Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Europe and its citizens

by Melanchthon Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 03:41:58 PM EST

This diary is meant to illustrate what I proposed in the ET Think Lab diary and in the Open Source Social Democracy diary

I propose to work together on a contribution we could put on the PESmanifesto debate on European democracy and diversity and send to some media as an op-ed.

The theme is: how could we improve the relationship between the EU institutions and the European citizens and how could we make the European citizens take ownership of the European Union?

To start the debate, I will recycle what I wrote in this comment about the ways to improve democracy in the EU by working on the relationship between the European level and the national/local level:

At the moment, the European level and the national/local level are very much disconnected form each other. It is true for the institutions and administrations as well as for the civil society organisations.

Paradoxically, it is probably because the European Union is not bureaucratic enough... As Migeru mentioned it, given the size of the EU (now ~500 millions of citizens), the European Commission has a surprising low number of agents (you could almost drown them in a big bathtub... well, maybe a swimming pool!). What is less known is that it's also true for the civil society organisations like the trade unions, the employers' organisations and the NGOs as well as the national representations: their Brussels-based teams are very small. For example, in the European permanent secretariat of the European Trade-Unions Confederation, there is at the most one or two team members coming from a given country and some countries have no permanent member in the team. Ditto for Business Europe and UEAPME (the employer's organisations), let alone the NGOs.

These teams are usually very knowledgeable about the functioning of the European institutions and they have developed a high level of expertise in working together. however, their small size has an important consequence: each person in these small teams has a very heavy workload (meeting MEP, preparing dossiers, participating in negotiations, attending commissions and work groups, informing/training new member states representatives...) and thus they have no time left to play the essential role of go-between with their colleagues at national and local levels in order to share their knowledge and disseminate information. The result is the existence of a micro-society which is very efficient (yes!), but disconnected from the national and local level. And I think it is true also for the European political parties and for the MEP who are really involved in the parliament (unlike most of the French ones!).

And here is the vicious circle: given the high level of skills and knowledge of these people, and the necessary cost/time to acquire them, and given the depth of their commitment, the turn-over is very low, so there is little dissemination of knowledge/information through "shuttle" effect.

Even if I think these teams should be reinforced, I don't think the solution is to develop huge Brussels-based teams.

What is your opinion on this problem?

In my comment, I suggested to work at several levels:

  • to set-up awareness-raising and educational programmes to improve the European citizens knowledge of European institutions,

  • to organise ambitious training/exchange schemes bringing together counterparts from several countries to work on a common issue, both monopartite (trade-unionists with trade-unionists) and multipartite (employers, trade-unionists, elected representatives, NGOs representatives...). If ambitious enough, this would produce a significant number of Europe-knowledgeable/skilled people among national and local actors in each member state and, thus, create a pool which would facilitate and improve the turn-over. Such schemes already exist but, so far, they address a very limited number of persons, thus they are not significant enough.

  • to foster and support the creation of European networks in which stakeholders cooperate on common projects and through that, come to share experiences and point of views,

  • to set-up Europe-wide political organisations and parties which develop Europe-wide political programs and campaign together on common issues,

  • to encourage and facilitate the development of European media (newspapers, TV channels, Radios, Internet portals, Blogs(!)...).

Do you agree with these ideas? Could we develop them? What suggestions would you make?


Display:
What I've been wondering about for some time: how many people are part of the 'extended EU'? In terms of working groups, high level groups, committees, etc? Is there some kind of data on 'full time equivalents'?

How much is paid for by the EU and how much by the Member States / businesses / associations / NGOs?

According to Wiki there are now around 23,000 people working for the Commission (plus 9,000 designated 'experts', but I think those only work small loads?). I'd guess the figure for the total EU would be in the 35,000 to 40,000 range.

But then, there is a large number of Member State officials and representatives from business/civil society who also play some part in the EU.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 04:03:03 PM EST
It is very difficult to know the real number of people working at a European level; You could add the interpreters (and there are a lot of them in Brussels!). But, even counting all these people, that still represent a small number of people having the knowledge of European issues and institutions.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 04:10:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The mid-level Member State officials who participate in comitology, preparatory committees or working groups probably have the highest level of connection between the EU and the national/local levels. They could serve as a bridge, or at least be an important part of setting up a bridge.

