53th EJ International Congress
Budapest October 8-11, 2015
Introductory remarks by EJ President
We are here today and tomorrow to discuss about two very topical themes and questions which, although in different ways, are worrying all of us, at the present and much, much more for the future.
Information and epochal migrations. Both are phenomena marking drastic changes in the world, in our lives.
Today’s topic, Open Journalism in the New ProCom WebWorld refers to the end in the information/communication sphere of a finished product which has given way to an ongoing process involving an array of problems and requirements which are professional, legal, social, ethic and much more.
In addition to that, we have unfortunately many reasons for being worried regarding media freedom, which is for us a basic principle for guaranteeing democracy and human dignity.
We are, of course, all aware of the technological and financial changes to journalism.
Not so clear and unseen is regrettably what would be the journalism’s dependency on media concentration from inside and, even more alarming, from outside the European Union. We have already got evidences of this tendency but we can’t be sure of the development, the evolution of media concentration rising from the effects of globalization and a highly interdependent world which are not always predictable.
Silvio Berlusconi’s MediaSet and Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, for example, are partnering on transatlantic media also taking over EurActiV, the online EU policy media currently in 12 languages, thinking to use only one English spelling – the American one.
The new company will have its headquarters in Washington DC, with the editorial strategy set in Brussels.
In such a context a question mark is also put by the effect of the digital single market with regard to multilingualism. We have always considered the local and regional dimension of communication of utmost importance for democratic participation and to connect people with the European institutions. Last May in the Riga, on the occasion of the Latvian EU presidency, a Summit on a ”Multilingual and Digital Single Market” took place and a few days later the European commission launched its much-awaited digital signal market plan.
Let’s hope that a more united European Union, jointly with other organizations committed to the freedom of the press, like the Organization of Security Corporation in Europe, with it Representative on the freedom of the media, and the Council of Europe will provide a significant contribution to defend freedom in the information world, keeping the language diversity that characterized Europe and bridging between different countries, thus creating a real transnational European public sphere.
Distinguished speakers and colleagues will help us today to better understand the present situation and perspectives regarding opportunities and threat of open journalism in web, in the digital world.
Tomorrow our experts will help us to better understand the exploded and exploding Middle East and Africa, and we will discuss about the epoch-making migrants’ tragedy that a disunited, scattered, disappointing European Union has been confronting.
We see every day, every moment shocking images of disparate human being, whatever the causes may, be because they are forced to leave their homeland, and ready to do anything without worrying about dangers to themselves, ready to sacrifice their lives and those of their children, since many of them are homeless and all of them hopeless.
Regarding-Africa, I think that the time has come for the relevant peoples to take revenge for having neglected them for too long and this happened despite the many conventions and agreements that the European Union has established with countries of that continent, from the Yaounde Convention (Camerun 1964) to the Sarkozy’s “Club Med” Union for the Mediterranean (Paris 2008).
And also despite the funds are located from the European Union and national governments in the family of international Corporation.
Since 1434, when Cup Bojador was rounded, European countries, honestly not just Europe, main efforts were made to exploit the continent.
As we all know the “trigger speech” that on May 9, 1950 marked the beginning of the European integration process put at the basis of the European project a “de facto solidarity”. Unfortunately the European solidarity is wrecked in the Mediterranean Sea, together with hundreds of innocent lives.
Facing the migration tragedy many subjects, comprising European Union’s governments, accused the European Union of neglecting the problem, and in some way it did. But what is the European Union? Which are, who are the subjects that can really decide if the European Union must take steps forward or stop making what it should do?. The governments of the member states, with their political parliamentary majority can do it!
We need to avoid the attitude that whenever something goes wrong, national governments blame it on the European Union.
Such attitude affects in a very negative way also the citizens, whose confidence in European project has drastically declined in the last times. Unfortunately.
We are, of course, aware of the huge difficulties to suddenly face situations that are threatening to change the world’s balances; but the migrant waves of the recent times have been unexpected for those who wanted to bury one's head in the sand and did not want to listen to the desperate cry that came from the Mediterranean Sea, which has been transformed in an immense cemetery of innocent people, comprising born and unborn children, leaving Lampedusa and its courageous mayor Giusy Nicolini, who has become a world-symbol of solidarity, alone; with European institutions and many of our member states appealing to the Dublin Convention, thinking maybe, with the murderer of emperor Julius Caesar Fiat iustitia et pereat mundus.
While at the present the European commission under the leadership of Mr. Juncker proves concrete determination to face the situation in the spirit of solidarity, we can’t say the same under the previous one.
Just in the informal meeting of the European Council the head of states or governments of European Union last September 23, national governments, forced by inevitability, tried to make exercises of some unity.
Many highly moving but substanceless words have been spent on the migration tragedy.
Maybe politicians, both at European and national level, should read and learn more about the 272 words of the Lincoln at Getysburg address, which remade America (November 19, 1863).
Too many politicians prefer to pay heed to how their voters tell them to behave in order to get the advantages for themselves and questioning their pandering to anti-immigration voices or anyway to special or group interests.
No barrier, whatever it is, concrete wall or barbed wire, will stop the power of desperate people.
The European attitude in facing such tragedy can be express, as we all know and see, in a few words: lack of unity and solidarity, loosely structure and, even worse, lack of farsightedness! That unity that was paramount dream and goal of the founding fathers of European integration.
Nevertheless it would be ungenerous not to recognize special commitment by some EU governments.
