Happy Europe Day to everyone!!
err…what? Europe Day? Hmmm..
Well exactly. Does the average man in the street know that May 9th is Europe Day or indeed what it is to celebrate? Probably not! This week I asked a dozen and none knew.
The problem is the European Union never actively promotes it very much to those whom its rules directly impact. Oh sure they can point to schools being told across the Union and they can show you a handful of very nice parties celebrated with ballons and EU staff but come on, when was the last time you saw anyone actively announce public events to celebrate, what is after all, an important event?
It all comes down to image. The EU was designed to help co-ordinate closer union between the peoples of Europe and to facilitate the single economic space, which goes with it. An organisation like the EU was designed to work in the background and do the work of the member states where the main decision making is still made (despite what any tabloid newspaper may say), but more and more it’s image is greater than its purpose, as can be seen by countries keen to join and the importance placed on the EU foreign policy statements and actions in the middle-east and elsewhere.
While many people will have an opinion one way or another on it, few can tell you what it does or how the institutions function that governs the EU or indeed what those institutions are! The EU is so sucessful in what it has acheived its model is mirrored in Africa and Asia. The symbols, which Europe has adopted to promote itself with, makes the EU far more obvious than any background organisation ever has, save the UN. It has a lot of image but little understanding amoung those within its borders. Why???
That brings us to another point. The European Parliament elections in early June! Few will vote and those who do will do so on national rather than European issues because like Europe Day, the parliament does not actively advertise what it does. Where are the candidates canvasing for votes? Where are the issues of each party contesting seats? What are the differences between each party standing? I haven’t seen any. Have you? Have you had a chance to understand why the UK Conservative party is joining with the extreme right wing in the parliament and leaving the centre-right EPP group? Have you had a chance to quiz your local MEP about the reasons for the Czech and Polish Presidents actions on the Nice Treaty etc.? Have you spoken with your MEP to understand what the ‘no’ vote in Ireland has meant to you and to them? I doubt many of you have.
Image. If you don’t advertise and explain what you do, who will know? If you don’t push the facts to the public who will care? If you don’t counter the lies and mistakes of the tabloid and TV media with explanations and truth, who will understand?
The parliament and the EU in general are very very important but few will exercise a right that seperates you from a nationalist, communist and facist state. However they make themselves irrelevant in the mind of the man in the street that does not see what difference their vote will make. But it does! It makes a big difference. The new far-right grouping in the parliament created by the UK Conservative leadership with bigots, nationalists and flag waving little-islanders from across the Union, is a dangerous shift from the centre to the right. Small unpaletable groups who would have been denied public funding because of their views will now get EU money because of this. Is that not worthy of consideration? Especially important if the UK Conservatives become the next UK government despite their lack of solid policies? Apathy at the elections will allow things like this to happen without you having a say.
The elections and the institutions need to be understood and need to be pushed by them to you so that all our understandings are improved. When that happens we can all expect the flags, celebrations and parties of Europe Day to become second nature.
Happy Europe Day despite all!