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A relevant, comprehensive and synthetic analysis of the European elections
Jun 28th, 2009

I have found on the FEPS think-tank’s website an analysis of the European elections that I think is quite relevant, relatively comprehensive, and remarkably synthetic, which is always a plus point. Click here to access the FEPS analysis.

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The EPP is openly blackmailing the PES but apparently journalists don’t care
Jun 26th, 2009

Wednesday at a press conference, the newly re-elected EPP group leader Joseph Daul said that his group was opened to any type of alliance for the European Parliament shared presidency deal. However Daul added that the EPP group would – of course- only make a deal with “people” who back the re-election of Barroso as Commission President at the EP first plenary session on July 15th. I am not sure if I understand why the EP presidency and the Commission presidency have to be connected. Journalists in the room didn’t ask this question though. This is a smart move from the EPP. Either the Socialists accept these conditions -thus risking to loose political clarity and to spur divisions among the PES, or they refuse -thus loosing the power the EP presidency seat gives. Smart move, indeed. Although this declaration sounds like a political bomb, none of the mainstream EU media picked up on it. From what I could see, only Europolitics made a story on it, but the article is not available for free. I haven’t seen anyone mentioning it on Twitter either. Strange thing. Joseph Daul said negotiations with political groups on the technical agreement would start next week. Let’s see what happens.

Update on June 27th:

EU bloggers have started picking up the story. See Jon Worth’s “Schizophrenic socialists and poker playing conservatives” and the European Citizen’s “PASD Strategy: Opposition or Office?”

Their views converge: the socialists would be better off refusing the EPP presidency deal, and positioning themselves clearly as the opposition party.

Update on June 29th

The press has started to pick up on the story. See Jean Quatremer’s blog (in French) and New Europe’s website, which even mentions the http://www.stop-barroso.eu/ and http://www.anyonebutbarroso.eu/ websites.

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2009: a PES odyssey
Jun 1st, 2009

Since I couldn’t help but notice the gap between the campaign as I know it from the inside, and as it is portrayed by the media  -see previous posts here and there- I decided to try and find a new equilibrium -if only a little- by relating the campaign through the eyes of a eurosocialist activist.

The Party of European Socialists has been preparing these elections for almost two years. Two years of consultation, debate and action. Two years trying to catch the attention of 27 national presses, in vain. Two years of hard work only to realise -at the end of the race- that the national media are just starting to show interest in these elections, only two weeks before the vote. This is a deeply upsetting situation for activists.

The PES manifesto is the fruit of an unprecedented approach in Europe. This manifesto is the result of a democratic bottom-up process, and not top-down as it is still done in other European parties.

For almost a year -from October 2007 to July 2008- the PES ran an open and transparent consultation of activists, NGOs, and trade unions over four key topics that were to become the PES campaign axes for the 2009 European elections. Gathered in their local branches, the PES activists debated for months in order to write contributions to the upcoming PES manifesto. The Your Space website was also an innovation in the field of political debate.  Internet users – either PES activists or not-  were invited to post articles or comments on the topics of the consultation. I took part in all of this. The result? For the first time, a common programme for all Socialist, Social-democrat, and Labour parties of Europe -a manifesto for the Party of European Socialists that states our values, describes six common axes for our future actions, and develops 71 concrete proposals for a new direction to Europe.

An ambitious manifesto, an unprecedented approach, transnational and democratic. Something that had never been seen before.

In December 2008, this manifesto was adopted unanimously by member parties at the PES council in Madrid (watch video). I was there too. This moment gave me the shivers. Along with the hundreds of activists that were there, I shared the feeling that the adoption of this manifesto was the emotional symbol of what we were building together: a Paneuropean political force that manages to elaborate and promote a common project, beyond the boundaries of language and culture, thanks to the enthusiasm of its activists. All together, united. Definitely moving. 

