Saturday 28 August 2010

Eurobarometer findings on EU public opinion: Open Europe blew it

In God We Trust is the official motto of the United States of America, surprisingly for a country where the first amendment enshrines the separation of church and state.

What do citizens of the European Union trust in?

The UK based anti-EU lobby group Open Europe has avidly seized on diminished support for the EU:

On 26 August 2010, the Open Europe blog accused the European Commission: A Classic Example Of EU Spin. According to Open Europe the Commission is “trying to take us for a ride”.

The main item of the Open Europe’s press summary 27 August 2010 was: Support for the EU falls to a nine year low; Only 50% of Germans consider EU membership “a good thing” – down 10 points in less than a year.

The main headline of the Fortnightly Open Europe Bulletin 27 August 2010: Support for EU hits nine-year low. Open Europe called the European Commission’s press release a blatant and dishonest (taxpayer-funded) attempt by the Commission to spin clearly unfavorable poll results.

The same day, Open Europe Director Mats Persson recycled the allegation in a post on his EUobserver blog: An exceptionally poor attempt at spinning unfavourable poll results.

Commission press release

Let us go to the EU Commission’s offending press release (26 August 2010, IP/10/1071; available in 22 languages):

Spring 2010 Eurobarometer: EU citizens favour stronger European economic governance

Open Europe seems to have found particularly offensive that the headline of the press release and Commissioner Viviane Reding used the words stronger or enhanced “economic governance” as shorthand for the 75 per cent EU-wide support for a “stronger coordination of economic and financial policies among all the EU Member States”, the highest support (26 per cent) among institutions - national and international - for ability to “take effective actions against the financial and economic crisis”, as well as high support for some sort of economic reform agenda (reducing public deficit and debt in respondent’s own country, surveillance of international financial groups, and for priorities of the EU 2020 reform strategy).

Actually, sensible enterprise interest groups and single market supporters notice promising signs of European awareness of the need for economic reform, at macro and micro level.

What is Open Europe playing at?

But professedly pro-market Open Europe, worried about “pressing challenges of weak economic growth, rising global competition, insecurity and a looming demographic crisis” blew it.

Blew it by playing with words, instead of looking at the substance.

This is the benign interpretation. It is possible that Open Europe’s interests lie elsewhere, not in a general European interest to achieve economic reform.

A more worrying alternative is dogmatism: that the overriding ideological aim of Open Europe is to dismantle or roll back the European Union, so much so that the interest of functioning economies and markets come second.

Another possibility is that the real agenda of Open Europe is to keep the EU too weak to coordinate economic policies and in order to protect the particular interests of a few financial institutions from sensible supervision.

Or are there still other reasons for such vehemence against ‘economic governance’?

The European Citizen wisely said the Eurobarometer results are vague, and that policy makers and supporters will have to make the cases for their ideas and try and win support for them.

Open Europe’s urge to bash the Commission got in the way of a golden opportunity to boost the economic reform agenda of the European Union, but perhaps this is but a minor concern for this lobby group and its backers.

EU citizens trust in economic reform and in the European Union, more than in their national government or parliament, but what does Open Europe trust in?

Ralf Grahn

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It is easier to understand a language than to use it correctly. As Eurobloggers we could and should promote interaction among Europeans across borders and between linguistic communities. Grahnlaw has adopted a multilingual comment policy:

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  1. Har du läst att Mats Persson/Open Europe har skrivit en svensk version av sin partsinlaga på Europaportalen?

  2. Kallisti,

    Thank you for taking the trouble.

    Yes, thank you. I saw Mats Persson's latest version on Swedish Europaportalen and I thought that I detected some softening in the last sentences, cosmetic or real.

    I also wrote a blog entry on this latest statement.


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