Tuesday 14 April 2009

European Parliament elections 2009 (80): Eurobarometer, Twitter, and piecemeal approaches to the European Dream - corrected

Hm, I realise that this is my 80th blog post on the European Parliament elections. That is not much, taking into account that the first one was published already in early July 2008. At the time I thought there would be many more.

But at the time, I also thought there would be much more attention in the European Parliament elections.

Okay, I admit that there is much more attention than in July 2008. But considering the fact that we are some 7 weeks ahead of one of the largest democratic votes on this planet, "deception" could be the word that describes best how I think about this campaign. And the coverage of what is going on:

Yesterday and today, the most discussed issue in the European news and blogs and Twitter was the latest Eurobarometer survey and the finding that we might face a record low participation. See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Another example of poor reporting on EU-related news. As far as I can see, non of the commentators points to the fact that the Eurobarometer survey has been done in October and November 2008.

[Correction: I suppose Brussels Blogger is right when in his comment he says that the Eurobarometer I link above is not the most recent, although it says publishing date April. The one summarised on the EP site was carried out in January and February.]

For anyone who has followed this blog over the last 8 months it is clear that the visibility of the EP elections in October and November was massively low, even lower than today. If you just take the Wikipedia statistics for the English article on the 2009 EP elections, you will see that in April the peak for daily visitors so far is about 1,100, while the peak during October and November was 332. [Peak in January/February: 608] If we take this as an indicator for attention, it has more than tripled since then [almost doubled since February]. This has to have an effect on voters' intentions, and would bring about different results today.

Notwithstanding, the figures we get in the Eurobarometer are still below expectations, below hopes, below the necessary limits for a democratic legitimacy of the European Parliament.

But not much has happened in this "campaign" that doesn't really deserve the title.

Yes, we get some nice MTV campaigns and we get Twitter election pages popping up and competing with each other for attention: http://eu09.twitlife.com/ vs. http://www.europatweets.eu/.

We also may participate in Twitter and blog discussions on what hashtag should be used on Twitter for the EP elections: #eu09 vs. #ep09 vs. #eu-elect vs. country specific hashtags.

If you want to know who will win, there is a magic scientific prediction machine and a simple survey summary by European news sources. And yes, you have blog coverage of all of these things.

But this is all piecemeal. It is all without particular relevance, it is without heart and mostly without soul. There is almost no discussions about issues, we have to content ourselves with discussions about discussions about the coverage of something that doesn't happen. We content ourselves with Twitterisation, Blogospherity, Euronewsisation, Googelecting. Nothingness. Beautiful and interesting. But empty. It doesn't say much about what we want.

European parties, hear what I want:
  • I want a European Union where I am not asked where I come from but where I am asked where I want to go.
  • I want a European Union where the concept of borders only exist to define spheres of citizen-friendly administration, including clear constituencies for democratically elected bodies.
  • I want a European Union that is transparent, so that I can see from the North of Finland to the South of Portugal, from the doorstep of my house right into the heart of the Council of the European Union.
  • I want a European Union where the town hall secretary of Ireland feels as responsible for the people of her town - nationals, EU citizens, internationals - as she feels responsible for the people living in a Romanian town at the border to Moldova.
  • I want a European Union that is ready for new citizens and new member states, because it defines itself as an open society and not a closed club.
  • I want a European Union where the concrete protection of human rights and individual dignity is always, at any time, more important than the vision of security that threatens a few by humiliating thousands.
  • I want a European Union where citizens, companies, administrations, governments and other collective entities don't spend their time and money trying to make others feel worse but where people wake up and feel responsible for what they do, what they say but also for what they don't do and don't say.
I want that the European Dream - and yes I am dreaming the European Dream - comes true, not all at once, because this is an illusion, but step by step, day by day.

But "step by step" doesn't mean just piecemeal activities of those who like to be important, those who like to be on top while they never cared for the foundations. It isn't just setting up a new tool that summarises another tool that talks about tools (Hashtag: #twitter). "Step by step" to me means to think about how to work together where possible and where necessary, it means that each of us has to step forward on its own whenever we think that we don't move enough.

If I have a vision, if I have ideals, I have to stick to them, I have to pursue them, and I have to think today where my steps might bring me tomorrow and next year. If I have a European Dream, I have to live it, I have to pursue it actively, and yes, before criticising politics and policies of the EU I have to talk about the beauties of this European Union:
  • this European Union that made me translate a whole evening between French and German rabbit breeders in a small German town when I was still a teen;
  • this European Union that makes me feel coming home when I cross the borders of Russia and Estonia, between Ukraine and Poland, between Moldova and Romania, between Croatia and Slovenia, and that made me hope that even those borders will disappear in a not-so-distant future;
  • this European Union that brings together young people and old people, independent of wealth or education, of thousands of backgrounds and intentions, through exchanges, meetings, competitions and that creates friendship and collaboration across lines that used to be borders;
  • this European Union that made me think about the fact that my actions here have a consequence there and that we need - preferably democratic - mechanisms to make this visible every day, mechanisms that allow us to find joint solutions where we can only solve things together;
  • this European Union that has been the environment in which I have grown up most of my life, in which most of my friends live, that influences most of the laws that regulate the small and large details of my life, that makes me angry and happy so often and leaves me indifferent sometimes.
The European Dream might be a vision, some may say an illusion, but the European Union is a reality. And we have two choices: Form this reality so that it gets closer to our dream or let ourselves be formed by the lack of dreams of others. I have chosen the first option, and I feel good about it.

When I started with this series in my blog, I had the same vision that I have today, the vision of a democratic European Union where all citizens - and non-citizens - care for what is going on, and elections are definitely part of "what is going on", because, whether we want it or not, they decide about those people that may help us to live our European Dream - or that might hinder us to come closer to its realisation.

So this is blog post number 80 in the category "European Parliament elections 2009". I didn't know where it would lead me when I started to write it, but it has led me from a Eurobarometer survey to the European Dream - a small step for a blogger, but still a giant leap for our European society.

Under the category "European Parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.


Stephen Spillane said...

wow, fantastic post Julein. I read your blog (and tweets) a lot and i must say this post sums up for me alot of whats going on with the EU and why there is little interest in the EP Elections. Its too disparit and of course the political parties, national government and the EU itself is not helping it.

But how do we unify all these sources, these thoughts, these conversations, like the one we had last night on twitter about the PES and the fact it has no candidates, these blogs like the Think blog.

It a big task, but can it be done?

Eurocentric said...

Great post. I think because of the nature of the EU, it does need to have a "dream" to touch people. So far the dream has been about states, for states and not about citizens: this is reflected both in the political culture of both the Union and the wider continent, and in the structures of the Union itself.

My own interest in the EU is inspired (as I expect the interest of most pro-Europeans is) by seeing what the EU can be, rather than what it is. Though I've little to no talent when it comes to languages, I am inspired by the opportunities the EU has opened up for me and others.

Hopefully the EU can be shifted from its focus on empowerment of states in a globalising world, to the empowerment of citizens and the individual.

Brussels Blogger said...

Regarding Eurobarometer: I think it is indeed a new one (EB 71, not EB 70).

The problem with Eurobarometers is often that they are not published / communicated at the same time in all countries. With media reports ("a new Eurobarometer ...") are often not clear to which poll they refer to. When will mainstream media learn to use links?

A short summary of EB71 has been published by the EP yesterday evening, but it's not yet on the main Eurobarometer site: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/expert/infopress_page/008-53715-104-04-16-901-20090414IPR53714-14-04-2009-2009-false/default_de.htm

Ralf Grahn said...


Thank you for your personal mixture of passion and frustration, for a European Union where its citizens count.