Do we believe the EU can make a difference?
Published: 06 December 2010
Hundreds of journalists, government leaders, charities and organisations will be attending the European Development Days in their bid to put development aid into the media spotlight – but for many, the tone in Brussels remains pessimistic. With even spokespeople for major development organisations such as Concorde stating openly that they do not believe the two day event will achieve anything, while spokeswoman for Minister of Development, Catherine Ray, admits that it’s a bitter fight between reporters and editors to get EU news into newspapers at all.
Is this simply a public that is fed up of conferences and the long, difficult struggle of development aid – or are Europeans losing their faith that the European Union can make any difference at all?
“Absolutely,” says Alexandra Lobao, a former Brussels based reporter who now lives and works in the city, “People are fed up of talks. They want to see action.”
Perhaps more worryingly for the EU is that this feeling also affects younger Europeans. “I think this Development Day won't change anything - no real actions will be made,” saysIndre Anskaityte, one reporter from Lithuania. “It's a great opportunity for me, but it is a waste of money.”
“I would like to believe positive change can come out of Brussels, but I am sceptical.
These ideas are fiercely argued against by many EU employees, particularly when it is relation of development aid. Europe Aid is quick to point out that EU funds have helped send 9 million children to school and to connect 31 million people to clean, safe drinking water since 2004.
But if the European aid has achieved so much, why do so many Europeans feel like they are achieving nothing?
A lack of communication is perhaps just one of many reasons – the press is often reluctant to cover slow moving, long term development stories, particularly on a European scale.
“I understand the EU is important, but in Lithuania, the press don't talk about EU decisions,” admits Indre. “We are not informed well.” As newspaper budgets are cut back by declining sales, expensive foreign news is often the first to suffer – only 11% of articles in UK newspapers cover any international news at all- never mind the complex workings of the EU and the tedious struggle of development aid.
Perhaps worse than the fact we not informed of the facts, figures and spending on these projects, we also lose sight of just how these projects change lives – the real proof aid makes a difference. “I have been to Morocco and seen some of the Europe Aid projects there” says Alexandra, “I talked to farmers, students, and they had very positive feedback compared to what I hear in Brussels!”
“The world would be worse if there wasn't a European Union. I have no doubt about that.”