Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

A boring-sounding intra-EU migration and presentation post

(that’s actually moderately interesting, in places, but also a bit confused in others)

Interesting survey results that I’d missed via Brian J Phillips suggest that only 1.5% of EU citizens have migrated to another member state to live. Stuck me as rather low and, predictably, has been used by our Eurosceptic friends as yet more “proof” that no one wants or needs the EU.

I don’t deny for a moment that cross-border mobility is likely to be fairly low – after all, people generally tend to continue living relatively close to where they grew up, bar the occasional shunt to a big city to find work, and the percentage of people in the EU with a strong enough grasp of a second language to enable them to work in another country is (I’d imagine) still well under 50% of the population even on the mainland.

But still, if the survey was of people from all 25 member states, the figures would be heavily skewed by the 10 new members – especially the ex-Communist ones. They’ve not even had two years to start migrating, after all… A breakdown showing the figures for individual countries would (I’d guess) show a much higher incidence of cross-border migration in the 15 older members.

A bit more digging brings up more figures (though despite ten minutes trawling the Commission’s website, no sign of the survey itself…), and it soon becomes fairly clear that the movement figures are deliberately being presented as low – why else would they have asked so many detailed questions about why people AREN’T moving?

Yep – it’s all intended as initial publicity for the European Year of Worker Mobility, the press release for which provides yet more statistics (from the same survey, it would seem). By showing that few people have yet taken up the opportunity to migrate across borders, it’s easier to promote it as an innovative new approach to finding work. (Even if the Commission singularly failed to present the thing in this way, thus utterly buggering up the message…)

But after all that messing about with demographics, the thing that most struck me was utterly unrelated. What I’m intrigued by is why it took the Telegraph two weeks to report on this survey (it was published back on the 14th February, from what I can tell).

What the hell is wrong with the Commission’s PR department? A big new initiative to show the potential benefits of EU membership to individuals and promote economic growth in the process, and bugger all press coverage.

If there’s one thing the EU should have learned from last year, it’s that it hasn’t got its communication strategy sorted. It failed to sell the constitution, and failed to present a coherent message in the aftermath. It has begun to look increasingly uncertain and confused about its direction, which is hardly going to inspire confidence. But it is a prime opportunity to have a major re-think and overhaul of old strategies, as I argued the other day.

Presentation has always been the EU’s biggest problem. The terminology is dull, the legislation boring, the initiatives frequently bland, and there is the constant danger of appearing a little too much like the less than pleasant prior continent-spanning organisations – be they Roman, Catholic, Napoleonic or Fascist – for comfort. But come on, they surely must be able to do a better job than that? Two measly articles that only appear online, not in print, for what should be a major campaign?

It’s time for a re-vamp of the Commission’s entire PR strategy – starting with the awful-looking Commission website (perhaps along the lines of the European Parliament‘s?). A more accessible (searchable would help) news service, a few RSS feeds, and a little bit of a human face beyond dear Margot’s rather unfortunate attempts on her tedious blog would on their own help make the task of finding out just what it is that the most hated EU institution does just that little bit easier. That’s all that’s needed – for inaccessibility breeds distrust. If you can’t find out what the Commission’s up to, you’re more likely to assume it’s up to no good.

I mean, hell – I’m no PR expert, but I could come up with a better strategy for promoting the EU and Commission in five minutes. Accessibility is the key, and then just a little bit of self-awareness – another thing the EU as a whole has struggled with throughout its existence.

Yes, it’s hard to make something as interminably dull as the European Union seem interesting and exciting – but the sheer blandness and lack of imagination of the presentation at the moment is like nothing more than adding tapioca to your rice pudding for flavour. You don’t want more blandness – you need to spice it up with some jam. As with rice pudding, a large number of people will still find the end product revolting, but a good number will be able to stomach it rather better.