“European Citizens are not interested in Europe just for Europe’s sake”

An interview with Loup Besmond de Senneville, journalist of EurActive.fr and active user of Twitter.

, by Maël Dancette, translated by Bianca Szytniewski

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

“European Citizens are not interested in Europe just for Europe's sake”

In order to integrate European citizens into the European project, Loup Besmond de Senneville, journalist of EurActive.fr and active user of Twitter, believes that news reports should insist on the influence of Europe on daily life.

Le Taurillon : As an active user of social network websites, do you think that citizens are presently interested in the European Union?

Loup Besmond de Senneville: In general, European citizens are still rather uninterested in European affairs. The position of European debates in the media or in speeches of politicians proves that Europe has moved away from its citizens. To reach these citizens, the accent must be put on making the topics covered in Brussels relate to them in their daily lives.

“European citizens are not interested in Europe just for Europe’s sake”, but only when they experience the concrete consequences it can have on their daily lives. Thus the farmer is interested in the CAP, the truck driver in the Eurovignette or the regulation of driving schedules and mothers care about the prolongation of maternity leave, many people could be referred to. The trade unions already follow the European issues closely. Evidently, when professionals are increasingly exposed to Europe, the better they are informed. This is the case with farmers and fishermen. However, a priori there is no interest among normal citizens.

Le Taurillon : What is the responsibility of media and how could it rouse the interest in Europe?

Loup Besmond de Senneville: The editorial influence - almost political - of editors-in-chief is applied here. Many editors and journalists justify the fact of not wanting to focus on these kinds of topics by arguing that no one is interested in Europe. But since no one speaks about Europe, no one can become interested in it. No one dares to break this circle. Journalists should make more of an effort to seek for topics that connect Europe to the daily lives of the European citizens. At European level, EurActiv, Europolitique, The EU observer or Touteleurope.eu are media that address these specific topics.

Le Taurillon : What are the shortcomings of the communication policies of European institutions?

Loup Besmond de Senneville: In the past 15 or 20 years, communications from the institutions moved from one extreme to another. Prior to Internet, the Commission communicated only to the media in Brussels. Today, all communication is done on the Internet. It is a massive development for the media, which is now able to follow European decisions in real-time. As a result their role also evolved from collecting topics to sorting the information. The use of Internet has brought a multitude of topics of which journalists must indeed make a selection.

The many websites and communication tools of the institutions function well. The poster campaign in the metro on equality of men and women, a few months ago, or the initiatives during the European elections confirm this. In addition, the Europa-website, available in 22 languages, has become the most consulted website about the European institutions and intends to inform citizens about Europe.

Nevertheless, Europe should not only communicate, but must also be integrated on national level. There is a tradition in France to accuse Europe of failures in certain policies and the expression ‘Europe restrains us’ still remains, in particular when it comes to directives. However, every state transposes directives differently, using some space to manoeuver.

Le Taurillon : Do blogs and social networks contribute to improve the information exchange on European topics?

Loup Besmond de Senneville: Only since 2005, European blogs have really developed and constitute real debates between people who are for or against the European Constitution. Subsequently, the blogs became an important space for information exchange, but it seems to me that today the debate reduced a little. There is relatively little debate, except for certain large blogs such as Quatremer and Coulisses de Brussels. But have blogs developed enough and do they reach the many people who are not yet fascinated by Europe? It is still the challenge of today.

Accordingly, Facebook is obviously a powerful information tool, used by the European institutions in a strategic way, whereas Twitter has not reached everyone but remains a matter of specialists. However, initiatives, such as “Tweet your MEP”, are the more welcome to increase communication exchanges on Europe.

Your comments
  • On 20 November 2010 at 18:09, by George Replying to: “European citizens are not interested in Europe because they love Europe”

    The translation of the title is not correct. The original article title meant: “Citizens do not care about Europe just for Europe’s sake” The current title is convey the opposite idea that citizens love Europe per se.

  • On 24 November 2010 at 13:23, by Gawain Towler Replying to: “European Citizens are not interested in Europe just for Europe’s sake”

    “Journalists should make more of an effort to seek for topics that connect Europe to the daily lives of the European citizens.” Why? Seriously why should they do that?

    Surely they should report on what they know and discover. They certainly should not seek out stories merely to promote a particular position or ideology as suggested here. If they discover stuff that does connect people to Europe, fair enough. For exam^ple I am sure that today’s news that the ECJ has ruled in favour of Eurocrats pay rises will connect to the general punblic across the continent.

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