So, will the European Citizens’ Consultation forum, launched yesterday in a variety of EU languages, actually prove a success?
Based on past attempts, I don’t hold out much hope – these things are usually either ignored (remember Timothy Garton-Ash’s European Story initiative? No? Precisely…), or quickly swamped by foaming-at-the-mouth British eurosceptics making “witty” comments and generally making their fellow countrymen look like a bunch of rude idiots (read the comments at Margot Wallstrom’s blog or on the Debate Europe forum recently?)
So, which is it going to be – ignored or hijacked by the anti-EU brigade?
Pessimist? Moi? Well, after five years of vague attempts to encourage constructive online discussion of the EU (albeit with precisely zero resources), and having witnessed the EU-focussed blogosphere expand by only a tiny fraction during that time despite several concerted efforts, I have good reason to be.
The EU, you see, is very, very dull and very, very complicated. Dull and complicated things are not the most attractive at the best of times. (And yes, I have indeed noted this before. Many, many times.)
How to make people want to discuss the EU more? Simple: give them some indication that their input is valuable. At the moment, there is none: “Come vote for an MEP (usually on a party list system) of whom you’ve never heard to go to Brussels and Strasbourg to vote on things over which they have little control (being proposed by the Commission and easily vetoed by the Council) and about which you’ll never hear (unless they make the tabloids)!” – Hardly the most rousing call to increased democratic engagement, is it? Yet that’s all the peoples of Europe have currently got.
Little wonder that European elections – and referendums – always end up so parochial. And little wonder that the EU itself continues to inspire so little interest among the people it supposedly exists to benefit.