The Consequences of the War on Terror brought George Soros and Timothy Garton Ash together a couple of weeks ago in University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, to discuss US foreign policy, terrorism and the role of Europe. Penelope Newsome writes about it on Indymedia, but it is Caspar Hendereson as usual who gives us the most in-depth analysis.
Some of TGA’s views on Europe are well known, mainly through his Guardian columns, and I had an opportunity to write about them not long ago, when he gave a lecture at the LSE. Interestingly, Soros appears to share many of his central beliefs:
Soros thinks the EU — a far from perfect but actually existing example of an open society — can play a key role in building a more just world order, but that it needs to define a mission. As Garton-Ash was probably correct to say, the EU cannot simply keep offering membership to an ever larger number of states (although, for Soros and I guess for Garton Ash, keeping the process of negotiation with Turkey alive is crucial). Europe, Soros said, needed something new to motivate people, to “get them out on the streets” in the way the cry for freedom had in so many central and eastern European countries. [cit. C. Henderson]
I couldn’t agree more, and although I respect the efforts made by Commissioner Wallström, we’re still light-years aways from an incisive communication strategy by the EU. Engaging with civil society, like the Commission recently did in Bergamo, is important of course, but we all know the limitations of this exercise too: it is conducted in a morbidly incestuous arena, often disconnected from the people it is meant to represent, where everyone knows everyone, and where all are generally complacent towards the European Union, not just because they receive funding from it, but because they genuinely believe in those values which have created and sustained the EU so far.
The problem, of course, is to reach out to the supporters who believe in that other society: in the Vlaams Belang, which has 33.5% of voters in Antwerpen, in neo-Nazism, which mobilises voters in Germany, in the xenophobic party Sverigedemokraterna, which gets seats in half of the Swedish municipalities, in the BNP and Lega Lombarda, of which Bergamo was for a long time a stronghold. And to reach out to them, the Commission needs to adopt many more strategies that would complement the inconspicuous one it is adopting today.
But once again, I am not sure how many people under 30 get most of their political information from the web. Still, it’s a start. Any other suggestions out there? A prize to the most incisive idea about how to turn the idea of Europe into a mass-movement.