But how many of them are there?

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 09:09:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The best thing you can do to bring Brussels closer to the people is making it more transparent and giving it more to decide. The second is more important. No one is going to follow Brussels when, to guess, three quarters of the work done is mere technical regulation, and the other quarter is mostly made up of legislation in which only small communities are interested.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 04:10:51 PM EST
I agree with the need of more transparency but, mind you, some of the legislation done in Brussels concern the vast majority of European citizens, mainly in the social field: remember the Bolkestein directive or the REACH directive. And it is more and more the case.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 04:14:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is some work done by the EU which is very important, but a lot of it isn't. When we talk about 80% of our national legislation that is supposedly determined in Brussels (a figure I doubt, by the way) a lot of it is on the level of technical regulation, or coordination issues.

For instance, the upcoming plenary session, the European Parliament will debate and vote on the Council Decision about the enlargement of Schengen, which is a big, vitally important topic.

They will also spend 95 minutes for a vote on this:

Report: Jean-Marie Cavada (A6-0417/2007) - 1-benzylpiperazine (BZP)
on the proposal for a Council decision on defining 1-benzylpiperazine (BZP) as a new synthetic drug which is to be made subject to control measures and criminal provisions
[COM(2007)0430 - 11974/2007 - C6 0285/2007 - 2007/0811(CNS)]
Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

EXPLANATORY STATEMENT   

The European Parliament is consulted on a proposal for a Council decision on defining 1-benzylpiperazine (BZP) as a new synthetic drug which is to be made subject to control measures and criminal provisions. This implementing measure is taken by the Council on the basis of Council Decision 2005/387/JHA of 10 May 2005 on the information exchange, risk-assessment and control of new psychoactive substances.

This is the first time that Council formally consults Parliament on such an implementing measure in the third pillar according to Article 39(1) of the EU Treaty. The Council has set a deadline of three months for Parliament to deliver its opinion in accordance with Article 39(1) of the EU Treaty.

The decision to submit BZP to control is based on a risk assessment report, which has been drawn up by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and submitted to the Council and the Commission on 31 May 2007. Following the recommendation of the report, the Commission has put forward a proposal to bring BZP under control on 17 July 2007.

The risk assessment report on which the Commission proposal is based reveals a certain lack of conclusiveness. It points out that the evidence for harms arising from this drug is not strong and that further studies are needed. On the other hand, a range of adverse reactions have been reported by users of BZP and the strict procedural deadlines imposed by Council Decision 2005/387/JHA do not allow for in-depth research.

Furthermore, the overall conclusion of the experts is that due to its stimulant properties, risk to health and the lack of medical benefits, there is a need to control BZP. This conclusion is in line with the precautionary principle. The relatively low risks of the substance have been taken into account in the decision by pointing out that the control measures have to be proportionate to the risks of the substance.

The rapporteur therefore suggests approving the Commission proposal while pointing out the shortcomings of the risk assessment report.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 08:51:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But isn't this an important issue in principle? Sure no-one cares about the EP's decision on BZP, but the principle here is the same as that for classification for other drugs, which affects us all through it's ramifications for drug crime and smuggling.

I mean, I agree that this is 95 mins largely wasted, but how do you make the EP responsible in principle for the issue without having them have to go through details like this?

I guess at least in my experience, this is one of those difficult balances that every parliamentary democracy tends to get bogged down in?

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 09:55:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The classification for this or that drug should IMO be decided upon by an independent official or a directorate, not the European Parliament, not the Council. The EP and the Council only need effective controls to be able to override the official or the directorate when it makes procedurally dubitable decisions that are politically salient.

