European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker said this a couple of days ago
“We are not proud enough of what we’ve achieved. This was a continent of divisions & wars.European unity is the great luck of our continent” pic.twitter.com/XBgqg7gU3t
— European Commission (@EU_Commission) February 17, 2017
This statement reflects on a problem that communicators advocating in favour of the European union have to face right now. I’m not referring in particular to communication professionals working for the institutions, but mainly to those who believe in the European project and work in communication, in Brussels and beyond.
I fully agree with President Juncker’s statement: we are not proud enough of what we have achieved. On the other side though, I see lack of courage when it comes to showing this feeling of pride and to counterattack populist arguments, fake news and groundless political campaigns aimed at destroying or undermining one of the greatest political projects in human history.
This, in my own experience, brings up to the surface a couple of issues:
- Bubbles (not only the EURObubble) are too self-complacent. I define bubbles as cities or areas of cities that gather professionals working in the same field. Bubbles are echochambers where people have the same mindset (not necessarily they just think alike), which makes it hard for them to see what the world outside that sphere think.
I am a frequent attendee of conferences on communication, democracy, human rights and I see how, in Brussels, these debates are useless when the line-up of speakers is made of people that all share the same view or belong to the same societal stratum and are ergo unable to bring aglobal perspective to the discussion table. Instead, they like patting each other on the back by self-acknowledging their membership to the intelligentsia. Clearly, things are going the opposite direction over the past two years…and 2017 doesn’t seem to be more promising.
We are losing the communication battle with citizens outside of big cities, and still, we are not realizing the power we have in our hand to stand our ground and defend the European ideals now, when it matters most.
- Self-complacency makes you a softy. Instead of fighting back, as President Juncker does and proposes, we get scared. I believe this is the time to stand our ground and use our skills, our arguments our knowledge to advocate for the benefits, the goodness and the founding principle of the Union. What the EU has achieved is tangible and it cannot be taken for granted.
The Social Media Team in the European Commission are applying these principles well. You can go on their Facebook page or Twitter account and see how they rebut wrong arguments, fake news or questionnable data. My call if for all those communicators who believe in EU unity to do the same on their personal accounts and not to shy away from populist digital campaigning. It’s not easy, I know. But we have the chance to act and make our contribution to a great cause. Let’s make our skills count.