Friday, December 31, 2010

I'd say we understand the message all too well

Apparently, the EU has not been communicating again. As ever, when I hear those words I think of Tom Lehrer's comment:
I feel that if a person can't communicate the very least he can do is to shut up.
Mutatis mutandis, that applies to organizations and transnational monsters. Besides, the truth is that when the EU says that they have not been able to explain properly what they have been doing we can reply as any sensible young woman would reply to a man who tells her that his wife does not understand him. Oh yes, she does, all too well, says the sensible young woman. Oh yes we understand what you have done, all too well, is what we say to yet another announcement that in future there will be better communication.

Yet, as the Wall Street Journal informs us, better communication will be the watchword next year.
According to one senior official, the heads of state and government agreed that "the communications cacophony has to stop."

Cynics might retort that the real issue in 2010 was not inept communication—but the underlying contradictions of the euro zone. Slick public relations can try to put lipstick on the pig—but underneath it's still a quadruped with a curly tail that grunts.

Nonetheless, there's not much argument that the discordant way euro-zone governments transmitted their views didn't calm trouble waters but only roiled them further.

This suggests that western European politicians haven't understood what many of their counterparts from supposedly less sophisticated countries have long internalized: You can't segment your messages according to the audience you are addressing.
I can't help feeling that a respectable newspaper could do better than refer back to one of Barack Obama's particularly unpleasant comments during his presidential campaign and, in any case, comparing a pig to EU policy is an insult to most porcines. As for tailoring your comments to your audience, that has been the norm for politicians ever since there was politics. Unfortunately for them, there is this little thing called the internet; there is also another little thing called the blogosphere. In other words, those disparate groups can now find out with great ease what was said to other groups and they often do not like being taken for mugs.

Furthermore, it matters little how you spin the message; the latter remains the same: the euro is a political project and a great deal of political capital has been invested in it, thus making its salvation essential despite the economic nonsense that it creates. In order to achieve this salvation a good deal of taxpayers' money will have to be spent at a time when all countries are looking round for cuts and savings and the rules created by the EU itself have to be broken.

Meanwhile, astonishingly enough, the eurozone is about to acquire another member and one that has had its share of economic and fiscal problems: Estonia, no longer the little country that can [scroll down].
Within Estonia, debate over membership has been heated. Support has waned since euro-zone countries had to step in and bail out first Greece, and then Ireland, whose massive government debt brought them to the brink of insolvency.

A government-commissioned survey shortly before Christmas found that slightly more than half of Estonia's 1.3 million people approve of the Jan. 1 switch from the local currency, the kroon, to the euro, down from peak support of nearly 60%.

Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip told legislators this month that joining the euro "will bring along more jobs, higher pensions and faster economic growth. It will bring us stability."

But opponents say that euro membership comes at too high a cost, especially as Estonia will be expected to contribute funds to rescue Ireland and any other indebted euro-zone country that may need help.
As Poolamets, a lawyer at the forefront of the campaign against euro adoption, says: "Estonia, Welcome Aboard the Titanic".

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