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The “European public space” is a fiction invented by academics and technocrats (Franck Biancheri, 2005)

The “European public space” is a fiction invented by academics and technocrats (Franck Biancheri, 2005)

A few months before the European elections it is time to rest, as Franck Biancheri did in 2005, some questions about communication policies at the european and national level at the cost of tens of millions of Euros and which have great difficulty  to restore the reputation of the European institutions … because these famous experts still do not seem to have understood that citizens do not wait to be told how “sexy” Europe is, or “all what Europe is doing for them”, but ratherwhere Europe is going and who is leading Europe.And this is a political debate that is fundamental …

Obviously, this topic is hot! Reactions to my editorial entitled “Communication strategies cannot solve anymore the communication deficit of the EU institutions” and yesterday’s editorial by Anne de Malleray on L’’Europe sexy have shown that these issues are debated. And indeed, now with the ratification of the Constitution by referendum (9 states in total, involving more than 200 million citizens: a historic first for our continent) and following the debacle of participation in the last European elections, it is time we ask some questions about these communication policies, carried out for more than 15 years at the community and national level, costing tens of millions of Euros.

Especially since now, once more, referendum campaigns to the hopes of the Commission to improve its public image will cost some more tens of millions of Euros.

So, experts of all kinds and “well known” specialists are visibly abounding around ministries and European institutions. Since politicians do not know how to speak of Europe to their citizens, this know-how void is being filled by a group of consultants and technocrats who all claim to be more experts in the field than their neighbours: some seek influence, but most of them seek funding. However, 99% of them share the same feature: they have never managed to personally make anyone change their minds in their life, even in their own environment, for example, regarding European matters. Most of them have never even tried to do so (and yet they show off about having done it before).

This must be part of “real professional” brands: those who have no conviction but offer their services to the highest bidder. Nevertheless, even in Africa, everyone knows now that the time of the mercenaries is over … except within the community circuit!

But, do not worry about them. For a little less than a decade, our dear European communication “experts” have developed a “powerful” concept allowing them to move into the EU’s communication landscape without having any concrete experience of what it actually represents on the ground nor any conviction on the merits. This miraculous concept is called the “European public space”.

Do not look for it around you. It does not exist anywhere except in very specific places of the EU, ie academic or institutional colloquia on the EU’s communication deficit, the responses of the “communication expertise companies” to Community and national call for and the internal meetings of the technocrats in charge of the subject.

This “admirable” concept aims to explain that there is a way of “communicating around Europe” (ie its institutions, policies, projects, decision-makers, values, etc.) without actually entering into any substantive political debate and thus eliminating all the issues that upset (why? how? utility? impact? who? …).

Generally, associated with this concept, we find a not less “fabulous” actor, the civil society, which exists, but in this case is adorned with a singular (and totally wrong) virtue: political neutrality. This “European public space” could be animated by “civil society actors” who would of course benefit from the enlightened advice of “European communication experts”! For all those who could laugh, I would simply like to point out that this type of “slang” has been the subject of almost every call for proposals in the field of EU communication for a decade.

Of course, any field experience can demonstrate not only the inexistence of this sanitised castrated “European public space”, which is an attempt to hide the face before the emergence, in the last ten years, of a “European political space”. As I recently had the opportunity to remind a “communication expert on Europe” who praised me for the “Power-Point” for local conferences: “This is not a power-point people are waiting. It is for someone who comes, hands in the pockets, listen to some opinions on the EU and discuss it frankly with them. Worse, the power-point is the best way to further strengthen this image of a remote, techno and therefore unkind UE. But of course, the “hands in the pockets” are not “taxable”, whereas the power-point is!

In conclusion, the debate on the EU now belongs to a European political area. Citizens have a vision and political expectations in relation to the EU. They have opinions and political questions and expect similar debates. The fact that our politicians and our “Experts” do not know how to answer them do not change a thing. The concept of “European public space” is a fiction which has never allowed and will not allow to “Reconnect” community institutions with their fellow citizens. It is unfortunate to think that tens of millions of euros will still be swallowed up by the Commission and the Member States in this fiction, for lack of questioning of their concepts.

As questions (and not answers) make things happen, here are some which could help our leaders see things more clearly: What is the most important thing for the future of the EU? The Constitution or the referenda involving 200 million citizens of nine countries? The product or the process?

What do you think?

FB vignette  Franck Biancheri, Cannes – 16/02/2005

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