Half a decade has flown by since, on 1st February 2001, a handful of Erasmus students published the first edition of this European paper in Strasbourg. In those days, Euro notes and coins had not yet been introduced, the unification of old Europe with ex-communist countries had been scheduled for 2004, and there were the beginnings of a hesitant debate on the governance of Europe, ultimately leading to the common European Constitution project.
Outside of politics, European society was changing. A new generation was benefiting from the Schengen Agreement, freedom of movement and the Erasmus Programme, and this was sending shock-waves through the sociological make-up of the continent. Cafebabel.com emerged out of this new generation with the aims of becoming a European media which creates multinational debate and European public opinion.
Discovering the Eurogeneration
In its five years, cafebabel.com has told of a generation where love goes beyond borders. They live in similar ways in Paris, Budapest or Brussels, they go to festivals to discover other cultures, they suffer from the precarity of the job market, and they take advantage of the “low-cost revolution”.
Towards a European society
Cafebabel.com has always wanted open debate, and thanks to a network of over 20 local teams, differing points of view – which would otherwise never have come together – can be discussed. We brought coverage of a wide range of topics: the Lisbon strategy and Europe’s social model; Muslim immigration in our countries which is slowing the continent’s demographic decline; the two atrocious terrorist acts in Madrid and London that rocked the whole of Europe; and the uprisings in the Parisian suburbs.
Therapy based on coffee and debate
This climate of crisis may have contributed to the failure of the European Constitution, voted out by the French and the Dutch. We launched a large debate on this subject with our 'coffee storming' – brain-storming sessions held in cafés across Europe – and on-line thematic reports to examine if the European Constitution would be a step forward or not. With the ‘no’ vote, we launched Café therapy, a light-hearted section which aims to understand, and possibly cure, European fears.
Our work, the fruit of contributions from hundreds of voluntary journalists, coordinated by the central editing office in Paris, has been rewarded by you, our readers. From 15,000 in December 2004, a year later, readership went up to 140,000. And to bring an even larger audience to our site, we are launching a historic version of cafebabel.com in Polish on the 2nd February, 2006.
What about the next five years? Well, cafebabel.com will have to work harder still, to bring you a media product that is even more up to date with current affairs, covering an even broader range of topics, with the originality that makes us noticed, on the internet and who knows, maybe even as a paper? Our only ambition is to be a media reference point for the European parliamentary elections in 2009.
In the meantime, happy Euroreading!