Humanity and International Solidarity can be combined into a win-win outcome, and it seems that counter like Germany have understood it.
We need to sadly realize that for many member states the European Union is a mine of money to exploit for national interest in several ways. Something like - I don’t want to be disrespectful - the exploitation of the of African underground.
We need to be aware that the migration waves will be unabated from time and if we would not be willing and able to manage them with the farsighted inclusion’s policy, they will overwhelm us.
As we all can realize this challenge is not just the Middle East- Europe relation but there worldwide one which requires involvement and commitment by the entire international community.
Let’s hope that the upcoming Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul next year would be a good opportunity for a concrete decision to this regard.
And let’s also hope that the meeting of the coming November in my between Heads of State of Europe and Africa to discuss the African refugee and migration flow will put aside uncertainties and give away to you hopes.
Sadly enough, we need to become often aware that when facing very difficult situations we don’t heve unity in the European Union, a unity that could be of general benefit for the entire union and at the same time for its members.
Several of us might recall the middle of the 70s when all of a sudden the Arabs raised the price of petroleum at a very high level and we were afraid to be without energy during the winter.
The member states of the European Community of that time, with European Community for coal and steel still active, did not use the community institutions to find a solution for everybody, but the single governments of the member states rolled out the red carpet for the minister of petroleum of Saudi Arabia, asking supply just for themselves.
Alcide De Gasperi used to say that in order to obtain the European unity there was more to destroy than to build: unfortunately what he thought necessary to destroy: national egoism, mistrust and prejudice a.o. , is still here to break the deployment of the great potential of a united Europe.
Now it seems that the EU member states, after having hit their heads against the wall, will act with more wisdom and the farsightedness that they lacked.
I’m here to blame something that I consider wrong and not in line with the spirit that triggered the European project and - even in a quite different European and world scenario, I consider still very topical today.
Nevertheless, it would be wrong and ungrateful to refuse to acknowledge the wisdom and courage of politicians and thinkers that have marked historical improvement for the European integration, and every day we should thank God that we have the European Union.
The media world should examine one's conscience and ask if there are some responsibilities related to both the Middle East and migrants’ situation and to the attitude of some governments towards the European Union.
I want to be more precise in this respect, to avoid misunderstanding and without generalizing. A potentially explosive situation with threats of people needing or wanted to flee was rather plain not just now, but wait before. Unfortunately not so many media, not so many editorials provided adequate warning of the pending tragic events. Journalists are not just committed to inform about facts that has happens but they should also observe, inquire, think and understand events and make citizens aware of what can happen. Sometimes we are following shortsighted politicians.
We need to put the today’s migrations challenges in the wider, broader framework of man-made or natural disasters and calamities always more frequent in our world, being aware that any one of us may, soon or later, can become the victim of one or the other of these events. Wisdom and solidarity by us today will greatly improve the chances of the same being applied to our calamities tomorrow. It means to follow the GOLDEN RULE. ( Do unto others as you would have them do unto you).
Regarding the European integration process and the attitudes of governments towards the European Union, media are often bullhorns of politicians’ blames against Brussels to cover their mistakes, thinking that it is a way to get more support for their next elections. Media should inform more what the European Union is all about: the European laws that governments criticize has been approved by them. When European institutions require compliance with European rules by Member States, governments accuse “Europe “of national sovereignty offence. In several cases media echo the governments complaints instead of making them and citizens more aware of the fact that the European integration process means a progressive transference of competences from nation to European level.
Our responsibility as people believing in the European Union, I think that we need to do what we can so that we foster a European integration based on values and principles leading towards more unity and solidarity, being aware that the European Union, today and in the future, has the task not just to think at about the well-being of European citizens - which is of course important - but to contribute to create peace and stability worldwide.
We should do everything, to develop transnational European public sphere, which can significantly contribute to overcome prejudices which are often poisoning or not facilitating positive attitude and constructive policies for a better European future.
We will can do it of course within the limits of our possibilities, especially financial ones.
To this regard, considering that, as a 2007 Communication of the European commission rightly points out, communicating Europe is not the responsibility of one subject only but the duty of many subjects, including the responsibility of the national governments of the member states. We wish to have for the future a better understanding and consideration of public institutions, beginning from those based in Brussels, which, even if we need to acknowledge services they provide for media, should do more to make the most of the availability of civil society’s bodies to commit themselves in promoting the European project and regain citizens confidence in the European Union; in few words to the European Union’s goals.
All this said, we need to be aware of what Europe is all about: a continent of historical diversities, but nobody shall take it as an excuse or pretext for avoiding commitment in building unity.
The French philosopher Jacques Maritain – I recall it open - used to say that high costs for small changes is a characteristic of Europe.
I think that Europeans have paid enough for changes in a continent where borders are open painful scars of history.
The European Union this the most strong words economy after the United States and China, but it is United union is not as a condition to manage water events; we are just to follow or undergo them.
We have to many “barometric” leaders.
Politicians are not elected and paid just to be notary. They need to have a vision for the future and not just pandering to electoral supporters.
A famous Italian journalist used to say referring to De Gasperi:
“a politician thinks at that next elections, Stedman thinks at the next generations”.
Unfortunately this leaders belong to the past.
Let’s hope that, learning from historical mistakes, and triggered by goodwill, we, media people, will be instrumental in making a better Europe, with the European Union being the most fascinating democratic project that has never been seen in the history of humanity.