The supranational expansion of civic solidarity depends on learning processes that can be stimulated by the perception of economic and political necessities, as the current crisis leads us to hope. For the cunning of economic reason has in the meantime at least initiated communication across national borders; but this can condense into a communicative network only as the national public spheres open themselves to each other. Transnationalisation requires not a different news media, but a different practice on the part of the existing media. The latter must not only thematise and address European issues as such, but must at the same time report on the political positions and controversies evoked by the same topics in other member states.
Other commentators have been quick to respond to the philosopher’s article, notably Spiegel Online’s star columnist, Jan Fleischhauer, who furiously accuses Habermas to be "the latest heavyweight among a number of well-meaning German intellectuals" to have joined “the camp of hysterics with a penchant for the apocalypse”.
"In his account of the euro crisis, politicians have been crushed by the economy to the point where they have become zealous underlings of financial capitalism. […] But when it is time to make concrete demands, Habermas runs into the same problem as the one encountered by the Occupy Wall Street activists, who, like him, have nothing to say except that wealth should be redistributed in some way. In truth, the sole aim of all of this rhetorical effort is to absolve politicians of their responsibility, so that they are free to implement their policies undisturbed."
Begin with the most basic and principled of assertions, believed implicitly by journalists everywhere. We say that a free media and a free society are twins umbilically linked. You can't have one without the other. We know that where there is democracy there is also a paramount need for independent newspapers and broadcasting stations to monitor its deeds, progress and failures. Take away that monitoring and, all too swiftly, the body politic rots and open societies turn in on themselves, mired in introspection and corruption.
You can buy the major papers from Milan, Frankfurt, Madrid, Paris and Rome each morning, almost wherever you happen to find yourself. You cannot, however, buy a paper whose catchment area is Europe itself, whose views and attitude don't arrive filtered through some narrow national prism. Simply, there is no newspaper for the Union itself - and that, in turns, means that the process of democratic monitoring is frail and often forgotten.
What's to be done? From time to time, someone recognises the problem and attempts to do something about it. Helmut Schmidt tried over a decade ago to set up a European weekly of opinion; the Guardian , when I was editor, launched Guardian Europe , a supplement of shared opinion pieces. Neither initiative, however, went very far.
Any attempt to address the deficit, therefore, needs to be rigorously realistic. It is no use looking round for huge state subsidies. They would only mean vulnerability and isolation as well as an evident lack of independence. Audiences, like ideas, have to be nurtured, brought slowly to fruition.
Put a relatively small but highly intelligent staff in one or possibly two European countries. [...] Ask them to bring together comment and reportage on political issues which cross European borders on that day. Is it George W.Bush coming to London and what would Paris have Blair say to him? Why are ultra-nationalists topping the Catalan polls? Where is ground zero on the pell-mell development of identity cards?
In any and every case, there is always an issue, always direct relevance to be teased out and pulled together. So make it available. [...] One day it may make profits of its own, because there is a European market for European news and opinion. In the meantime, it is a start - relatively cheap, relatively easy to fund - along the road to dialogue and understanding. A little later on, and we could be asking where the latest EU fraud began, with thousands of bloggers chipping in.
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