Sunday, 1 October 2017

Future of Europe: a new narrative?

Yesterday we looked at the European Union asking EU citizens, without the focus, resources or intent to act on the feedback, either on the fundamental issue of ownership (democracy) or more specific questions of individual policies. I wonder if the democratic conventions proposed by the French president Emmanuel Macron have been designed to be more effective channels of citizens’ political will than the public relations part of the Commission’s Future of Europe project, including the Citizens’ Dialogues.

A new narrative for Europe?

In April 2013, the sadness of being unloved made the president of the European Commission José Manuel Durão Barroso launch a culturally tinged project for a new narrative for Europe. Its most visible legacy was the declaration The mind and body of Europe, calling for a European “New Renaissance”.

In The New York Review of Books, Anne Applebaum turns to books by Heinrich Geiselberger, James Kirchick, Ivan Krastev, Giles Merritt, Anton Shekhovtsov and Loukas Tsoukalis with the question: A New European Narrative? The books “disagree about the endgame: where Europe is going, what it should become, and what it should do in order to get there.”

Democratic reform and effective powers require a level of of political energy that, according to  Applebaum, always seems to be missing at the European level. She asks if there is a potential “game changer” on the horizon, to test the proposition that what people really hate about Europe isn’t that it usurps power, but that it seems powerless.  

A new Commission effort was the project leading to the publication 12 ideas for the Future of Europe - New narrative for Europe communications campaign (manuscript finished June 2017; 64 pages), which is worth reading for the detailed findings about aspirations and  concerns of young people - employment, education, environmental protection and citizen participation being the main policy areas (page 16). With regard to democratic impact, they wanted to be better informed to vote in European elections, with hints of turning the European Union into a democratic “nation” (unified) state (pages 15 and 27-32 plus 40-41).

Necessary impetus

After the three resolutions on EU reform from the European Parliament, the analysis contained in the European Commission’s White Paper on the Future of Europe and the five reflection papers plus the roadmap offered by president Jean-Claude Juncker on the State of the Union 2017 web page, as well as the eloquent Initiative pour l’Europe pep talk given by the French president Emmanuel Macron, the citizens of the European Union have enough access to the Whys? of the European project to provide the union of heads of state or government with necessary impetus for a new narrative based on democratic government and powers commensurate to the challenges.

Ralf Grahn

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