Forever together - whatever!

7th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

'Together since 1957'. Not everyone, it seems, is exactly enamoured of the EU's latest slogan.

Together Since 1957, the latest campaign to make us love Europe, is embarrassing beyond words: the catchphrase, half 'Nokia Connecting People'and half 'Kronenbourg since 1664'; the eBay-inspired colour eyesore; the inclusive accents. It beats 'I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing' and 'We Are the World' hands down, and it should go down in history as the only slogan more irritating than 'Because you're worth it!' Congratulations! This mumbo jumbo has a darker side too.


Goebbels said: "The essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape from it." The comparison is unflattering, but the zeal with which EU institutions are selling us the European Dream is disturbing. 2006 was the European Year of Workers Mobility, 2007 is the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All (surely a tautology), and 2008 will be the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.

Who runs Europe Inc? The Miss World organisers? And what hypocrisy: 2006 started by lambasting Polish plumbers and culminated with restrictions for new EU workers, including in the country that currently holds the EU presidency, Germany. 2007 started with a few home-truths for Finland, the incumbent presidency holder: only natives get call-backs from estate agents. That 2008 will be held by France is too good a joke to be true. Should we expect a European Year of Raining Men presided by Poland?

On all accounts—Belarus, unemployment, the steady return of the extreme right, homophobia and blatant disillusion with current EU leaders—it seems that force-feeding us the European Dream is delusional. A friend suffers from that malign British affliction, as he reminds me of all the great things achieved since the Treaty of Rome: the end of war ("except at our doorstep"); Schengen and borderless travel ("increased domestic police checks"); the euro ("is it such a great thing, beyond the symbol?"); a flag; an anthem (“recycled”); and myriad other achievements that still fall short of a Dream, the kind of passionate belief in our society that should resonate with all Europeans. On balance, Europe is part big dream, part enduring nightmare. So here we are spoiling the big happy-pill party!


The major fault line in the European Dream is that it seeks to emulate the American Dream, in itself quite questionable. But the beauty of the American Dream is that, notwithstanding current displays of patriotism, it survives with minimal state propaganda, being kept alive at the grassroots by citizens and private media. In contrast, the European Dream we are being fed is reserved to a selected few: too many are routinely excluded for social and political life, and many symbols, such as the flag and the anthem, are meaningless to most. Increasingly, second and third-generation ‘immigrants’ (a very ungrateful term!) remain stuck at the bottom of the heap.

In truth, national governments are partly to blame. However, the biggest let down is the Lisbon Agenda, set in 2000 under the patronage of Jose Manuel Barroso with the ambitious aim to make Europe the best place on earth by 2010. If it was 2003, it would be crunch time; in 2007 this is a full-blown farce.


Not much has changed since 2000: unemployment is still high, racism is on the rise, the brain drain has not been reversed, and many of the intangible barriers to free movement have not been removed. As throughout the 20th century, the continent is still run by petty-minded shop-owners: it is an irony of sorts that Napoleon called Britain a “nation of shopkeepers” (where, for that matter, running a shop has been a first step toward the British Dream), because one cannot establish a bakery in France without guild approval, and hairdressers in Italy cannot cut hair on Mondays.

In economic terms, the European Dream is mostly a reality outside of the Eurozone. Since we allude to the American Dream, the analogy with Corporate America is telling. With such a grand strategy and such a poor execution, Europe Inc. looks more like Enron than General Electric, and it is surprising that its Executive Directors are still here, pontificating with a vacuous 'together' mission statement. In true American style, it might be time for stakeholders to give the CEO the boot. He can take his Head of Marketing with him. And forget about a 'golden parachute'!

Nicolas Buteau

© 2007 Stirred Up Publishing Ltd

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