I have heard from many Eurosceptics that the big bad European Union is run by unelected bureaucrats who sit shadily in their back rooms and decide the fate of 500million people. What’s worse is that all it took for me to understand how bonkers this idea is was a job in the European and Policy Department of a political organisation…
I am a 23 year old who holds a Degree in Modern History and Politics and with a pretty good grasp of British politics, yet before today I didn’t know the first thing about the EU. Well that is a bit of a lie; I knew the basics, that we elect our MEPs using the Closed Regional List electoral system once every 5 years and that they sit in the European Parliament in their various factions (EPP, S&D etc).
Today I was taught about the process that turns an idea into legislation in a quick one-hour crash course on EU democracy. I will not go into the process but what I now know is that 3 of the major EU legislative institutions are made up of 1) Directly elected heads of state, 2) Directly elected Ministers from Member States or 3) MEPs directly elected to the European Parliament. Moreover, the 4th institution (the European Commission) has a new President that was indirectly elected by voters’ (yes, our) popular vote during the last EU Parliamentary elections.
If I can go through high school, college and University without the European Union and its process being brought up in with no more than the barest brush stroke then something has gone seriously wrong. Are we really surprised that far-right Eurosceptic Parties have had such success in the most recent EU wide elections (2014)? How can we expect people to turn out and vote when they are given no information on what they are voting for?
So, here is where I see the problem. We are part of a union of sovereign countries who are probably more educated than us about the EU – our politicians and our media know this. Both the Conservative Party’s equivalent in Germany (CDU) and Labour’s equivalent (SPD) are in favour of staying in the EU and for closer ties with it. Why then do the Tories in the UK flirt with exodus from the EU and the Labour Party stay away from the subject like it is a new form of avian flu? The answer is that they both, being rather short-sighted, fear electoral backlash over anything perceived as public support for the EU.
Here’s one bloggers solution to this problem. It involves the slogan of a certain unnameable Europhile: “Education. Education. Education”.
We need to take our crosshairs off of the EU and start aiming them at the poor education surrounding the subject. Teach people in schools, teach them through radio or television and for heaven’s sake teach people on the internet!