EU Australia Online - News & information from the capital of Europe direct to Australian businesses

EU Told: Fix Communication With Public

  • July 2nd, 2008
  • Posted by EUEditor

eu-henn-reduced.jpgINTERVIEW: Commentators watching efforts by the European Union to sort out its present internal troubles say politicians in the member governments now have an extra responsibility to come up with answers.

That is the approach taken by an EU specialist at Deutsche Welle radio, in Bonn, Susanne Henn, who told Susie Lipscomb, the EU was facing a crisis over communication with its citizens.


The new Presidency of the European Union, to be run by the French government, will try to sort out what to do after Ireland voted no (12.6.08) to a plan for expanding and reorganising the EU – the plan called the Lisbon Treaty.

It would reduce the executive Commission to a more manageable size than the present 27; enable the European countries to have a joint stance on foreign policy and security; adjust voting on European laws, with less chance of decisions being vetoed by single countries or small coalitions; and provide for more countries to come into an expanded EU.

The trouble with it is that it has to be ratified by all member governments, and while 19 have approved it through their parliaments already.


Susanne Henn says that when Ireland put it to a popular vote, and it lost, the optioins became tight:

The Irish government has been asked if it can find a compromise, where they could hold a new referendum.

Other ideas included a “two-speed” Europe, with some countries giving more of their power to the EU than others; a new treaty instead of the Lisbon treaty; or even asking Ireland to leave the European Union.

Ms Henn says all those answers are impractical, and for now, the EU will have to keep going under its existing treaty that works like a constitution, the so-called Treaty of Nice – and that looks to be unsatisfactory too:


“The only thing that is certain, is that the EU must continue working with the Treaty of Nice, which has been there since 2003.

“That is not very practical at all with regards to voting procedures and will make further enlargement very difficult”, she said.

“With Croatia wanting to join in 2010, and the Nice Treaty only being set up for a membership of 27, that will pose a big problem.


“The crisis the EU right now is facing, is a communication crisis.

“It is very complex and very difficult, and it is just not a very approachable thing, the European Union, unlike national governments.

“There has always been scepticism with regard to new things.

“The result in Ireland could have happened in other EU countries as well.

“It depends now on how well national governments can advertise to the public, the positive aspects of the EU.

“It was founded more than fifty years ago to provide peace and stability after years of wars on the continent, and people were very happy.

“This was something special and readily understood, but now, new generations are used to peace.”

Picture: Susanne Henn, at Deutsche Welle, Bonn, June 2008