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Bringing the EU Closer: What More Can be Done

May 2, 2018

Keeping up with the news cycle and checking results, it is safe to say an increasing number of Europeans are dissatisfied with how the EU is managed and the results it has obtained. “The Pew Global Attitudes Project polled 8,000 people in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, Poland, Britain and the Czech Republic from mid-March to mid-April and identified unprecedented levels of discontent with the EU” (Waterfield). This has resulted in an increase in nationalistic, consequently anti EU, political activity all over Europe. Hungary, Poland, Italy are just a few examples. Next move from the EU must be finding ways to revitalise the spirit of bonding and show European citizens that they are not forgotten or overlooked. Emphasising a sense of unity in a cultural common ground must be the aim, especially in order to prepare European youth for future long-term plans. There are a few main topics that should be discussed and addressed. We will analyse them in detail as some solutions fall under logos while others are categorised under pathos.

 

Discussing logos-based problems and their role in bringing EU closer, one of the most technical, and unsurprisingly one of the toughest, is increasing responsibility and accountability of European Commission representatives. The first thing to understand is how they are elected. In fact, it is an incredibly complicated process that allocates to each Member State a different amount of votes. Moreover, it is almost impossible to improve it without making it even more complicated for common citizens and representatives themselves. Finally, it is affected by an information deficit with respect to common voters. This has steadily resulted into decreasing voter turnout in all Member States. Even increasing representation and communication between the European public and parties would create a plethora of work exacerbated by technical problems of international communications. On top of all these issues, the difference between voter preferences within the same party would further foster disunity in political parties. With all this in mind, the current system is doing a fair job in managing the amount of responsibility it undertakes. The question is, what are the underlying reasons behind the aforementioned problems and what are some possible solutions to reduce inefficiency?

 

A first solution would be to increase voter turnout, simultaneously promoting information rather than just stimulating the public. This point leads back to one of Democracy’s inherent problems. Democracy grows on the premise that every individual will work to educate themselves and develop an interest towards politics to better represent their interests. This of course is not the case as daily work and social life takes away necessary time for research, reflection and information. Even if time was not an issue, expecting every individual to develop an interest in politics would be absurd. In this case, information flows from the parties to the people could be managed through regional social structures that are in place in almost every Member State. For example, workers could be informed about the implications of their vote through unions rather than political parties. This would increase both trust in the information and the importance of the vote all the while distributing the workload of information provision fairly even within the community.

 

Let us assume the importance of the vote has been communicated to the public. For citizens to consistently turn out for voting they must also see active effort, or, even better, results. The problem is that many people do not feel like they will be well represented, even though they vote for local representatives within their national parties. This mistrust of politicians is a common phenomenon even outside this specific case. However, when it comes to bodies that are not centralised within any community, like international or supranational institution, it is normal for people to feel like they are shouting in the desert. Parties will lack resonance with local communities from which they hope to gain votes. If they go for marketing strategies specific for each region or Member State, then they would risk making false or impossible promises: a Dutch may have different expectations than an Italian even though they share similar political outlooks. Even if they were well represented, results of policy changes are usually usually observable on the long run. This creates another hardship to keep public interest in policy decisions. Ideally, a Pareto-efficient result must be sought and promoted in every region and Member State by the party. People should know the plan and how it is implemented. The drawbacks of this plan is the difficulty in creating a true Pareto-efficient policy. Reliable data from the electorate related to the party’s goals must be gathered and confronted across communities. Finally, the proposed solution must be communicated to all stakeholders, hoping to catch their interest. The amount of research and data analysis that this job requires is enormous, even if we allow for perfect information flow between the public and the parties. Differently, parties could accept the flaws of democracy around complex issues and move on with the strategy “any choice is better than no choice”. This route would still require a considerable amount of research in order to prevent completely unbalanced scenarios between regions and communities. Moreover, advertising the outcomes would would be more necessary with respect to the other option. In fact, the policy would not be as ideal with its results. The “outcome advertising” part will be re-visited later.

 

Concerning accountability, European statesmen, although being underhanded, will receive complaints and prepare reports on how EU bodies could be reformed to prevent certain problems from happening. Not very efficient, but the amount of work done is impressive in itself. The only possible betterment to EU institutions could be to re-format their website to let people choose which problem is urgent and which problem is not. Furthermore, EU citizens could share their opinions in a well-regulated forum-like environment to discuss and reach better analysis of the questions, etc. All these changes are possible and already applied in many site ranging from community help lines of big gaming companies (best one being Blizzard) and social community forums (like one of the best self-regulated sites: Reddit). By creating a forum of freely browsable problem categorising and voting system, people can look up categories to see what problems have been reported, comment on the said problems to add their own thought and, lastly, upvote the topic so that side administrators can see how many people agree on the agenda. Regulations can be done through modulators. However, this topic would need excessive further explanation. For now, understanding possible improvements in ways of communicating problems between the people and the EU is enough.

