Category Archives: European Debate

Bloggingportal.eu launched!

Finally! We launched Bloggingportal.eu! The new place to read EU blogs and keep yourself updated on the EU blogosphere. We have been working on it for almost one year in our free time. At the moment we are aggregating almost 300 blogs and we are publishing a daily editors choice selection! Check it out!

It is a multilingual portal, it is still a beta version,  but at the same time totally independent, without any sponsorship and we do welcome any comments and hints how to improve the site! So get in touch with us! You can also follow us on twitter: @bloggingportal.

blogginportal

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Nov 29th: Th!nk about it! – The European Blogging Competition 2009

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Ireland: Post Referendum Research Findings

The long awaited report on the underlying causes of the No vote on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland has been published.  You can read the complete report here: “Post Lisbon Treaty Referendum Research Findings (.pdf)

Here some key findings:

  • The main reason for abstaining in this referendum was lack of understanding/knowledge (46%), which is far in excess of any other voluntary or circumstantial reason given for not voting.
  • Much of the Yes vote is underpinned by a strong general feeling of pro-Europeanism rather than Treaty specific motivations.
  • Twenty-six percent of No voters mentioned Treaty specific elements that were of concern to them.
  • The main reason cited for voting No was ‘lack of knowledge/information/ understanding’ at
    42%. There can be little doubt that this emerged as the primary reason for people voting
    No.
  • At a wider level, an EU knowledge deficit is clearly present which has undoubtedly contributed to the No vote.  Knowledge of EU institutions and how they work appears to be particularly low.  The difficulty of advocating a referendum that is based on the premise of institutional reform in this environment is apparent.

So, the report suggests that a lack of knowledge/information/understanding was the main reason for the referendum outcome: At the same time there seems to be little willingness to do something about it:

  • Despite not having a good understanding of  how EU institutions operate, there was fairly limited appetite for additional information, particularly among younger group participants. Few felt that they would realistically take the time or go to the bother to inform themselves in any great detail. Older group participants (those aged 35+), were more open to learning more and felt that if the EU  was going  to become more important to Ireland then it was important for them to be better informed.

Let’s have a look at the ‘issues’:

  • ‘No’ voters were far more likely to believe that erosion of Irish neutrality, end of control over abortion and conscription to a European army were part of the Lisbon Treaty, revealing key cracks in the debate.
  • Loss of Commissioner was also a common concern on the No side.
  • When asked directly, respondents cited the issue of protection of workers’ rights as being
    “very important” more often than any other issue (of a defined set of issues) relating to
    Ireland and the EU. Retaining control over public services in the future was similarly cited.
  • Concerns over specific aspects of the Treaty loom large, particularly perceptions of an erosion of neutrality, the Commissioner issue (which many do not seem to properly understand), Corporate tax and to a lesser degree abortion.

Well, the report clearly did not come up with any surprising results. Most of it has been debated over and over again. So I will not get into the debate whether referendums are useful (hint: they are not!) or whether the Lisbon treaty is too complex (hint: yes it is!) or whether the EU is a big conspiracy theory (hint: it is not).

However, one question is of course still the same: What to do now?  – A new referendum on the same text? No new referendum and a parliamentary ratification followed by an referendum on one or two treaty issues? A new EU treaty and negotiations from scratch? A kind of “Irish Protocol” that addresses the problematic issues despite their irrelevance? The report only suggests that any new vote on an unchanged document would have a negative result again.

The only certain fact is the existence of the “EU knowledge deficit” which is probably a widespread problem everywhere in the EU. I think this is a structural problem that needs to be addressed on different levels: The EU should be included in school curricula and there needs to be a better media coverage and reporting of EU affairs. Of course local, national and European politicians need to explain the role of the EU with more honesty. At the same time the EU needs to engage more people in debating European issues, some institutional reforms would also be helpful … Ok, enough wishful thinking for today!

European Youth Media Days 2008

This looks like an interesting event for journalists and bloggers. At the moment the programme looks still a bit general, but who knows, maybe it turns out to be exciting … Here is the official announcement:

“Shape the future of European journalism”

“New media. Open minds. From 15 to 17 October 2008, the next generation of European journalists meets at the European Parliament in Brussels for the second edition of the European Youth Media Days. The gathering of 200 emerging journalists, hosted by the European Parliament and organised with the support of the European Youth Press, promotes a broad discussion and networking on European issues, confronting and provoking with diverse perspectives and realities. Apply until 24 September on youthmediadays.eu.”

Check the programme here.

How to explain a political process with a video?

The brilliant people at Common Craft just released a great video that explains the US elections in ‘plain English’! If you don’t know their other videos (mostly about internet issues) you really missed something and I strongly recommend them to you. Basically they “make complex ideas easy to understand using short and simple videos.”(mission statement!) But now enjoy “Electing a US President in Plain English”

“Make complex ideas easy to understand” … sounds like the EU needs something like that. Although the EU started experimenting with online videos lately, it still lacks creativity and a certain “online buzz”. Most of the videos about the EU (not only EUtube!) are either pure news reports or have a political motivation. However, one of the greatest problems of the EU is that nobody understands what exactly it does and how it works (which can also explain low turnouts at European elections). Unfortunately EUtube as well as other video producers do not address these issues. Short simple online videos could help people to learn and think about the EU.  Maybe the video on US elections can turn into an inspiration to produce similar videos about the European elections or the EU decision making process …in plain 23 languages!

Marianne Mikko and the Blogs – Reloaded

Does anyone remember this story? The European Parliament was accused of trying to regulate blogs… of course this was not really the case. Basically Marianne Mikko (MEP) did not understand blogging and made some strange recommendation in a EP resolution (which has no legal weight whatsoever!).

Anyway, today the EUobserver reports that this story has also arrived in Sweden:

Swedish media have erroneously reported that the EU plans to register and bill all bloggers, setting off a firestorm of reaction in the country.

Politicians of all political stripes and most major media outlets have since furiously attacked the idea as another example of Big Brother snooping into people’s daily lives, while the MEP at the heart of the controversy has been compared to Romanian dictator Nikolae Ceausescu.

The article makes some good reading if you are interested in

a) How long it takes for a topic to spread across Europe… The whole issue came up more than a month ago! Another interesting thing is how the story was transformed … the ‘first’ debate a month ago was about a “quality mark and some disclosure remarks”; now the Swedish debate was about EU  plans to “register and bill all bloggers”.

b) How national and European debates mix. The new surveillance legislation in Sweden is of course a good context for the blog topic, although both originated within different policy areas. However, it seems to me that the bigger scandal is indeed the new Swedish law…

c) A bold political statement: “She has a hole in her head”

d) More proofs that blogging and presumably the Internet are not properly understood … In the words of Ms Mikko: “The Economist is a valuable brand, its articles are trusted by readers without contributors having to reveal their names,” she said. “If there is a way to validate the best bloggers the same way that publishing in the Economist validates its writers, it should be done.”

A Northern Perspective offers an explanation why we see this kind of debate in Sweden:

A combination of  a lack knowledge of how the EU works, British type tabloid sensationalism and the hidden agenda of a certain group of so-called liberals can make wonders in influencing the public opinion, a very useful thing in these days when the future of the Union is very much at stake.