A speech? What speech?

October 11, 2011

By Agatha Akhabue & Enora Régnier

The 28th of September, the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, made his annual speech about the state of the Union and solutions he proposed to end the crisis. A discourse that didn’t really empassion Europeans, who often missed it entirely.


Barroso? Who’s that guy? ». « I think he’s the Spanish president, right? ». « I’ve never heard about that man before. Who is it? » The least we can say is that the president’s speech of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, from the 28th of September, has gone unremarked by many citizens of the EU.

Whether they live in Spain, France, Sweden or Belgium, European citizens often have no idea what’s going on at the head of Europe. Whether they take Barroso for the president of another country or the president of Europe, the fact remains that his speech has almost totally gone unnoticed: we sought international public opinion about what they think about the speech. 80% of the people we talked with had absolutely no idea what the State of the union speech was, or was about.

“I’m really interested by politics, but I have to admit that I didn’t hear about that speech” explains Tobias Daneels, 24, journalism student in Belgium. One of his fellow citizens, Kim Van Rompay, 20, also explained that he “hadn’t heard about that speech at all”. And yet, they live in the country that houses the heart of Europe.

Some others have good excuses: “I didn’t even know that Barroso had made a speech, says Erwan Verpoest, 28, from France. But I follow the news every day and I can say that they didn’t talk about that. At the moment, we have elections in France, and sports competition. It took precedence over the rest”. And for Lian, 21, from Holland, it’s even simpler: « I’m not interested in policy at all ».

A speech that doesn’t convince

But if many people missed the annual speech of the Commission president, some others have heard or read some snippets about it.

Among them, Julia Vitaasalo, 20, from Finland: “I read a summary of the speech on the internet. Politicians always sell big ideas to people but Barroso seems to have some concrete means to tackle the problems we have. For example, about the banks, I think that something has to be done to prevent the crisis as we know it today. And I think that, through a new system of regulation and a regulation of taxes, as Barroso announced in his speech, we can do something. At least on paper, it seems like they are planning on going to the right direction”.

Anders Grana, 30, from Sweden, explains that he would believe in the speech, ” if only all Europeans would come together and work together to bring about the success of Barroso’s plans. It will be great for us to work to restore and gain confidence back. The only thing I am worried about is the taxation».

Gleen Van den Bulck, 20, from Belgium, explains that he “heard about the speech in the news. I’m pro-Europe and I think that we need an economic government”. In his agenda, Barroso defends the idea of a Europe that supports Greece economically. An idea that Gleen shares: “I believe that if we don’t help countries, like Greece, Europe will go under”.

Concerning Tim Berbers, 23, a student at the Hogeschool Utrecht, he has a clear-cut opinion: « Barroso seems to believe that the euro crisis was caused by a lack of cooperation between the individual member-states and therefore more power for Brussels is the solution to our current economic problems. I believe this to be blind idealism by mister Barroso because the idea of a powerful EU has been a dream for most of its existence. In my opinion, the crisis was caused by the lack of strong economic foundations by some of our member states, such as Greece. Barroso believes in the dream that a powerful EU can solve this all, but first I think the members must strengthen up their own economies. Barroso is kind of thinking in the wrong way ».

Some others want to keep some hope, but clearly display their doubts: « I hope they will respect the commitment to restore Europe and the Euro. We do not have enough support for the European Union. I hope it’s not just a speech » says Rianne Van, 32, from Holland.


Strong opinions about the EU

But not having followed Barroso’s speech does not mean that all citizens do not care about the EU. It is even the opposite. Often the advice is clear-cut on the future of the EU and the priorities it must give to itself.
For Jasmijn, 22, from Spain ” the EU is not bothered about the common Citizen. All the politicians care about their selfish political needs. They are all talking about Greece, but what about Spain? Was there anything to help Spain in the speech? I am in Holland because I cannot help myself in my country: I have no job, and nothing to do ».

Rasa Marozaite, 25, is from Lithuania. She argues that « we don’t know what is happening in the EU. They need to explain us what we have to lose or gain if we fall to bail out Greece ».

« I don’t believe in deeper economic co-ordination and integration, explains Piotr Mielnik, 21, from Poland. That is what brought about the crisis the Euro zone is  facing now ».
Steffen Laursen, 22, from Denmark, concludes by saying that “we need a commitment program, which I believe Barroso is trying to do. We all need to support him. But they need to enlighten the common Europe citizen, because most of us don’t know what they are doing at the head of the Union”.

Rather than uninterested in politics and the EU, citizens are tired of political speeches in which they no longer believe. What they now expect from the EU are actions, improvements, concrete things. It will be only when the politicians implement their speeches that the people will resume paying attention again.


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