said the Treaty was "mind-bogglying complex" and pointed out - quite rightly - that the EU must learn to speak to citizens in a language they understand. He joked, "The first thing to learn about referendums - is to avoid them."

He talked a lot about the "europhobic" side of the argument, and blamed the no vote on the fact that "42% of the Irish print media is now British-based" He said, "The British-based europhobic media came to exploit the referendum."

Claus Sorenson, Director General of the Commission's Communication department asked of the Irish: "Did people believe that voting no would be cost-free? Has it only just dawned on them that it is not cost free?" Wallstrom concurred: "They thought it would do them no harm."

Silly, silly voters.

No mention of people's feeling that the EU is undemocratic. No mention of the fraud, the waste, the lack of transparency. No mention of the problematic trade policy and unpopular CAP. No, the only thing wrong with the EU in the eyes of the Commission is that the people of Europe know nothing about the EU, and are therefore ungrateful for it.


Anonymous said...

Made me die a little inside, to hear this.

I understand the Lisbon Treaty will make it possible to leave the EU -- and that'd be the sole reason I want it.

Anonymous said...

The contempt for the democratic underpinning of the EU is disturbing. I, for one, would really want to see a federal EU based on democratic checks and balances, subsidarity and the rule of law.

The EU leadership seem to want a feudal Europe where the "knowledgeable" will have "competency" to decide what they percieve to be best for the masses.

A perfect litmus test is the commisions refusal to answer the simple question: "what will voters have to do to kill the Lissabon treaty?"