On last Wednesday, an important event took place in the European Parliament in Strasbourg: the President of the European Commission delivered the traditional “State of the Union” speech, in which he discussed the crisis and also the upcoming challenges for the Members States and the European integration. Among the main points of his speech, Jose Manuel Barroso announced the publication of a report aiming at reinforcing the Economic and Monetary Union and spoke in favour of a change of direction for Europe, evoking a “federation of Nation-States”. This was quite new for a President of the Commission not really reputed to be a federalist.
This address was awaited in times of crisis in the Eurozone, and even of the European integration. Indeed, at a moment when euro-scepticism is stronger and stronger within the Union, Barroso’s declaration looks bold and interesting, confirming that federalism is trendy for some European leaders. Nonetheless, the position of the former Portuguese Prime Minister (2002 to 2004) was nearly unnoticed (in France, at least), to the great displeasure of some, such as Fabien Cazenave who was very severe with the French media on his blog.
The French blogger and pro-European activist’s anger is logical and understandable, insofar as neither French TV channels, nor radio stations, considered it useful to comment Barroso’s speech, to broadcast it in live, or to relay the piece of information on their respective TV news. Happening the same day as the release of the new I-Phone 5 and other stories, the address of the State of the European Union was faced with a strong competition and could hardly fight. But the attitude of the French media and other nonstop news channels (except Euronews) give the impression, once again, that the European news are still of secondary importance and so, reach only a tiny part of citizens, euro-sceptics as euro-supporters.
If such anger is justified, it should not be surprising, because of the already weak treatment of news in the French media (and maybe in the rest of Europe). For instance, if France Télévisions (the French public television) regularly covers the EU and its members-states, TF1 – the private and most watched TV channel in France and Europe (for the audience ratings and the television-viewers) – prefers to send reporters from Lille to cover the European Council instead of having a permanent correspondent at Brussels.
If it is the duty of the media (mainly TV) to deal with such information (especially when it is important), one should remember that the State of the Union address is still little known, as it is quite recent. Indeed, such an exercise has only existed since 2010 and is still not in the mind of citizens, contrary to the US version of the State of the Union address which, through decades, has become a real institution and a genuine political moment. In other words, some moment will be needed for the State of the European Union address to become a habit for Europeans and for the media first. Nevertheless, they have to play their role of “relay”, to guarantee debate among European and national citizens, a condition sine qua none to avoid falling in euro-scepticism or, worse, in euro-indifference.
As Fabien Cazenave explains on his blog, “considering outrageous the absence of media coverage of José Manuel Barroso’s address is not a pro-European’s caprice. The President of the European Commission’s speech is important and must allow a debate. Euro-sceptics, pro-Europeans and federalists must not be the only people to be informed of the existence of this address. Moreover, it was solemnly made in front of the citizens’ representatives”. It is obvious that the President of the Commission’s speech would have deserved more media coverage, especially at a moment when the distrust of citizens towards the EU remains strong. In spite of all, and despite of the quasi-general indifference, the 2012 State of the Union address was important and especially useful in the current debates shaking the European integration and its rulers.
PS : you can follow and review the 2012 State of the Union address, with the video just below.