Wanted: a new EU Raison D’Être?
It’s been almost a year since the French and Dutch voters rejected the European Constitution and plunged the EU into its worst-ever crisis. What followed was a so-called ”period of reflection” on the future of Europe. That’s at least what EU leaders had called for – addressing questions like the future of the EU constitution; the boundaries of Europe and the aims and goals of European integration.
One year later - there are still no answers - and Europeans seem to be more disgruntled than ever.
This week with Europe Day marking the creation of an organised Europe – it comes as no surprise that EU leaders in Brussels and all throughout the continent used the occasion to speak in favour of the European project and try to reach out to European citizens. In Berlin German Chancellor Angela Merkel missed no occasion this week to address the question of the failed EU constitution. She said it should be revived, though the timing should be careful. First and foremost the European Union should however live up to its economic potential and convince people it’s working to provide for their economic and social security. Merkel urged to fundamentally rethink Europe’s mission, saying that preserving peace after World War Two, was no longer enough to inspire people today.
Enthusiasm on the doorstep
Romania and Bulgaria are eagerly awaiting the European Commission report to be published next week – on whether they’ll be ready to join the European Union in January 2007 or will have to wait until 2008. The European Commission might well decide to put their membership on hold and ask for more reforms - especially when it comes to fighting crime and corruption.
Bulgaria’s Prime Minister, Sergei Stanishev, warned the EU not to humiliate his country next week and delay EU membership. This week however this didn’t keep Romanian’s from celebrating Europe Day…
Well, Cafés - perhaps more than any other institution - stand for communication and local culture. They are also a very typical symbol of our common European heritage. That’s why the Institute of the regions of Europe backed by the Austrian EU Presidency launched the project called ”Café d’Europe” .
In 27 Cafés in the 27 European capitals - Bulgaria and Romania were obviously already counted in as part of the European family - coffeehouse discussions took place with writers and a wide public from across the continent. It was the occasion to ask questions, brainstorm ideas and come up with creative and visionary proposals. We visit Café Slavia right in the center of the Czech capital.
Why the EU communication deficit persist?
There is undoubtedly a big communication deficit between Brussels and the European citizens. And even though there have been many initiatives the EU often remains something distant and quite abstract. It’s important to regain citizens’ trust Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said this week. The way to strengthen public confidence in Europe is through results. EU leaders and institutions have lost touch with the concerns of its citizens, says also Cordula Janowski from the Center for European Integrations Studies in Bonn.
Think European – act local?
Growing numbers of Poles are opening business and taking up jobs in neighbouring countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Initially, most of the Polish job seekers went to the UK, Ireland and Sweden, which were the first to open up their labour markets. But increasingly, Poles are discovering that they can easily fill niches in labour markets closer to home.
Smoke and mirrors?
For our last report today on Network Europe we’re heading to France where Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is plummeting in French opinion polls. After the failure to address youth unemployment, he’s been involved in a corruption scandal and accused of secretly investigating numerous politicians, industrialists and senior public servants.
Now, however he’s come up with a creative way to boost national morale and put himself back on the cutting edge, especially with disenchanted younger voters. His pet project - a huge contemporary art show celebrating French achievement - opened this week. But it hasn’t completely silenced his critics....
Closing Music: Texas