"Ten concrete actions"
Busy, so a quicky. Blogging EU Commissioner Margot Wallström has launched what is described as (in typically overly-convoluted EU style) "an information note identifying the components of a structured communication and information strategy on the Constitution to support the ongoing ratification process". In other words, an outline of what will and will not be done by the Commission to ease the constitution into effect.
Unfortunately, it could be seen to be somewhat contradictory:
"The Commission has made it clear that it will not: issue propaganda on the Constitution; campaign during election periods or breach national rules on referenda or distribution of information."Sounds good - should appease the Eurosceptics. But how can that be tallied with the next two paragraphs?
"The Commission will seek to ensure that Europe's citizens are able to take informed choices on the Constitution. To do so, it has become increasingly clear that the Commission needs to do more to demonstrate the benefits of Europe.The Commission promises not to issue propaganda, but then says it must be "pro-active" in showing the benefits of the constitution. Which would mean, by its very definition, issuing propaganda (albeit not necessarily in the sinister sense in which that term is now generally used). The "training seminars for national and regional journalists" likewise could sound a tad Orwellian, as could the "Constitution Packs" for students.
"The Commission will be more pro-active in setting out the political case for the adoption of the Constitution - and demonstrate its concrete benefits to citizens. The entry into force of the Constitution would enhance the ability of the European Union to deliver on its strategic objectives over the next five years. The Commission and individual Commissioners cannot therefore stand on the sidelines or refrain from entering the political debate."
It all makes sense, of course, as the lack of knowledge about the constitution needs to be tackled for the electorate to be able to make an informed choice one way or the other, but considering that there have already been major objections from Eurosceptics over the - thus far fairly small - amounts of money being spent on trying to get the constitution ratified, this is just asking for trouble.
Information on the constitution needs to come from impartial sources, not from an institution which is wholly and institutionally committed to the thing. Any information coming from the Commission about the constitution will be - quite fairly - treated with suspicion. It may well be entirely factual, but the fact it will be stamped with an official logo means that it cannot be impartial, and so cannot be trusted.
The whole thing is somewhat disingenuous, methinks. Even the largely pro-EU Guardian is taking the piss out of poor old Margot, highlighting her "globe-trotting at the expense of the European taxpayer," and pointing out that "Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, who is said to wince at the mention of Ms Wallström's name, recently made clear the government would turn down any EU money to promote the constitution ahead of next year's referendum."
When are the EU bigwigs going to realise that hostility is not going to be overcome by branded official documents? When are they going to realise that "concrete actions" to convince people of the benefits of the EU are not what's required, but a demonsration of concrete benefits? The facts should be able to speak for themselves.
Of course, the problem still remains - who can be bothered to spread information about the benefits if the Commission doesn't? It's a bit of a Catch-22, and not one to which I have much of a solution.