EU tips from the author of ‘Europe for dummies’

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French MEP Sylvie Goulard, who recently won a prize for her book ‘Europe for dummies’, says opinion leaders in Europe are misguided about the EU and are too preoccupied with “trivial” national issues to take an interest in greater common projects.

Goulard, the president of the European Movement in France, won this year’s European Book Prize for her work ‘Europe for dummies’, which she has wrote after successive ‘no’ votes in the 2005 referenda in France and the Netherlands on the failed European Constitution.

The idea behind the award is to promote European values and an understanding of the European Union as a cultural entity.

According to Goulard, the dummies in Europe are the opinion leaders – politicians, journalists, and business or trade union representatives – not ordinary people. Too often, citizens are offered incorrect depictions of what the European Union actually is, focusing too much on narrow self-interest rather than the bigger picture.

“The contrast between the grandeur of the European project and the triviality of the message delivered on it has always struck me,” Goulard said.

“We always consider the European Union as technical and annoying, whereas it is lively and dynamic,” she said.

However, the French MEP insisted that the gap between citizens and European elites is not only due to a lack of communication. She deplored that “the EU in recent years has not provided the citizens what they wanted”.

Goulard also stressed the responsibility of the member states, backing the position of former European Commission President Jacques Delors (EURACTIV 02/12/09). EU countries attribute to themselves positive policies introduced by the European institutions and blame Brussels for what they cannot achieve, she explained.

Moreover, the EU gets its responsibilities from the member states, she recalls. Therefore “whatever we write in the texts, we need a minimum of goodwill from the member states,” she said.

A captain for the European team

“The Community method is to think together to find the appropriate answer to a problem and not to address it from closed national positions,” Goulard said, citing the example of the car scrapping scheme. After several EU countries took different initiatives, “the European Commission finally came out with a bunch of national measures, presenting them as ‘European’,” she said.

Member states which do not want to go further should take responsibility, Goulard explained, stressing that the Commission should act as the “itching powder” of the EU.

New European Council President Herman Van Rompuy will be a captain, helping the players to pass the ball and “the European team to score goals,” she said.

“The fact that the captain is Belgian seems to be a good choice,” she concluded.

Sylvie Goulard was speaking to Hervé Devavry.

To read the full interview, please click here (French only).

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