MEP Alain Lamassoure: 'A Europe built on European networks'

Article published on July 28, 2008
community published
Article published on July 28, 2008
: 'The enormous divide between the European Union and public opinion is surprising. We've removed all the boundaries between us and brought down the barriers - except where public debate is concerned'Opinion 'The political arena remains divided into 27 individual forums each closed to the outside world.
A study published several weeks ago showed that in 2007, programmes broadcast on French TV allocated less than 2% of coverage to European politics and the daily life of community institutions! Furthermore, the majority of stories and opinions are given from a very French perspective. As if to illustrate this, French president Nicolas Sarkozy has given two important European speeches over the last few days to inaugurate the six-month French presidency of the EU. The French press retained the only sentence from that of 5 July to the national UMP board that mentioned national politics – an ironic comment about the typically French strike becoming 'invisible' in France. The media focus on the 10 July speech given to an enthralled and already won-over European parliament – with the notable exception of broadcaster France 3 – focused on the Franco-Chinese relationships that had a brief mention during the debate. When TV cameras point at ‘Brussels’, it is not to recognise it as a centre of authority, of power but as one more building block or pedestal – one more studio to show off the only subject that appears to matter to France: the end of its own nose. With things as they are why would our political leaders give importance to Europe beyond the figureheads that are imposed on them? The microphones and cameras seem allergic to it. In any case, our leaders' only accountability to their electorate is in how they have defended national interests in Europe, or too often, against Europe.

Alain LamassoureHow then to break this vicious circle? I believe there are two ways.

Firstly, as Europe has gained power, and notably legislative power, we must work towards making these institutions fully democratic. This is the Lisbon treaty's aim: the parliament will finally live up to its name, holding legislative power together with government representatives and by voting in the commission's president who will become responsible for European executive policy. The European people's party (EPP) is already working on a solid legislative program, consistent across the 27 member countries, to present to voters. They are also preparing the candidate they will present for the commission's presidency. He (or she) will not only campaign in their own country, but in all member countries. If other European parties follow suit TV media will be forced to organise debates between them: the result? Barriers will start to crack. The next time they will crumble until finally, they will come down altogether. It will take time: two or three legislative elections? For this reason another type of action is needed, an action that, amongst others is pioneering. Fundamental links from the ‘bottom up’ between all those who believe in Europe, who have chosen to live in this European environment, and who want to bring the political debate to life in a zone free from even the most transparent of barriers. Foreign workers, Erasmus students, multinational employees, those with holiday homes abroad, pensioners from northern Europe attracted by the warmth of life in the south, those involved in administrations and NGOs working for the European Union, sports professionals, artists, intellectuals committed to European cooperation, elected representatives of twinned towns and dual-nationality families must all work to create the nucleus of this kind of network. It will also take some displays of federal action. What about a communal petition signed by a million European citizens, an idea that the Lisbon treaty makes possible? Let's find a subject that motivates people enough to launch an initiative never seen before that will mark the true birth of European citizenship!'

Journalistes au parlement EuropéenThe author is MEP for the European People's Party Translated from French to English by Susannah Readett-Bayley ( Photos: Alain Lamassoure (webtissimo/ Flickr), journalists in the European parliament (eumiro/ Flickr)