Sunday, 5 September 2010

What’s in a name? Barroso’s State of the Union address

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet;

(William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene ii)

As we know, the two young lovers died, so perhaps a name is not as innocuous as they wanted to believe.

One to underline the symbolic value of a name is the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, whose website announces his first State of the Union address:

"President Barroso will deliver the first State of the Union Address 2010 on Tuesday 7 September 2010 at 9 o'clock"

The President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso will deliver the first "State of the Union Address 2010" on Tuesday, 7 September 2010 at the European Parliament at 9 o'clock.

In his speech the President will give his assessment of where the Union stands and outline the political challenges for the next 12 months.

It seems as if Matizandrea’s Blog was the first among Eurobloggers to pay attention to the State of the Union speech: Lo stato dell’Unione (31 August 2010). Andrea Matiz sees the speech as the first step under the new communication strategy, but he wonders about the media attention the speech will get.

According to The Parliament magazine, the State of the union speech is going to top the Strasbourg plenary agenda of the European Parliament.

The Week in Bloggingportal newsletter and blog have already announced a pan-European Barroso Buzzword Bingo. (See Wikipedia article Buzzword bingo.)

This attempt at humour is one of the kinder reactions this far, although the newsletter text which laid the ground was fairly cutting.

In her EUobserver blog (1 September 2010), Honor Mahony stated that Barroso is not the only one who could aspire to speak for the European Union. The State of the Union name attracts critical comparison with the United States. Still, an honest assessment of where the EU is at, a little humility on the part of the commission president admitting where he could have done more and a few ambitious and clear plans for future would be a good start.

In a post ironically headlined Barroso, Leader of the Free World (but text in German), Max Steinbeis on Verfassungsblog asks if this is the right time to attract comparison which can only be embarrassing.

In the blog entry State of the Union Address, Your Freedom and Ours remarks that the president of the United States was elected according to the US Constitution.

Great Expectations?

Is it a justified move by Barroso and his team to name the Tuesday morning speech the State of the Union Address?

Have they given rise to expectations beyond the powers of the Commission?

Can Barroso, helped by his speechwriters, communicate an engaging vision for EU citizens?

Ralf Grahn

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