This seems to be how it works in the US, at least:

The legislation created five Schedules (classifications), with varying qualifications for a drug to be included in each. Two federal departments, the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services (which includes the Food and Drug Administration) determine which drugs are added or removed from the various schedules, though the statute passed by Congress created the initial listing. Classification decisions are required to be made on the criteria of potential for abuse, accepted medical use in the United States, and potential for dependence.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 10:13:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 10:15:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The text you quote does indicate, though, that this is the first time the EP has been called upon to consider a matter like this one. Presumably because it was felt the question was not simply a technical one, there being some doubt about potential problems with the recreative use of BZP.

Benzylpiperazine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Benzylpiperazine (street names include "A2", "frenzy" and "nemesis"[1] ) (BZP) is a recreational drug with euphoric, stimulant properties. Its mechanism of action is believed to be similar to MDMA and the effects produced by BZP are comparable to those produced by amphetamine. Adverse effects have been reported following its use including psychosis, renal toxicity, and seizures. It does not appear to be very addictive and no deaths have been reported following a sole ingestion of BZP. It is banned in a few countries, including the United States, Australia and in parts of Europe. However, its legal status is less restrictive in some other countries such as Ireland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada.

I don't see, a priori, why a parliament shouldn't be called on to look into this kind of matter.

And, after all, doesn't it raise the level of transparency you (and I don't disagree) were asking for?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 03:11:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's good that the EP is getting some say in criminal law matters. But this is a mere 'implementing measure' on a previous 'decision', which is a bit too particular IMO. Still, it could be that you are right and they are looking into it because the EP feels it is important.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 04:12:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Council Decision 2005/387/JHA of 10 May 2005

the upcoming plenary session, November 2007

Two years and 6 months later...
-Whomever has been working on it and not come up with real-life conclusions, is fired and investigated.

-All pharma distantly related to the product is excommulgated and forbidden from selling products in the EU.

-I don´t trust politicians being capable of making political decisions, anymore, so why would I trust them to make technical decisions?

-There is probably a new replacement drug on the street already.  Made in India.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 at 01:35:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the 2005 date is the legal underpinning of the referral to the EP in this case:

on the basis of Council Decision 2005/387/JHA of 10 May 2005 on the information exchange, risk-assessment and control of new psychoactive substances.

See the following paragraph:

The Council has set a deadline of three months for Parliament to deliver its opinion

So I don't think there's a two-and-a-half year delay.

But OK, you don't trust politicians. And there's a new drug from India, maybe. But the EU can take tough decisions about dangerous substances, see REACH. So perhaps there's some hope after all?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 at 04:37:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Re - awareness raising programs, there is already this
The Model European Communities Project (MECP) is a yearly political simulation organised by the European Schools. Selected students from each of the 12 schools take on roles as politicians from the 25 member states of the EU, and take part in a 3 day run of council and plenary sessions. It is divided into MEC (Model European Council) and MEP (Model European Parliament).

Bit like the model UN. Don't know if there are any similar programs. But you could build on this.

If you'd put a bit more funding into the Erasmus programme, you might also provide a bigger 'EU' component there. It should be purely information! No promotional nonsense.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 04:25:54 PM EST
As I said there are already some schemes whiwh purpose is to develop the knowledge of European institutions and to promote exchange between citizens. But, so far, they address a limited number of persons.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 04:17:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. I was trying to think of how to develop 'awareness raising' further. I'll take one point and run with it:

Awareness raising can rapidly trip into the pitfall of being mere advertising. People are already given an overdose of advertising and may well respond with cynicism. For credibility, it is vital to avoid promotional fluff in awareness raising. Aside of providing information in a factual tone, it's also vital to provide that information which is most useful to the audience.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 09:24:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I see this problem in a slightly different way. There is a syndrome called the 'Bubble Effect'. I have observed it in the rock and roll and advertising world many times. It happens when people achieve a special position of respect, power, celebrity and/or income that takes them into a bubble that in turn disconnects them from the everyday lives of the people they seek to influence. They lose touch of the everyday reality that was the source of their special position. The Bubble Phenomenon is observable, I believe, in all systems.