When I came back home, I was very disappointed by the French media coverage of the event. What was a major event, an unprecedented attempt at politicising the decisions made in Europe, was only reported through the participation of the freshly-elected head of the French PS, Martine Aubry. It is true that Martine Aubry was applauded warmly, but she was only one party leader among the 27 that attended the event.  What mattered was not her attendance or the way it was received. What mattered was the adoption of a common manifesto to all centre-left parties in Europe, and the way we managed to get there. Unfortunately, this was -according to the media- not a big story.

What was also innovating enough to be worth pointing out is the fact that the French PS has fully adopted the PES campaign: manifesto, mottos, visual identity, and logos alike. The PS chose to launch its campaign at the same time as the PES campaign was launched in April in Toulouse. On that occasion, all PES heads of list from the 27 EU member states gathered at a bilingual event. It was fantastic to see the audience – whose diversity was shown by the variety of flags being waved- so enthusiastic. This event was covered by the media -well, a little. Just a little since, once again, facts were covered through a national lens: it was reported as the PS campaign launch, rather than the PES’s. In fact, it was the opposite.

May, the final sprint. Every Saturday, there was a European day of action, for which PES party members organised events all around Europe, on the same date, and on the same topic: the 9th Social Europe, the 16th climate change, the 23rd relaunching the economy, the 30th our manifesto. When I read the live twitter comments that our activists posted on the events they took part in, when I looked at the pictures of these actions on flickr, and felt the sense of unity they shown, I couldn’t help but think that there was something truly innovating and unique in the 2009 PES campaign. A common manifesto for 27 countries, democratically elaborated, the enthusiastic mobilisation of activists all over Europe, and the use of the latest Internet tools as a means of overcoming distance, are some of the PES campaign features that should have triggered the interest of the media and other commentators. 

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The blind is leading the blind
May 29th, 2009

A couple of days ago I wrote a post in French about a well-known France 2 political TV show. At first I didn’t think about translating that post because I believed only the French would find it interesting anyway. But then I thought that it might be interesting for other nationals to see what’s happening in the countries they don’t know the language of. So here you go, welcome to the world of French TV debates!

The other day I was watching the well-known French political TV show Mots croisés, broadcast by number one public channel France 2. The show is in two parts, each dedicated to one topic. Unsurprisingly, the debate on the European elections was number 2, starting at 11pm, when most French people go to bed. Needless to say, you had to be highly motivated to follow that debate at such a late hour.

I was happy to see that Jean Quatremer -the Brussels correspondent of the French daily newspaper Libération- was invited. When questioned on his first impressions of the campaign so far, he pointed out that European elections suffered from a real deficit of media coverage, and the fact that the Mots Croisés debate started at 11pm was a good example of it. He didn’t get the chance to finish making his point as the host, Yves Calvi, flushed with anger, interrupting him to say that he had a lot of nerve saying such thing in his show, which was allocating 45 whole minutes to the debate on the European elections. Sic. A first debate on the European elections just two weeks before the vote at 11 pm on a week day. And knowing that the campaign on the presidential election starts over a year before the vote. Obviously, there is still a lot of progress to be made.

Yves Calvi added that France 2 has a very European-minded editorial team, which regularly broadcasts reports on European themes, and that France 2 is in fact the only French channel to have a permanent office in Brussels. Fair enough. However, considering that reports on European topics are not broadcast before the 19th minute of the 8-o’clock news, even in official campaign time -as I pointed out in a previous post- one can’t help but think that, despite Yves Calvi’s vindications, we still have a big problem, don’t we?

Jean Quatremer remained calm and polite. He managed to add that reports on European matters still only accounted for 2% of all news in the French media. So France 2’s editorial team might be the most European-minded of all, I still don’t think one should boast about something that is far from being satisfactory.

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It is time…
May 23rd, 2009

13 days to go before the European elections.

Not quite used to it, I am watching the 8 o’clock news on France2.

News go by. The headlines: hailstones the size of tennis balls, shady insurance companies, children put in custody, sects – oh yes, that’s catchy, sects are scary – it even talks about Sarkozy’s facebook page, and Carla having a cup of tea with her lady friends and petting her brand new dog… that doesn’t feel right. I am waiting, listening carefully; I feel feverish. I am losing hope. Well, I guess it’s not for today.

