I have not always been the biggest fan of Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström in the past. OK, she has a horrible brief – trying to communicate the EU with very little cash and resources. Despite this, I have wondered whether she has approached the job of selling the EU with sufficient gusto. Now, more than ever, I feel sorry for her predicament – just look at the way people behave in the discussion on her blog.
Updated: Nicholas Watt in The Guardian takes a swipe at Wallstrom and her blog in this column. Seems he’s following the Ian Black line of old – a kind of I’m too smug for Europe approach. He also makes a snide and incorrect comment about ‘arch-federalists’ being opposed to the EU taking concrete steps to implement policies good for European citizens. What a bore. Institutions and policies are important – when will Brits ever get to grips with this? And if the EU cannot take decisions properly, how the hell will it ever be more relevant?
I think it’s vital to put Margot’s efforts with her blog in the wider context of a disengagement at many levels with politics. Disgust in many people’s minds about the EU is both a cause and a symptom of this. But what the Commissioner is trying to do with her blog is actually reach out and ‘be normal’, i.e. try to be someone that the people reading can actually relate to.
While that might not be the best tactic to face down Eurosceptic critics, it strikes me that it is a welcome effort to escape the traditional claim of aloofness and distance from citizens.
How do the punters reply to this? They have a good old rant about anything and everything. From claims that it is inappropriate for the Commissioner to write about anything other than the hurricane, to outright attacks on the idea that someone should be employed by the European Commission to moderate the blog. Reading what is written there must make very sorry reading, giving the Commissioner scant little hope that her task is achievable.
As ever, the pro-Europeans (with a couple of notable exceptions from JEF…) are totally absent from the debate at the blog. It seems that eurosceptics just care about this stuff enormously more strongly. If the EU is to prosper, it needs to foster decent relationships between executive, legislature and citizens, and on balance, Margot Wallström’s blog is a step in the right direction.