You can survive for about 5 years on what you remember to have been reality, but after that you are no use at all, if you are in the Bubble. It is a bubble that encloses everything. The difference between business and coach is a lot more than a curtain drawn across at take-off and landing.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 07:07:14 PM EST
As you say, the "Bubble phenomenon" exists in all systems and it is, imho, a major problem in democracies. But it concerns mainly the persons in power, or next to the power centres. I call it the "Court effect". It is the case of the European commissioners and of the high-level civil servants of the European Commission. It is less true for the lower-level civil servants and other people working in the civil society organisations. In their case, there is a different bubble effect which comes from the fact that, as I say above, they represent a small number of persons working together and that they have no time to meet people working at a national or local level.

So, the main question is: what can we propose to tackle both these problems?

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 04:31:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a Nobel in it if we can solve both ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 07:26:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a Nobel, Bub, in No Bubble.

<runs away>

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 03:51:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
.. more and more and more european symbols everywhere... specially in sports..

The only making people feel european is cahmpions league in football..

we need ore of that... Olympic games where people go as euroepans plus nationality.

the same goes for symbolic stuff one lection ..like electing the president of the comission in a  european vote

I know I knwo nobody would want to accept that... but that's the goal.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 08:09:14 AM EST
the same goes for symbolic stuff one lection ..like electing the president of the comission in a  european vote

I know I knwo nobody would want to accept that... but that's the goal.

That is one point where I really agree, running Europe wide elections for certain things should be an aim, voting by country gives the Eurosceptics far too much power, after all we're now at the mercy of small mobs of lunatics in each country, pandering to militant nationalism. That's handing over a veto to Europena policy to 27 seperate gangs of neandertals.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 08:42:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Absolutely.. a one day vote for all citizens .. equal under god and all that stuff... to elect the presdient of the comission... by the way.. the more power you give to the president of the comission , fore xample if you join it with the fugre of president of Europe the better... symbol and a ittle bit of power... that would be the best.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 09:03:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we have the Ryder Cup but I don't know if that's turned anyone into a Europhile.

I agree with the 'one election' part, but that's not mere symbolism, it's giving people something to decide.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 09:32:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Golf si for the elite..a dn the leite is already positioned.. so golf is precisely the anti-symbol

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 03:57:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
kcurie:
.. more and more and more european symbols everywhere... specially in sports..

That is so brilliant it's evil.

Nothing else (in peacetime) creates a 'national' identity like sports.

So yes - people who are already used to the idea of 'supporting Europe' will suddenly find themselves supporting Europe.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 04:48:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am blushed..... but I am afraid is basic anthopology applied to a problem where anthropologists do not dare/want/are asked to say a word.... And you last sentence is.. well all taht is there... Americans defend/love america because.. well because kids are taught that way in footbal, basketball and baseball stadiums.

But ei.. I love being evily brilliant!!! :) it's great.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 06:21:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But finding a sport that we all participate in might be a problem, that and finding someone to compete against

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 07:36:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is nothing to prevent the EU from sponsoring football/basketball/baseball/velleyball/hockey/waterpolo/... teams for international exhibition matches. Imagine the cool blue (home) and gold (away) uniforms.

Which allows me to plug Brian Paddick for Mayor...
Guardian (UK): Young, fresh and unspun!

But Paddick put in a consummate performance, despite admitting he had only studied the party's policies recently ("Ten years ago I joined the party, but I had to give that up as I became a bigger cheese," he explained). "Underneath that blue uniform there was a gold one. I'll leave that to your imagination."
"Young, fresh and unspun" is the slogan of one of the other two candidates for the Lib Dem nomination, Chamali Fernando.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 07:44:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the first steps will be in individual sports.. they could be under a double flag...

then Migeru option

and then a single european selection  for olympic games in individual sports..

Adn then youc an let the union proceed with the symbol of president and the power of a president...

The final state will be a single tem in all the sports..but this is too far in the future.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 at 09:27:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do think exhibition games are probably the first option, ahead of individual sports. For instance, an EU vs. Rest of World football game could be organized by the EU to celebrate some occasion or other.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 at 09:44:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 at 09:58:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Goes to show how much attention I pay to football, or to Plan D.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 at 12:03:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it needs to be something more regular, and not a Europe team against a British team, that just gives the obstructionists in the UK someone to cheer against the EU.

how about a regular EU vs the Americas vs Africa vs Asia tournament.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 at 01:04:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU vs Mercosur would be cool!

