Friday 19 June 2009

Becoming an EU-sceptic

I am a convinced European citizen and glad to be a citizen of the European Union - but now that I am approaching the first birthday of this blog, I think I am becoming an absolute EU-sceptic.

The European elections are over, and the lack of European ambition we have seen during the campaign seems to continue after the elections.

After yesterday's political decision by the Council, Barroso looks like the definite candidate for the presidency of the European Commission.

And although I have great confidence in that the European Parliament will show some muscles, I don't see anything speaking against his renomination as the world's most powerless leader of a supranational institution.

The EPP supports him, because, they don't have a less qualified person still able to handle a European administration. The ELDR supports him because they want some of the other power positions in the Commission and the Parliament - which they won't get without EPP support. The Socialists have failed to present an own candidate because they are absolutely divided and thus incapable of running a European campaign from the beginning to the end. The Greens are small but important enough to demand whatever they want without having any impact. And the extreme Left does not even know what kind of Europe it wants.

When I look at all this, I more and more get the impression that the EU has failed to be the project of Europeans.

The EU is the project of power games, mostly between old, worn-out men who try to compare the length of their penises instead of caring for the interests of the continent. In one of these contests, an old Pole now has apparently won the EP presidency over an old Italian guy.

On the one side, the EU is a PR project of technocrats who have no interest in supporting a common European identity and a genuine European democracy, and on the other side, it is the ideal supranational playing field for nationalists who always fight for "the best" of their countries instead of promoting the best for Europe as a whole.

They all lack European ambition, they all lack spirit, and they all don't have any idea where they want this Union to be in 10 years.

The more I watch them doing this, the less interested I am in what they do. The more I listen to their heartless speeches, their superficial declarations, their diplomatic compromises, the more I am convinced that nothing will change.

I think the task of this blog will have to change.

Before the elections, I saw its main task to support information on the European Union and the EP election campaign, because there was and still is a lack of substantive coverage of EU politics. But now that the elections are over, the time for positive-critical coverage is over.

From now on, this blog will look at the EU with more EU-sceptic eyes.

When I say "EU-sceptic" I don't mean a return to nationalist times like many British EU-sceptics. When I say "EU-sceptic" I imply the firm conviction that the present EU institutions are not capable of bringing forward a common Europe.

In fact, I am not even sure that it is the institutions itself that are designed to fail, but I also don't see the actors within these institutions who could give the European Union the impetus it needs. And Barroso is only the tip of the iceberg.

So instead of looking for the successes of the Union, I will look for the failures. Instead of praising good examples, I will dig deeper into the negative ones. To a certain extend I have been doing this already, but from now on, the focus will change:

Finding the wolves in the sheep's clothing will become more important than enjoying the beauty of the herd.

If there is no European opposition within the institutions, then we - europhile EU-sceptics - will need to be a stronger European opposition outside the institutions!

Update: See Nosemonkey's reply to this post.


Stephen Spillane said...

While I agree with what you are saying about the lack of convinction etc of the groupings, I dont think EU-sceptic is the right word as it too alike Euro-sceptic. Maybe being a critical supporter, which is how I term myself in relation to many things including UN, EU and Fine Gael/EPP.

Just a thought....

Julien Frisch said...

No, it needs to be this strong.

I am a europhile EU-sceptic, because by now I doubt that the institutional setting of the EU and the actors therein are in any way helpful to promote European values and the further development of a common Europe - which is what I actually want.

Ralf Grahn said...


So you are not content with the existing European Union of heads of state or government?

Your diagnosis is correct, but why use the word Eurosceptic, misleadingly appropriated by the anti-EU campaigners and anti-Europeans?

Why not try instead to present the future EU as you want it to be and the changes needed?

What I call the EU 2.0 is effective and democratic, with a larger helping of solidarity between citizens and states.

These may be some of the themes you can develop.

Martin said...

I understand your frustation and share you criticism about the EU institutions and their nationalist behavior. I also feel that there has to be a real, a noticable change toward a real European projects that includes its citizens and finally overcomes national arrogancies. But becoming a EU-sceptic means to me to be giving up. And if those like you, those you have an idealist idea for the future of our continent are giving up, then I see no chance that either of us can achieve a better Europe.

We, as the citizens of Europe need to make a point, a strong one, I grant you that. But it should be constructive. And it needs those persons who point out alternatives, who care about the actual project and that are willing contribute. The EU-sceptics and Eurosceptics I know, don't bother. I guess you do although you're understandably fed up.

So be sceptic with the institutional status quo, continue to be critical. But please always show that there is a common European future.

Julien Frisch said...

@Grahnlaw @Martin

Just to make sure: I am not giving up!

Using the term EU-sceptic (instead of eurosceptic which is used much more widely by those against European integration) is explicitly directed towards the institutions.

I am sceptic that these institutions as they function today are able to hold together the Union while making it advance to the stage 2.0

EU-sceptic means that I need to be convinced by the EU institutions and actors over the years to come that they are ready to make this Union a more optimistic, a more ambitious project.

I am a very optimistic person, and I am hoping and believing that it is possible to make a better Union, but I am convinced that the positioning of a blog like this will have to be more critical, more sceptic - because different to those nationalist eurosceptics I actually want the better of the Union, so criticism from my, from our side might in the end be much more credible from those who look at Europe with a sniff.

Unknown said...

Chill Julien. The sun is out and street democracy is alive and well and driving around in tractors. There is no ultimate religious authority warning Dany CB et al that the blood of squashed protesters will be on their hands.

