My name is Héctor. I am 25 years old and I am a political and international relations analyst. I work at a think tank in the beautiful city of Barcelona. What I write here reflects solely my own views.
I recently attended a meeting where a study on citizens’ perceptions of the European Union was presented. The study, although updated and somehow original, confirmed what everyone already knows: that there is a very deep feeling of disappointment among European citizens regarding the European Union. What surprised me were not so much the results of the study but certain attitudes of the present EU officials.
The only thing said by them that I agree with and I actually consider a very good implication of the last European elections is that we can assume that in the 2019 elections, candidates will attack either Juncker, should he want to be re-elected, or the European People’s Party’s candidate. That one of the ‘Spitzenkandidaten’ was elected established a precedent that will repeat itself in 2019. Finally, the fact that Juncker or the EPP’s candidate will be held accountable for the actions of Juncker’s commission will certainly lead to a Europe-wide campaign.
However, the veteran officials of the EU have to change their narrative in order to save the European project. First of all, we all acknowledge it is a good thing that Germans and French are not killing each other anymore, but for God’s sake, that was almost 70 years ago, so, please, stop boasting about that!!! The European Union has to offer a better narrative than that to attract young people and make them believe in the European project again. In the second place, when reviewing the work of the last Commission, the most celebrated achievements were the EU membership of Croatia, Latvia’s adoption of the euro and the agreement with Iran. I just wonder what the benefits of these accomplishments are for the average citizen. No wonder that citizens see the European Union as something very far away with little impact on their lives. Finally, Jean Claude Juncker was praised for the intelligent way in which he designed the posts in the new Commission to address citizens’ problems, which basically seemed to mean that Juncker looked at the Eurobarometer, saw which were the main worries of the Europeans and appointed his commissioners accordingly. To me this looks rather superficial; and especially considering that a former oil company shareholder is going to be in charge of Climate Action and Energy, the whole procedure raises some doubts to say the least.
An interesting finding of the study was that in Spain most citizens preferred the idea to meet their representatives several times a year in the vicinity of where they live to other proposals put forward to them as an idea to have their voice better heard on EU related matters. This is all very well, but I ask myself, how many more studies have to be carried out and how low the citizen’s confidence in the European project must sink before representatives of the European Union start doing what citizens really want. Every time I listen to somebody working in the European institutions, the almost total lack of self-criticism leaves me speechless. It is obvious that officials and veterans in the European institutions have done a very good job for the sake of the Union and their know-how is and will be very much needed. However, representatives must take a different approach if the European Union is to survive; paying attention to citizens’ demands and needs may be the first step in the right direction.