France, Germany, Italy vs. Brazil and Argentina

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 at 01:08:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
or AFTA

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 at 01:21:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No Spanish or British players?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 at 01:22:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps this question of common symbolism across the EU is a core issue. For example, in the U.S., students are taught a common version of American history regardless of the state (except Texas). We all celebrate, with some slight regional differences, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Remembrance Day, and, recently, Pearl Harbor Day--each of which represents a certain specific period of U.S. history. (Discovery of the continent, initial successful settlement, independence from Europe, the Civil War, the First World War, and the Second World War.)

Whether the story behind the common history is correct or not is one point that can be argued, but in any case everybody is taught to celebrate the same legend of where we came from.

My suspician is that Guy Fawkes Day does not have much relevance in France, nor Bastille Day in Germany, nor... (I don't even know the other national examples). A set of common holidays that celebrate the common EU history is needed. Is there an EU Day celebrated everywhere?

by asdf on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 at 08:03:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, in Europe they have May 9th, "Schuman Day" I think its called, and it's the day that Robert Schuman, gave his plan, the Schuman Declaration, to tie France and Germany's coal and steel industries.
This day is observed, although I don't think it's like the Fourth of July over here.
Yes, I agree that these Europe-wide holidays should have more than just quite observance.
I also find that the news coverage about the EU out of Britain is also somewhat biased against the Union.
by euamerican on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 at 09:07:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome to European Tribune, euamerican!

In many European countries, May 9th "Schuman Day" is still not a holiday, not even in France. It has still to become a European symbol.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 08:40:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I a afraid this is the first I heard of "Schuman day". Does it really exist?

But all countries celebrate Christmas, don't they? This sounds obvious at first, but outside of Europe and the Americas, Christmas is not a big thing.
Same applies to New Years day. In fact , this might be a good candidate for a "European holiday", as it is already celebrated everywhere and has not much of a political load, as a more Christian holiday might have.
The other logical option would be to look at a unified WW2 remembrance day, but this might be more complicated, with Germany and Italy, and neutral countries etc.

To be honest, I feel little for artificial holidays, like Schuman day (or Columbus day, or Pearl Harbour day). It lacks exactly the emotions that are already the EU's main deficit  

by GreatZamfir on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 01:14:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Columbus Day" is the Spanish National Holiday. Not that I feel very attached to it, I prefer December 6, "Constitution Day". It commemorates a better set of values.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 01:16:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't know they had it in Spain too. In the US it appears pretty artificial
by GreatZamfir on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 01:26:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it's part of the National myth in Spain. I have to admit I don't know what Columbus has to do with the US of A, except tangentially.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 01:29:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know what Columbus has to do with the US of A, except tangentially.

Something to do with "discovering" the "New" World...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 01:37:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A couple of hundred years before any forebears of the USians set foot on the continent.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 01:38:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm pretty sure my kindergarten teacher told us that Columbus discovered the United States in a way that seriously conflated the Spanish invasion of those to the south of us with the Pilgrims who had turkey and popcorn with the Indians.  Or rather, in a way left out all the stuff about the fact that he never set foot on the continent we call North America.  

What's that?  The history teachers were wrong?  Impossible!

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 02:00:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have to say I was a little surprised to see that A People's History of the United States started with Columbus and the Spanish colonization of Mexico and the Caribbean.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 02:10:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, mostly it was to debunk the myth of Columbus the hero.  

But it's actually not intellectually questionable to provide background leading up to events when writing history.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 02:16:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't say it was intellectually questionable. I just wasn't aware to what extent Columbus had been made part of the USian National myth.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 02:20:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yikes.  A lot of Americans I know refuse to even acknowledge Columbus Day.  

Interestingly, the only people who really go all out for it are the Italians, not the Spanish.

...

Anyway, what about the anniversary of the creation of the EU?  Or May Day.  But then neither that or New Years Day are peculiar to the EU...  Is there something in the law that says there cannot be an EU holiday?

