The EU speaks only to 25% of European citizens

Academic: ‘Clear evidence that cohesion policy has a significant impact’
November 14, 2016
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November 22, 2016

“A couple of weeks ago, I had occasion to “share our experience” before a panel of Italians in the European Parliament. The MEP assistant told me they were looking for practical advice, not a big speech. So I started with a few remarks and my personal opinion.

A few days after the BREXIT earthquake, I heard about a meeting of the European Commission in Brussels that aimed at defining the concrete benefits of EU membership. Due to the political mood, answers were scarce; someone claimed that one of the biggest achievements of the EU in 2016 was the abolition of roaming charges. This pecuniary advantage was certainly beneficial for tourists. However, it is necessary to note that 50% of Europeans never travel abroad! Only a third travels yearly, mostly to reach sunny Mediterranean beaches in the summer. It means that only a third of European citizens can benefit from the biggest success of the EU. And this can’t make you win a referendum.

Understanding the advantages of being in the EU, such as the protection of cross border workers or access to the single market just to name a few, requires some skills. This is something that only a minority of us can perceive. For example, only 25% of Europeans speak proficiently a foreign language, which is often necessary to exchange with other countries and appreciate the benefits of the EU. Similarly, only around 35% has higher education.

I show all these statistics to say one thing: only one European in four is able to receive and understand any communication message coming from Brussels. This one is the one that travels, is educated, and speaks a foreign language. This could lead the EU to gather even less than 48% (Remain voters) - and winning a referendum appears more and more hypothetical.

Nothing new but we, living and working in Brussels, tend to forget these facts, sometimes even more than others.

Gauthier Bas
Old-Continent - Visual Communication Agency