(openDemocracy) The European Union’s problem is substance, not narrative


The hard fact that ‘pro-Europeans’ have to grasp is that for many people the EU is not at all that great. Quite the contrary, the EU imposes tough economic rules, yet gives little palpable in return.

The argument that Euroskepticism could be overcome by better framing, PR techniques or a new narrative appeals to many “pro-Europeans”. Its logic is simple: the EU does good things, but they are complex by nature and thus difficult to understand. Therefore, the solution surely lies in simplifying the language, engaging the skeptics on Twitter and carrying the day. Sadly, this belief reflects the pro-European elite’s failure to grasp the deeper reality of what shapes people’s perceptions and what the EU today does.

In fact, the EU’s problem is not the absence of a catchy narrative, but the presence of a rather unpopular substance. The lack of a positive narrative is only the most visible sign of the EU’s growing institutional and ideological tensions and this is what the pro-Europeans should really be worrying about, rather than decrying the lack of spin.

The EU’s ‘constitutional imbalance’

Let us first look at the emergence of what one could call the EU’s ‘constitutional imbalance’ by asking ourselves a question. Which are the most consequential EU competences today? I would argue that two unquestionably dominate: the internal market and the external trade policy. (Of course, the architecture of the Euro also represents a powerful EU-level competence, but since it directly affects only the Eurozone countries, let us leave it aside for now.)…

(The opinion was published by openDemocracy on 24 April 2014 and is available in full here.)


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