60 Ideas for Europe

People know little about the European project. Only an ambitious and comprehensive approach can remedy this shortcoming. People should – even superficially – be aware of the whereabouts of the European project and the numerous benefits it generates. When European decisions are to be taken options should feed the public debate. European political parties shall play their role. Adequate information should reach a general public which is mostly not concerned. Here cooperation between leading European TV-channels can be of help. It should mainly show the achievements of de European Union. Also national governments shall inform their general public adequately.

Education in Europe shall embrace a new ambitious project. Youngsters shall gradually be acquainted with the specific features of Europe. Not just the basic assumptions of Europe, but also objective history teaching, away from nationalistic rhetoric and civic eductation that focusses on knowlegde of public values and norms. In short this type of education shall prepare the pupils for a life in a society featuring diversity, viz. multiculturalism, multilinguism, multiraciality, transnationality and democracy at that level. Knowledge about the new society shall become part of the basic skills of pupils in primary and secundary schools. Teachers involved will need extra training. This global endeavour must be supported and implemented by local authorities as well as by the European institutions. The European political project should embrace this new major objective and challenge. The European Union can’t do without public support for the new societal project. This educational project goes by a gradual multiple-track-approach. The various tracks reinforcing each other when carried out in a comprehensive context.

Antwerp, May 16, 2008

Robert Verschooten
Chairman
Europees Studie- en Informatiecentrum (ESIC) vzw, Antwerpen
(European Study and Information Centre, Antwerp, Belgium)
e-mail : esic@skynet.be

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  1. This is exactly what we tried to do in Cannes (FRANCE) on the 9th of May with the backing of our town council and MP Mr Bernard Brochand, this year we had 500 primary school children participating in the celebrations of The European Day. The school teachers were so enthusiatic this year compared to the year before. The children worked very willingly on their projects and were happy to meet with people from other European country’s.
    Next year we would like many other French rowns to do the same.
    We found that the booklets that were supplied by the Commission and the Parlement were well accepted both by the teachers and the children. It would be important to be able to distribute this type of document to all the school children.
    It is also important to develope more web sites that can be used in educationnal programmes to explain to the children our cultiral differences and origines.
    It is only by understanding one another that we will all be able to live together in the Europe of the future and I entirely agree that the teachers need far more training in this field.

    Lesley Joines
    lesley.joines@yahoo.fr

  2. I don’t disagree with the need for improved communication on Europe. The difficulty is that there is a race to the bottom between TV channels in particular. How many worthwhile discussions on European affairs take place on TV in Belgium (and don’t let’s forget that Belgium is further sub-divided by three official languages and quite different media trends and habits between Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels, not to forget Eupen)? We need better independent journalism at an EU level and less manipulation by the spin doctors of national governments. The latter tend to blame the EU when things go wrong but to take all the credit when things go well. As long as this continues pouring resources into schools and colleges will do little to alter the euro-scepticism of the average man or woman on the Antwerp bus, tram or street.

  3. Dear european(s),

    Information is indeed crucial for the future of the European Union. Not so much of the EU as a political vehicle, but of the people in the EU.
    The EU as an impressive history making political vehicle is gradually maturing from puberty into early adulthood. The EU as a union where people from all participating nations can effectively communicate with each other and share and exchange information through all kind of channels like television is still in its infancy.

    The sharing and exchange of information has two major goals:

    The first goal is that it is vital for the understanding between people of all mutual aspects and can help avoid manipulations (by fanatic political, religious or other leaders and groups) of the individual and can avoid conflicts that may threaten the unique long period of peace in the EU.

    The second goal is that effective and efficient communications withing the EU is vital for prosperity in the EU and the competetive position of the EU in a.o. global economic, political, military and religious matters. In India as well as in China more than 1 billion people can communicate as such, in the VS and Canada more than half a billion people can do so.

    These nations share a common language, often not being their local / cultural language.
    I am a skilled Information Manager and all effective sharing of information starts with semantic understanding. That requires a mastered language, not the default option that the EU is currently pursuing. In my daily work I communicate with Europeans all over the EU.
    We speak english, but often pronounced in a way that is difficult to understand. We also often cannot find the right words and use a by pass that is less exact in what we mean to say.

    How do we proceed from here? Studies done by EU agencies have concluded the speaking 25 and more languages within the EU is a strength of the EU, that can be used to its advantage. I agree with that. However in addition to all our powerfull languages that also enable us to communicate with many people in South America, Africa and other nations, we need a EU policy to start communicating within the EU in a shared EU language.
    This topic is as obvious as delicate, because EU nations and EU people fear to loose part of their identity. But the contrary should be told. Every person and every nation will see its identity expanded with a European identity to be proud of. Are we not, most of us, curious to understand people from an entirely different european nation and culture. Do we not, most of us, want to travel there, watch their television, want to trade with them or work together on other aspects like multicultural events?

    I recommend to start as soon as possible with a EU policy to introduce a shared common language, be it English or any other language including the option of European as a language (IDO).

    Start with three pillars:
    1/ education program on all european schools,
    2/ education program for the entire EU public sector,
    3/ subtitling of all european television programs.

    I am convinced that this process will enrich every individual and make all of us more european than we can now imagine. It will take the EU from a political vehicle in early adulthood to an adult and truly powerfull multicultural union of people.
    As we make the EU to a success, thst we enjoy ourselves, it can also serve as an example for similar aspiration elsewhere in the world.

    Sincere regards,

    Frans Vrijmoed.

  4. Guys, let’s face it.
    It’s not only that people do not know enough about Europe.

    It’s ALSO that what people know about the European Union tells them it’s not democratic.

    There are plenty of examples. The Lisbon Treaty is a very big step forward but still not going far enough.

    I agree with Patrick Ritson. ‘Better independent journalism at EU level’ can not be achieved by throwing more subsidies at various institutional projects.

    But how about simply making Europe a better story. Let the EU provide real transparency, give the parliament the power to hold individual commissioners responsible, let them publicly debate the need to meet in Brussels and Strasbourg.

    From a journalists’ perspective, too much of what comes out of Brussels has already been precooked. There’s no real democratic debate on the issues. The parliament’s influence is limited. So why should I as a journalist go out an cover that?

    Only if this situation changes, I guarantee you that there will be more real journalists covering the EU. For the media, that make the EU a very exciting ADDITION to covering national politics. But as things stand now, the lack of democracy at EU level simply does not match national democracies.

  5. that focusses on knowlegde of public values and norms. In short this type of education shall prepare the pupils for a life in a society featuring diversity, viz. multiculturalism, multilinguism, multiraciality, transnationality and democracy at that level. Knowledge about the new society shall become part of the basic skills of pupils in primary and secundary schools. Teachers involved will need extra training. This global endeavour must be supported and implemented by local authorities as well as by the European institutions. The European political project should embrace this new major objective and challenge. The European Union can’t do without public support for the new societal project. This educational project goes by a gradual multiple-track-approach. The various tracks reinforcing each other when carried out in a comprehensive context.

  6. don’t disagree with the need for improved communication on Europe. The difficulty is that there is a race to the bottom between TV channels in particular. How many worthwhile discussions on European affairs take place on TV in Belgium (and don’t let’s forget that Belgium is further sub-divided by three official languages and quite different media trends and habits between Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels, not to forget Eupen)? We need better independent journalism at an EU level and less manipulation by the spin doctors of national governments. The latter tend to blame the EU when things go wrong but to take all the credit when things go well. As long as this continues pouring resources into schools and colleges will do little to alter the euro-scepticism of the average man or woman on the Antwerp bus, tram or street.

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