Friday, 1 July 2016

Pre-Brexit blues and my return to euroblogging

After six years of silence, "Julien Frisch – Watching Europe (and beyond)" returns to life. The Brexit referendum one week ago was a reminder that those of us who believe that Europe (and the world) should come together cannot afford to be silent. And so I return with a pre-Brexit blues, trying to follow what is ahead in the months and years to come.

I don't know where this is going to go, but when I made the first step with this blog on the 1st of July 2008, exactly eight years ago, I also did not know where this journey would take me. Within a few months, the blog changed the course of my life and over the course of two years it opened doors I did not know existed. In the end, it came to define my career path(s).

Through this blog, I learnt to understand that we, citizens of Europe and of the EU*, we can have an impact on what happens in Brussels and in European politics through our online voices. We do not have to be fatalistic about "them" (faceless EU bureaucrats) over "there" (in evil Brussels) taking decisions "without us" (the public who knows better). We can have a say in what happens, in Brussels and in other European capitals.

Don't get me wrong: Not every word that we wrote and write into the endless plains of the internet makes a difference. But at the end of the first decade of this millennium, some of us first built a pan-European community of bloggers and, over time, did something with this community. Thanks to the feedback we got from EU officials, from journalists and from activists, we realised that some words we wrote actually mattered.

When I left this blog behind me on the 1st of July 2010, I did so because writing a blog under a pseudonym was not enough to change the EU at the pace I wanted change. And I got offered a chance to do more.

I thus left the digital sphere and became a real-life activist under my real name for several years (even though the digital sphere remained a crucial part of activism). Together with many other activists and standing on the shoulders of even more people, we worked to change Brussels politics.

And for those of you who have been watching Brussels in the past decade, you cannot deny that a lot of changes have happened since 2008-10 (for the better and for the worse).

It is now the 1st of July 2016, and I start blogging as Julien Frisch again.

After some years away from EU politics, I feel that the Brexit referendum in the UK one week ago is significant enough for the future of the EU to return to writing regularly about EU politics. The Brexit negotiations will offer a wealth of big questions and nitty-gritty that will require commentary and context. The coming years after the Brexit referendum will require us pro-Europeans speak up more visibly, using every possible channel to defend the idea of us citizens of Europe growing together and staying together.

I could do this in a different format, leaving this blog dormant, but since this blog remains the most pro-European platform I have ever built and that corresponds to my European mind, I think it is the right place to restart active euroblogging.

Unlike in the past, however, this blog will also look beyond the EU and Europe. The reason is simple: whereas there is now something like a European Public Sphere, online and offline, there isn't yet a fully-fledge global public sphere. And yet, what happens to the world happens to the EU. So EU politics need to be seen in the context of global politics, and not just because recent migration from war- and poverty-torn regions of the world have made clear that the EU is not an island.

My own interests have also evolved over the course of the past eight years, so adding new topics will keep this blog interesting, I hope. European post-Brexit (referendum) politics should still be an important part of what this blog will be about.

You may ask, however, why return to good-old blogging?

I return to good old blogging because we cannot leave the field of defining the words for the future of the EU to the professionals – EU and national politicians, journalists and other full-time Europeans – and we cannot leave the field of spontaneous commentary to the trolls (wherever they are today, on newspaper comment sections, on Youtube, Snapchat etc.). Twitter, which I use, is nice and quick, but content vanishes quickly. Video (on Youtube or elsewhere) is often too time-consuming, although I want to experiment with video. And Facebook makes you too dependent on algorithms for your content to be seen.

So, good-old blogging still seems a way to express myself, even though it feels slightly outdated today. I don't know where the second life of this blog is going to go. Maybe it will be a short experiment, maybe I will be there to stay until Brexit actually happens.

My aim is to blog regularly, whatever this means. It may be a little eclectic for a start because I have to find my old voice again or find a new one for Julien Frisch. Feel free to comment, here or on other social media, to say whether this experiment is successful - and I'll try to be responsive (and obvious troll comments will be erased) to what you think.

* I mean bloggers and blogs like Nosemonkey (UK), Jon Worth (everywhere in Europe), Ralf Grahn (Finland), Michaël Malherbe (France), A Fistful of Euros (multi-author), Kosmopolitio (Germany) and quite a number of others - some still active, some less so - who were out there at the time.