Wednesday, 18 July 2012 21:00

Beyond the yellow leotard

In March, E&M wrote an open letter to the Director General for Enlargement, protesting against an official promotional video which was supposed to encourage young people to support EU enlargement. We wrote the letter together with www.die-euros.de out of a sense of embarrassment: we felt that the video underlined racial stereotypes and implied that all threats to European unity come from the outside. The DG Enlargement said (and still says) that the video was meant to communicate with young people who don't already know a lot about the EU, and who will recognise and respond to references to video games and martial arts films.

You can read the response we received from Director General for Enlargement, Stefano Sannino, here

So what should the DG Enlargement have spent its money on, instead of a glossy martial arts video? In his response, Mr Sannino invited us to give him our suggestions, saying: "tell us what you would like to know about EU enlargement and how you would like to receive the information. We will be happy to discuss your ideas together with you."

E&M Magazine is not affiliated with the European Commission, and nor is it our job to help the Commission with PR. But we asked our authors what they would have liked to see rather than the triumph of twelve identical women in yellow leotards. Here are a few of their ideas.

1. no need to bring a passport

For most of us, EU-membership does not mean the ability to defeat aggressive samurai-wielding men. It has concrete, everyday benefits, and that's what we want to hear more about. Currently, Ukrainians often have to wait hours before crossing the Polish border, for example. Why not create videos showing how easy it is to cross borders within the EU, or how consumer law helps keep trade secure and fair? A video could follow a group of young people interrailing around Europe, or going off to study in other European countries.

2. Tell us a true story

How have real young people benefited from the Common Agricultural Policy (even if they don't know it?) How have individuals been affected by consumer law or EU funding for local development? We'd like to hear some true stories. The American project StoryCorps has been collecting recordings of real life stories for years - the format is generally an interview in which people ask each other about their experiences. Why not ask a young person from a candidate country to interview someone from a member country about their everyday life, and how it has changed since their country joined the EU? Animated videos of interviews could be more fun to watch than classic head-shots.

The recent "Science: It's a Girl Thing" campaign by the Directorate General for Research and Innovation has shown that true stories work best: while the barely-relevant video of three girls dancing around in high heels created so much outrage that it had to be withdrawn, the interviews with role model scientists are a great way for young women to find out what scientists actually do all day and what a lab looks like!

Sunday, 12 February 2012 06:50

Croatia’s EU accession: Curbed enthusiasm

On Sunday, January 23rd 2012, the Croatian referendum backed accession to the European Union. In 2013 it will join as Member State Number 28. But what is being described as a "historic decision" by Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic attracted less than 44% of Croatians to use their democratic voting right. Simultaneously, the Eurozone Crisis still dominates media coverage nearly every weekday and the narrative favoured by the media makes European enlargement appear unreasonable. Indeed, welcoming Zagreb into the EU doesn't just provide opportunities. There is work to do, in particular to prepare the Croatian economy for the EU market. 

Of the 43.67% of Croatian people who cast their vote, about 66% were in favour of EU membership. Politicians and analysts have tried to find several explanations for this low voting outcome, arguing for a low participation of the Croatian diaspora, the current Eurozone crisis and an election surfeit after recent parliament elections. The reality is probably a combination of all three.

Even former General Ante Gotovina, now imprisoned for crimes in the Croatian War for Independence, voted in favour of EU accession. He explained his decision in a manner reminiscent of what Austrian journalist Adelheid Wölfl called a "return to normality." According to her research, many Croatians feel historically connected to Europe. For them, EU membership seems to be a logical step to overcome the terrible time of the Balkan conflicts and to seize their deserved role within the heart of Europe.

Published in Under Eastern Eyes
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