Yes JMB is not Delors, but this is not the time for a visionary at the EC. If it were there would be a candidate. Don't let this setback for what you want to see be the reason behind your shift in stance - there are better grounds for wanting to prick the EUtopian balloon that will leave you less bitter.

If your motivation is to build a better EU, then work to inspire your fellow Europeans to demand more of themselves as citizens - only then will they deserve the politicians you think they should get.

It's easy to put people off telling them the EU is putting them on. Harder, but more worthwhile putting pressure on the EU to stop pretending it's not their problem.

Stay cool!

Julien Frisch said...

The shift in stance is actually not that big, it is more a shift in perspective. The blog will probably not change a lot, I might just look for certain things I didn't look for before.

In fact, I never wanted to imply that all coming posts in this blog will be negative; I will remain a positive European and I am ready to show this whenever possible.

But the europhile EU-sceptic perspective seems to be the only way to criticise EU-institutions and national actors in the same way to address their failures in making Europe a better place. And I am doing this in the hope that Europe and the EU will actually become a better place - so far I am just sceptic whether this is a shared desire...

So don't worry about me, just because I use a new "tag" for myself! :-)

Unknown said...

Along with other Brussels-based communicators I am convinced that the desire for a better Europe is shared much more widely than is currently noticeable. People are realising that the business model needs to improve or we'll end up shutting up shop.
That's why we're getting the ball rolling under the banner Web2EU. So far so good and momentum is building. See the latest instalment.
How would you like to be involved at the next event (TBC)?
Meanwhile why not join the Web2EU Twibe

Julien Frisch said...

Since I am neither Brussels-based nor business-oriented (at least not with this blog), I might not be the right person to address...

Unknown said...

Those are exactly the reasons I was interested - strong breaking down bubbles policy, but no issue.

Julien Frisch said...

I don't really get your latest comment... (But if you have any concrete proposals, sent me an email at )

André said...

Julien, how did this change of mentality come about? Is it just the incapacity of Barroso and other supranational figures to show the benefits of European integration? Or is it a deeper despair about the interplay of the of the institutions?

Two thoughts to this. Firstly, the parliament: If the Socialist and Green group are true to themselves, they now HAVE to go through with their refusal of Barroso. As for ALDE and the others, now we'll see if the EP has the guts to defy the Council. The threat by the EP even got my local newspaper to report on Barroso's reelection; if they now

Does your scepticism also refer to the Commission? After all, in a building full of Europhiles there's got to be lots of endeavours that get a more European touch then Barroso just displayed...

André said...

ahm, finishing up the EP part from before: since even my local newspaper in Germany reported about this, the refusal to back Barroso obviously did change things and for once gave a special position to the EP. Backing Barroso now would totally destroy this position again...

Julien Frisch said...


As I have said above: This is not a very big change in mentality. For everyone who has read my articles over the last month it is clear that I am a rather critical supporter of the European Union.

So this is not so much a change in mentality but rather a re-focus of the practical work of this blog now that the elections are over, taking together my conclusions on what I have seen across all institutions and many actors therein.

The new focus will not be to support the institutions, but to criticise their work more systematically and continuously. And the perspective will be more (openly) sceptical than before.

I don't know where this will lead me, but that is the good thing with blogging: It is a continued experiment, and I am trying to find my way as a European citizen who participates in the creation of a European public sphere.

For the rest of your remarks regarding Barroso: I fully agree! :-)

Eurosocialiste said...

You don't like the way things are run in the EU at the moment so to me it sounds pretty natural that you take a critical stance. I don't even think you need to use a specific term to qualify your attitude. I strongly believe that we must get over the Eurosceptic/pro-European debate if we want the EU to work out. We are not there anymore. We live in the EU now, it's our environment, so if we don't like the way it is run, then it's pretty healthy to be critical about it. That's the only way it can change. Here's an example. I'm French, I don't like the way things are run in my country at the moment, so I'm very critical about it, doesn't mean I don't like my country anymore! We should stop calling Eurosceptic any opinion that is just a little critical about the way things work in the EU. It simply doesn't make sense anymore.

M.G. said...

The EU is the project of power games, mostly between old, worn-out men who try to compare the length of their penises instead of caring for the interests of the continent. In one of these contests, an old Pole now has apparently won the EP presidency over an old Italian guy

I cannot but agree more particularly referring to Italian Prime Minister and sex attributes...
I tend to be also a europhile EU-skeptic particularly having worked several years for EU institutions. Nobody seems interested in getting the machine to work properly and institutionally and to have sound financial management. Then they wonder why the turnout is low at elections. Who cares?
There is a nice example of europhile EU-skeptic: MEP Marta Andreasen. She was chief ­ accountant and whistle blower in the EU Commission, has won out in the European elections to become an MEP representing Britain for the UK Independence Party which is more than eurosceptic...

Aaron said...

@ Hugh Barton-Smtih
Julien has been a major euroblogger for quite some time now, but you waited for him to go sceptic to try and recruit him? Please don't try and look open-minded.

@ Julien
If you want "the further development of a common Europe", without the EU, I suppose that the only institutionnal option left for you is a core Europe (or conquest). Would you care for that?
Anyway, you're strongly reminiscent of the old days of Nosemonkey's EUphobia. Maybe you'll return to the light one day. =)

Unknown said...

@Aaron Not recruiting - reaching out. Timing simply a matter of convergence, not conspiracy. Admit I'm not as open-minded as I used to be: mainly because I don't get to coffee shops so often these days.

Thanks putting yourself on my radar. Hope you don't mind I've tweeted on your excellent blog:
(generated 12 human visits while I've been typing this).