In case you’re suffering from insomnia, I’d recommend getting interested in the different bodies of the European Union. Be that committee or plenary sessions of the European Parliament, or the public appearance of its representatives: rarely are there moments of exciting and lively debate that express the seriousness of the decisions that are being taken.
The rows in the EU legislative branch are often seen completely empty; a phenomenon known to such a degree that EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker himself called the European Parliament “ridiculous” earlier this year, while attending a very empty parliamentary session on the achievements on the Maltese EU presidency:
Compare this to countries such as the United Kingdom, where the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions actually gather a considerable viewership, and get people interested in politics. Now, that is not to say that PMQ’s generates any sort of intelligent debate, since it very often doesn’t do that. It however outlines the ideological differences between the different players in Westminster and gives people a feeling for how MPs stand on the issues.
Little of the sort can be said about the European Union, for which a staggeringly large chunk of the population barely even know who the leaders are. If I told you about European Council president Antonio Tusk and European Parliament chairman Donald Tajani, I hardly doubt that most of the readers would even notice that I inverted their first names.
The European Union’s Commission even had such a hard time of their own press statements being picked up by media outlets that for a while now, they’ve adopted the concept of writing punchy and short press releases that include quotes from the respective Commissioner. The institutions that make decisions which directly impact the life of citizens actually need to appeal to the media for them to cover it. You’d think it should be the other way around.
In fact, scrutiny is more largely applied when the person who is talking is actually interesting to listen to. The act of boring people to death is therefore effective if, in return, you actually don’t want people to listen to you. The EU, most uniquely, manages to structure itself in a way that we don’t actually want to listen in. The charade of presidents, co-presidents and rotating presidencies makes it difficult to see through the process of tiring meetings, and even though it is widely known that a large portion of national legislation actually derives from EU legislation, we still couldn’t care less.
We need to be aware that our attention is selective, and that behind the most uninteresting talks may lay the root of our concerns in the first place.