What follows is a short digression from my philosophical musings — a citizen’s comment on the current state of affairs of their polity.
The Eurovision Debate of May 15, 2014, was the last in a series of televised debates among the European parties’ candidates for the presidency of the European Commission. It was staged in the European Parliament’s plenary chamber in Brussels, while its coverage was pan-European, as befits an EBU (European Broadcasting Union) production.
Its significance consists in the contribution it makes to the emergent European public sphere. Part of politics is about engendering an awareness among the public in the people and institutions involved in the process of dealing with the affairs of the political community. To that end, debates such as this must be appreciated for fostering a sense of acquaintance with the parties and individuals seeking the leadership of the European Commission.
EU politics have hitherto been perceived as a peculiar case of foreign policy. Much of it has to do with its media coverage at national and local level. Oftentimes, “Brussels” is depicted as the headquarters of an organisation alien or exterior to the national/local context. The result of such misrepresentation of reality is that many citizens end up not being familiar with the specifics of the Union. Many could find themselves in the position of watching yesternight’s debate, while trying to figure out who stands for what — trying to develop_ an _ad hoc acquaintance with the participants and their respective views.
The debate as such will not go down in history as a paradigm of televised political contest. Its presentation was rigid, formalistic and occasionally formulaic, while the incorporation of the social media element was superficial and inadequate at best. Still, the closer connection that some citizens may now have with the individuals and political parties partaking in the debate, must be appreciated as a positive outcome. The perceptual distance between the citizen and “Brussels” will eventually be diminished. There lies the value of such forms of political custom at this stage in the process of European integration.
A dubitative critic may consider the event an unimpressive piece of showpersonship, suggesting that things will change only when the Treaties are amended. Until then, all such talk is but a heap of leaves in the wind. Indeed, the pointed remarks of the candidates cannot in themselves alter the EU’s state of affairs. It anyway is not in the nature of televised debates to elaborate on the content of policies at depth and at compass — that occurs in the legislative process, where there is enough time and expertise to meticulously analyse all the information that goes into law or that underpins the decisions taken.
What really matters here is that a debate concerning European politics was broadcasted across the Union. This can provide an impetus for change, at least inasmuch as the perceived relation between the national/local and European level is concerned; and though there will doubtless be several challenges along the way, the outlook does seem promising.
Treaties will inevitably have to be amended in ways that will facilitate the creation of a genuine European democracy. Anything else is a denial of the historical-political reality. To that end, it is better to have a public that is acquainted with the real EU and is informed about its role in the grand design of things.