About Carnegie and Roma „ordinary citizen” Katarina

Carnegie Europe published at the end of January 2015 a rather long article” Emotional Intelligence for EU Democracy”.http://carnegieeurope.eu/2015/01/26/emotional-intelligence-for-eu-democracy

I discovered it and started reading it with lots of interest. It has been a disappointment.  The article manages two things: it proves that indeed the EU lives in a Brussels bubble but also that the authors and the editor of Carnegie Europe live in an even bigger one.

As a passionate pro-European  I expected from a leader of the Brussels based civil society and an academic with long experience working within a strong diplomatic service to come up with some clear analysis of the many problems that EU civil society as well as governments (focusing on MFAs)  face in coming up with ideas and implementing these ideas together with the European bureaucracies ( both authors have extensive experience within the EU bureaucratic apparatus – European Commission and European Council) .

What I got was a 13.000 words boring, inconsistent ( though at times smart), often ambiguous, plagued by logical fallacies, mistakes and platitudes article.

It starts with   “To ordinary citizens, EU institutions appear distant, elitist, and difficult to understand.” Using the word appear creates an ambiguity that is unnecessary. I thought it might be understood as paternalistic towards the “ordinary citizens”. But it got worst.

I doubt any academic paper published by Carnegie in the US will go so far and describe the typical “ordinary citizen ” ( after a pensioner from Alabama, a blogger from North Carolina a store -clerk from Miami,  and a businessman from New York),  – a black mother named Beyonce poorly educated, working in a factory plucking chickens in Chicago and supporting an extended family of ten.

This is exactly the way Katarina the Roma woman in Kosice is described in the article published by Carnegie Europe. Considering the very strong emphasis of the Open Society Institute (OSI) on fighting prejudices against Roma and the fact that one author is leading the OSI office in Brussels the choice seems at least odd. Confusing the main center- left party in Slovakia SMER with the protofascist SNP happens in the same paragraph.

There are some good, enough debatable and some poorly argued statements in the article. Overall is a hard read even for Brussels experts therefore hardly “emotionally intelligent” at all.  But what is the most worrisome are the solutions proposed. Most work in the same wrong direction – transforming the EU into an even bigger talk-shop. The problems are not that “ordinary citizens” don’t know enough about the EU, that the EU bureaucracies and citizens are not connecting through Internet-based technologies or that there are not enough opportunities for blabla as the authors suggest. I found this in the article:

If the EU held a poll in Slovakia on discrimination and how to prevent it, Katarina and her neighbors could speak directly with non-Roma people in Košice about the problems Roma face in housing, employment, education, and healthcare. That would help generate new policy solutions.

For anybody with hands on expertise on Roma this will sound simply delusional. I wrote far too much on the subject to go here in detail.

The problems are that EU citizens feel they are just cogs in a system that doesn’t value them , that rarely (if ever)there is anything inspirational coming from Brussels ( due to a rather poor quality of leadership and a catastrophic communication) and that far too much of EU public money is wasted or spent in ways that makes little sense for the ordinary citizen. It is hardly comprehensible how such an amazing intellectual capacity within the EU ( the overwhelming proportion of the EU bureaucrats are honest and highly intelligent) make such enormous intellectual compromises  in justifying  what far too often is a  wrong status-quo instead of fighting and reforming what is the best thing that happen to Europe – the European project.

When it comes to the article the problems come with putting the responsibility outside of the expertise of the authors.  It would have been logical to have some clear solutions on how we could make the civil society in Brussels better at helping (and not conforming and behaving as a second grade EU bureaucracy) the EU to become more relevant and inclusive. I was hopping to read more about how we could ensure that people that represent us in Brussels are those that deserve it and not the many cronies and loonies that populate now that political appointments in the EU. How we could make the EU inspirational through giving it more substance and not just fancy new clothing.

What I read was a rather inconsistent and a bit offensive critic of Eurotalk in relationship with „ordinary citizens” written (mostly) in Eurotalk.

1 Comment

  1. Dear Valeriu,
    A thought provoking response.
    Rather combative & harsh to my sanitized & kind world view, but I’m growing to appreciate the approach.
    I would never have singled out ‘appear’ to be offensive. I read it as a statement of how the EU looks to an outsider – not avoidance of saying what it is.
    And the individual stories, for me is an attempt to say that the EU needs to listen more to real-life.
    From a privileged, white background, alarm bells didn’t ring when I read the Katarina story. The story simply seemed plausible. You raise a valid point. How much do we equate plausibility with inevitability, & reinforce the stereotypes in the process?
    I can see why you interpret the authors’ direction of travel as moving towards more of a talking shop & not really addressing the underlying challenges.
    But you also recognise the EU’s poor communication – & the proposals I see as going part way to address that.
    To my (simple) mind, the article recommends listening more, and finding ways to support more dialogue & devolved decision-making. All laudable no?
    But what you’re saying (if I understand correctly), is that the EU needs stronger & better leadership to act more. And that organized EU civil society – which has means to engage directly with citizens through representative groups at local or national level – should be the means we ensure the collective views & experiences of different groups are heard.
    But that also requires us (organized EU civil society) to have that legitimacy. And it’s really difficult on a day-to-day basis not to fall into the same disconnect that the EU institutions have – despite all our democratic governance systems.
    The EU – indeed pretty much any funder – values what impact we have on the end result – the policy, the programme or the legislation. They don’t really care how many people or organisations are involved, or how people or organisations have developed in the process. I fully understand & sympathise with your antipathy of ‘talking shops’ – but there’s a value there too, if it takes us somewhere better & more inclusive.


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