 

Another fundamental issue is education and equal opportunity. Unfortunately, before diving deep into the topic it must be noted that EU has little competence with respect to education. Frankly, it is not within their jurisdiction and even if it was, the difference between cultures and education systems are so great that unification is unimaginable. However, funds for individual Member States are useful, and a serious plan has been initiated in 2014 under the Investment Plan of Europe. The aim of EU with its current competence is to increase education budgeting for opportunity equality within Member States. Of course, this contribution must not cover countries that would abuse of donations by cutting back on national education spending. The grants must be given under the agreement that the Member State that has taken the grant should increase national education budget by a given rate every year. Not only the Member State should not cut back, it should be truly supportive of education and equality of opportunity within its borders. This would create a more sufficient market within Europe in the long run. In fact, the deadweight loss of the general market would be decreased as production and services become more efficient due to better education being available widely. Furthermore, it would create an open room for innovation in future markets, solving job opportunity related rivalry between Member States. Additionally, two utlerior ideas must be introduced into the education plan: first, creating and supporting a form of higher education for jobs requiring a more tactile environment such as mechanical workers; second, introducing European Civic Education within national school systems. The former would end up decreasing international competition. In fact, local communities would rather stay where they are. It would forge more aware producers creating a more sustainable supply system for every stakeholder. Lastly, it would increase the living standards of local suburban citizens of Europe and increase their belief and interest in the EU by showing results. The latter would boost within future generations a feeling of unity and belonging. Subjects like history, art history and literature should have more weight in earlier years of education while given a more international coverage.

 

As long as citizens of Europe do not feel like a part of something bigger, it does not matter how many improvements are achieved. Sustained growth in approval and participation will not come. Change starts within lifestyles. Even if all above requirements were met, they would still theoretic, without pathos. Pathos creates for any argument a greater chance of convincing people to change their minds. So how could the EU appeal to the feelings of individuals? The answer will come from sociology and psychology used under a broader… marketing! There are many ways to do marketing: you can be discrete or aggressive; depending on your budget you may organise events or sponsor them; you can put ads on social media and analyse trends to catch up to the times. Our world is changing faster than ever, people are becoming less connected with the culture in which they are born and become more connected with people all over the world.

 

Choosing from all the above may not be easy, and the EU must not have the time to deal with advertising while a plethora of real world problems strangle the world. A proposal would be sponsoring events from a theoretical budget under the name “EU Publicity”. These events must promote a sense of belonging and awe within people. This way, they could make them understand how much is shared across Member States and their people. An extremely effective organisation that occasionally creates EU supported events is ICOM, the International Council of Museums. What better way to promote European common history with people who make a living studying of this very history? Currently, most Member States already have programs to incentivise young population to visit museums. Still, their strategy lacks a “hook” leading them. Think about an outdoor organisation, historians and museum officials, with EU representatives from different Member States, could discuss about history and culture. Ideas can be shared and debated. An open discussion could even solve misunderstandings and hopefully help people find a middle ground between what they feel and what is real.

 

Besides museums, art forms and videos through social media may also prove to be useful. A personal experience on the subject came from a YouTube video ad on money laundering. This was right after the Brexit vote when the UK had published. stunning news on money laundering within EU tax heavens. I learned so much about the topic and why it is important to not support such acts that I wanted to do more research on it. It is stunning how much one single ad before a YouTube video could teach people. The ad was animated and with a solid structure throughout the narrative. There is an official EU Council YouTube channel with 60k followers. Yet, it is not advertised nor used as a targeting tool for young adults. With better management of ads and presence on social media, the image of the EU could be better transferred to our generation. It would be easier for everyone if every individual worked to educate themselves and to develop an interest towards politics… But that is not the case. With that realization, we come to the second point: there will be people who will not follow politics despite effort from institutions. Keeping these people connected with the EU and its Member States requires a special attention. No matter how recluse a person may be, they will appreciate one or more kinds of art. Therefore, art festivals and competitions of any form might be beneficial to, at least, prevent people from forgetting where they come from and how beautiful it is to belong somewhere. This does not mean that all Europeans are the same: EU would suffer heavily if people were too homogeneous. No diversity, no discussion, no specialised interests would make any sector stagnate.

 

Luckily, Europeans are different. The way people sing, eat, interact with each other and the world changes widely across Member States. Nevertheless, the values held for describing a healthy youth, a democratically enlightened country, a geo-friendly business model are the same. There have been speeches made by Emmanuel Macron and Guy Verhofstad regarding nationalism within the EU and the future of the EU respectively. In these recent speeches, they have promoted libertarian ideals and shunned Nationalism. Even in the very recent US visit of Macron, his speech was aimed at shunning nationalistic rise worldwide. The videos of these passionate speeches became viral online, it resonated with the people of the EU who feel threatened or disturbed by the change of winds on political grounds. They wish to feel represented, they wish to be heard. Therefore, for the EU there is only one logical solution: put yourselves out there. Let them feel like they have been heard.

 

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