But suddenly, there it comes!

On the 19th minute of the big TV monument that is the 8 o’clock news of the state-subsidised, pedagogy-oriented public TV channel, just two weeks before the vote: a report on the European elections! What a miracle. I was not even expecting it any more. Finally! So, there is still hope. Let’s see what it’s about. My ears and eyes are wide open.

Topic: “European elections: list registration closed”. Lists are presented one after the other. “The UMP is heading the polls for the time being. Its most media-friendly candidates, two ministers, Micher Barnier and Rachida Dati, candidates in the Ile-de-France region. Lagging behind, the PS is struggling to find its feet, weakened by internal disputes. Among its heads of list: Harlem Désir in the Ile-de-France region, Vincent Peillon parachuted in the South-East, and Henri Weber in the Centre”.

Hit pause: did you notice the use of positive terms for the UMP, and negative terms as for the PS? You didn’t? Well I did, and that’s the wake-up call that led me to start this blog. Read again:

UMP + heading + most media-friendly + two ministers

PS + lagging behind + struggling + weakened + disputes + parachuted

Let alone the fact that two candidates are mentioned for the UMP, a man and a woman, while only men are mentioned for the PS, even though it is championing gender equality. Do you see how unbalanced things are now? You might think I am being paranoid. Well I am not, this is but one example among many others – too many – of something that has become systematic. You heard me: SYS-TE-MA-TIC.

We are living in a world where the right-wingers have won the media and mind-domination war. It is time for the European progressives to face that fact, get on with it and fight back. We must restore some kind of balance in the media. It is time for us to take the floor back, and get heard.

Back to the France2 news report. The other lists are presented, 5 seconds each. “72 deputies to elect, spread amongst 8 regions. An artificial land division combined with heads of list that are uneasy to identify: here are two factors that probably explain somehow the lack of interests of voters in these elections. As a matter of fact, one of the key aspects in this vote, if not the most relevant, will be the low turnout rate.”

Report time: 2 minutes.

“Here are two factors that probably explain somehow the lack of interests of voters in these elections”. I am flabbergasted. What about the fact that less than two weeks before the vote, a TV report about the European elections only comes at the 19th minute of the evening news? Doesn’t it have anything to do with the matter? Who are they fooling? “As a matter of fact, one of the key aspects in this vote, if not the most relevant, will be the low turnout rate.” How can one state such a thing before the elections actually take place? Doesn’t France2, as a public TV channel, have a “key” role to play in favour of a higher turnout rate? In fact, this is also systematic. SYS-TE-MA-TIC. The media analyse these elections through national frames of reference. What is at stake is not national, so nothing is at stake. It is tiring. It is exhausting. It is depressing.

The Parti Socialiste and the Party of European Socialists, to which it is affiliated, have been fighting for months in order to politicise and europeanise these elections. Yet it does not show in the media. What is wrong, then? The French are not ready, people are not interested in Europe, Europe is too complicated: that would be the usual answer given. But it is nothing like that. Not this time at least. What is wrong is the UMP. The UMP and the European People’s Party, to which it is affiliated, are not campaigning. The truth is, it is of no interest for them to campaign as they are in power in most European governments. So they let time pass by, hoping no one will notice. As a consequence, the PS and the PES have no opponent to fight against. We want to debate. We organise meeting after meeting. Yet the media do not report on it. Why? It is simple. Because if they make a report on the PS, the media must make another one on the UMP, or at least give them a chance to react in order to be fair. But the UMP is not campaigning, and there is no available counterpart. Until the last minute the UMP had neither lists nor programme. No matter how outrageous that is, the media have hardly talked about it. This absolute scandal has been covered up by images of Carla in Chanel outfits.

The show must not go on.

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© Eurosocialiste 2010. Everything posted on this blog is my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of my employer or its clients. The content of this blog has been revised by Fabtrad (fabtrad @ gmail.com)