Wednesday 25 August 2010

Language barriers challenge online campaigning in Europe

The grass root campaigners for a PES Primary we are following have to shovel away without explicit endorsement from the Party of European Socialists (PES) or the formidable resources of its member parties at national level. Lacking a seal of approval from various party headquarters, they also have to overcome general attitude problems among party faithful who wait for a cue. The civil society actors have to surpass inertia and hostility.

In this blog post we look at another critical issue for pan-EU online campaigns: languages.

While an EU-wide campaign can use social media to pass mental barriers and cross national borders, languages are an obstacle and a challenge for civil society actors wanting to get their message across. Babel is a fact of life in Europe.

Without great organisations on their side, the civil society campaigners have to work themselves, build functioning networks through social media, and rely on other volunteers to spread the word in different languages and to drum up support.

The Campaign for a PES Primary has managed to get a helping hand from some Eurobloggers and socialist networks.

The French socialist collective calls for people to join the Facebook group, as well as to act within their own party at national level.

In German, Martin on Europaeum finds that a primary would bring both the Party of European Socialists and the election to the European Parliament more publicity. Thus it would strengthen the EP.

In Romanian, Dan Luca has posted on the Casa Europei Cluj-Napoca (Europe House) blog, outlining a timetable for an EU-wide primary election for the candidate for the post of Commission President.

Francesca Barca wrote on, contrasting the lack of courage in the 2009 EP election with the level of energy the activists are aiming for in 2014.

I described the campaign on my Swedish blog, Grahnblawg, especially mentioning the Nordic social democratic parties and the competing Europarties being challenged by the PES activists.

On my Finnish blog, Eurooppaoikeus, I told the main things about the PES campaign and how to join it.

The Social Democratic Party in Finland will contribute to the future decision by the Party of European Socialists, but at this stage in Finland as elsewhere, the main question is to reach as many party activists in as many languages as possible, everywhere in the European Union.

The Campaign for a PES Primary is certainly working hard. Desmond O’Toole has just added new posts to the campaign blog, highlighting my entries on attitude obstacles and the presentation in Swedish as well as an entry that the French progressive think tank Eurocit√© has picked up the article.

Overcoming linguistic diversity requires much work, but one small step at the time the online campaign is becoming known among socialists, social democrats and labour party members in the European Union.

New members have joined the Facebook campaign page, bringing the number of supporters to 935. The Twitter campaign page @PESPrimary is updated regularly, so social media are in play.

Still we may wonder if the networking efforts of an EU-wide social media campaign can really lift off before the big mainstream media players all over Europe start showing serious interest in this innovative and potentially transformative campaign.

The experiences of this campaign will be relevant for the civil society organisations and networks keen to test the citizens' initiative, when the implementing legislation is in place.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Comments relevant to the topic discussed in each Grahnlaw blog post are most welcome. However, the number of spam comments has skyrocketed. This is the sad reason for comment moderation, so it may take a while before your valued comment appears.

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:

I do my best to read comments in Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish or Swedish, even if the Grahnlaw blog and my possible replies are in English.

Antonia on the Euonym blog (Talking about the EU) tells us that the European Commission in the UK arranges a Day of Multilingual Blogging on 26 September 2010, and the UK Representation has been joined by the multilingual aggregator and individual Eurobloggers. Join the event page on Facebook, spread the word through social media and personal contacts, begin preparing your blog posts and start learning a new language.

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