Presseurop.eu, a unique website dedicated to the pan-European public sphere and democratic participation, both of which the PDU deems essential, is set to end operations. The website’s contract with the European commission will end on December 22. By Liam Fitzgerald
In 2009, four European international news magazines established Presseurop. The papers involved were the Paris based Courrier International, Lisbon’s Courrier Internacional, Warsaw’s Forum, and Internazionale from Rome. Financially supported by the European Commission and indeed launched on its initiative, Presseurop.eu set itself the important task of publishing articles from a selection of 200 international newspapers translated into ten EU languages. At the time, the crisis engulfing the EU and its member states was just unfolding. By translating numerous articles each day, the news website fulfilled a vital task: It provided readers from across Europe with easy to access updates on events and developments throughout Europe. Readers could keep up to date with current events in all EU member states, something that without Presseurop would have been difficult at best. Those interested would need to carefully read Europe’s leading newspapers and news websites and collect the information – a time-consuming affair. In addition to its EU news compendium character, the website always has been a discussion platform dedicated to EU issues. Users comment on articles and by doing so create a community of readers, journalists, experts, and professionals embarking on what the PDU believes to be vital for the success of the European project: a common European public sphere.
Here, we could see this sphere actually emerging. Easy to access information in ten different languages on the one hand and an interested public from across the Union on the other found in Presseurop.eu exactly what is needed, a common platform. As such, Presseurop was surely destined to be at the very core of what the EU institutions otherwise often seem to underestimate when searching for ways to promote European integration: A real European citizenship and shared interests in what is happening elsewhere in the Union. Through Presseurop, Europeans were able to participate in the pan-European debate, voice their concerns, exchange thoughts, and by doing so take part in the EU’s otherwise often lacking democratic space.
Now, Presseurop is set to be closed. On December 22, the initiative’s contract with the European Commission will end. Without the financial support by the Commission, the news website will be forced to shut down operations. In our view, this is a grave mistake by the EU, should it indeed go ahead. As stated, we believe it is essential to create a pan-European public sphere as a precondition and supporter of European citizenship and European democracy. Come 2014, the Commission is essentially quelling one source of a real common European identity. It is also removing an important component on the way to legitimising the EU as a whole in the run-up to the European elections next year. So many issues need to be discussed and explained, but without Presseurop’s commendable work it will be harder to do so. The Commission should think twice about what it is doing and perhaps find other ways of saving money. Every Euro spent on a forum such as Presseurop is a Euro well spent. There may, of course, still be a chance of rescuing the website, by supporting a petition to Viviane Reding calling for her to not end the financial support. We as the PDU are doing our best to support democracy and the public sphere in the EU and therefore back every initiative that can achieve these goals. Presseurop and the petition calling for its continued financial aid by the Commission are both in this category. As European Parliament President Martin Schulz said, the alternative is ‘very bad news for our democracy.’ How right he is.
The image ‘Viviane Reding answering questions posed by MEPs during her hearing’ courtesy to European Parliament via flickr.com, released under Creative Commons 2.0 (link to license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/deed.de). The image has not been altered.