Accd. to Wikipedia:

The European Union does not have official holiday days. These are under the control of member states.



"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 01:32:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know why Europeans cannot "own" and celebrate positive events from other nations.

It's a little hard to generalize holidays that essentially celebrate independence from or war with neighbours, but things like the French Revolution can be celebrated throughout Europe because it represents Enlightened values which presumably Europe stands for, and the adoption of the Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

I am not sure it would not be possible to go through a list of public holidays in all 27 member states and select from them holidays that can be shared widely.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 08:55:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a limit to how much the EU itself can do to support coverage on it and understanding of it through providing 'capacity building' and 'awareness raising'. Interest has to come from the bottom up as well.

Certainly in terms of capacity building, I'm afraid that the EU will be tempted to provide top down progammes which will provide networks without real engagement and organisations and parties without popular support.

Access and transparancy are real issues. These have to be seen in a broad context. Formal access and transparancy are nowhere near sufficient. Accessibility and usability need to be prioritised. As a small example, the press releases from the Commission are often still far beyond the level of reading comprehension of the average journalist, which is unacceptable.

This is one area where the EU could learn from efforts in the UK, or at least I have the impression that constructing a service-oriented civil service has been a priority of nuLabour. UK citizens may jump in here and say to what extent this has worked out, which I don't know about...

The EU also needs to focus more on politically salient issues, but that largely depends on the willingness of the Member States to let the EU decide more.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 10:58:05 AM EST
Well I'd ask what is being done to improve the EU's presence on national media?

Currently on the UK's main nightly news bradcasts, we have usually a majority of the program being taken up by national politicians, with European institutions appearing maybe for a minute, once a month. I don't remember the last time I saw the Parliament on the main news bulletin.  

Without some sort of more regular presence, the European institutions will be easy prey to those that want to sell them as interfering troublemakers.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 11:28:49 AM EST
Nanne points out a couple of objections to your suggestions:

  • that awareness schemes aimed at the masses easily become advertising, and hokey at that;

  • in terms of capacity building, I'm afraid that the EU will be tempted to provide top down progammes which will provide networks without real engagement.

I'd be afraid of both of these, but that should rather be a reason for specifically outlawing them from any proposed system. In other words, build in checks and balances to prevent them.

This is off the top of my head, but could not the first specific issue "counterparts" (your second point, M), or "stakeholders" (point 3) be called to work on be how to raise public awareness (point 1), with obligation to produce concrete schemes within their fields of competence? I'm thinking in terms of a kind of training cascade. Those who learned more about Europe and its relevance to their fields would be asked to think at the same time of how best to communicate that relevance to others in their field, and be given the means to carry that out. With cross-country applications (not just everyone goes home after the session, but may be called on to share experience from their member state with people from another MS).

I'm treating your second and third suggestions as almost interchangeable here, but the main thing is to make the first point an essential focus of the two next. Acquiring knowledge, skills, and habits, while at the same time thinking of how to make them intelligible to third parties.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 03:48:20 PM EST
I'll just echo the points by Ceebs and Nanne and point out that the EU organisation has a tin ear when it comes to PR. Press releases sound every bit as detached and bureaucratic as many people seem to be imagine the EU to be.

So there's no chance at all of bottom-up interest until there's much more effective top-down communication.

And kc's idea of sport and symbols everywhere is also good. I'd imagine it would be hard to stipulate that - e.g. - all Euro-zone currencies should include a relevant symbol. Or at the very least every country should have a bank note dedicated to the Euro-zone.

But it could be done diplomatically as part of an inclusive anniversary celebration.

(Etc.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 04:56:40 PM EST
I really like the cross-training programs idea, if it doesn´t become another monster.  Ideally, it should involve both, young and retired people (give them all something to do).

It seems like it has all been done before and it has gone to waste because people are sponging off the system.  There are so many organizations, associations, foundations and societies that I literally get lost when I try to find a source of solid information to take action.  Not to mention disguised lobbies/tank-thinks.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 at 01:57:20 PM EST


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]