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“Yes to the Constitution… But with Democracy on top of that”

Working document by Franck Biancheri for the cabinets of Ministers Barnier and Haigneré

Working document prepared by Franck Biancheri, Director of Studies and Strategy for Europe 2020 and presented to the cabinets of Ministers Michel Barnier and Claudie Haigneré in October 2004
I. Yes-But Campaign: Motivations and Principles

The 18/45 years: the emergence of new expectations for Europe

The two main threats facing France in adopting the draft European Constitution are on the one hand the “catch-all” diversity of the arguments of the No side (nationalism, xenophobia, anti-Turkey, social,…), and on the other hand its duality embodied by a Non-No (classic general anti-European rejection) and Non-Si (pro-European rejection of a vision of the future of Europe supposed to be embodied by the draft Constitution). These two elements allow the No side to adapt easily to a multitude of audiences and in particular to attract to itself the important age group of 18/45 years old (the generations born “after the Treaty of Rome”: the Newropeans) which is characterised by a new attitude towards the European construction. This group in particular sees Europe as a natural dimension of its collective future. It is essentially foreign to the collective “pro/anti” European cleavage that has shaped the attitude towards the Europe of previous generations. On the other hand, the citizens belonging to this group have internalized the duality of European integration and now have a dual vision of the EU: part of them expect the European construction to provide solutions to problems they now consider to be beyond the reach of the national framework; but on other subjects, however, they are concerned about, or even opposed, certain developments in the European construction that they consider dangerous for their national or regional identities or for their economic, social or cultural interests.

This group is therefore particularly closed to the arguments developed by the “Yes-Yes” or “No-No”. On the other hand, he is naturally seduced by the contrasting visions that allow him to co-exist attachment to the European idea and criticism of the Community system (institutions, processes, etc.). However, it seems to Europe 2020 that if the Yes side wants to win, it is essential that it avoids the shift of the 18/45 age group towards abstentionism or the No side.

To this end, Europe 2020 believes that the Yes has no chance of winning in France unless a vast initiative is launched that would position itself very precisely in this logic of contrasting vision, and therefore this target group of 18/45 year olds, thus creating a Yes-But force that would complement the Yes camp.

The Yes-But: an essential argument to attract the 18/45 generation

The unique experience in terms of communication towards the 18/45 age group acquired in France and Europe over the past 20 years by Europe 2020, its leaders have also made it possible to identify the key content of the “But” which would make it possible to rally a large part of the age group concerned: the democratisation of the EU.

Based on the analyses of Europe 2020 on the relationship between the EU and Europeans (cf. anticipation seminars conducted since 1999) and on the concrete experience of major European communication operations towards citizens conducted since 1985 (AEGEE-EUROPE, Newropeans 2000 Congress, EU-StudentVote, Newropeans Democracy Marathon 2003,…), it is now clear that one of the great frustrations of 18/45 year olds with regard to Europe is their feeling of powerlessness over EU decisions, but they are very clearly aware that they affect them. This frustration could already be seen in the June 2004 European elections with the emergence of pro-European abstentionism (a citizen who will not vote in the European elections when he is convinced of the importance of the EU but also because he is convinced that the political offer presented during these elections will in fact have no impact on future decisions). The recent debates on Turkish accession only increase the likelihood of such reactions (which can, in addition, in a referendum case very easily switch from abstention to rejection) during the vote for the Constitution.

The local “opinion relays” on Europe belong to the 18/45 age group

Moreover, it is within this category of voters that the main opinion relays are to be found, “making” today the opinion that counts on Europe, the opinion of proximity. Indeed, it is in this age group that most of the tens of thousands of beneficiaries of European programmes (education, research, environment, media, SMEs, development cooperation, local authorities, etc.) are recruited. who, for their entourage, are the resource persons when it comes to “getting an idea” of a European issue such as the draft Constitution. To convince this type of voter to vote Yes, it is therefore essential to be able to demonstrate to them (and not just tell them) that the Constitution is indeed a necessary and useful step towards a real democratisation of the EU. This democratic approach also makes it possible to take the No side “against the grain”. Since the Non-Si in particular has generally draped itself in a populist position (under the guise of “social”), it is easy, by emphasizing democratization, to show that they are in fact only intended to replace one vision with another, theirs, without worrying about giving European citizens tomorrow more means to intervene themselves in major decisions. This tactical aspect is important because in the field of “social” the Yes side is condemned to defensive action. On democratisation, with a structured Yes-But as Europe 2020 presents it, it is possible for it to become offensive. But to do so, the Yes-But must be able to demonstrate that the democratization announced is not a promise but an ongoing process, of which the referendum on the Constitution is de facto a first component.
II. Yes-But Campaign: Strategic and Operational Elements

Three main types of content for the argument

To this end, the content of the Yes-But on democratisation must be organised around three main types of content affecting the democratisation of the EU:

1. prospects for institutional changes: examples: institution of trans-European referendums on major Community issues (enlargements, treaties, etc.), modification of elections to the European Parliament to stimulate the emergence of genuine trans-European parties, etc.

2. the next political developments: examples: use from now on of the future right of petition to request the implementation of some of the institutional changes mentioned above, systematisation and effective implementation of the impact studies planned for the European directives,…

3. Rapid reforms of practices: examples: reform of procedures for the preparation, monitoring and evaluation of Community programmes (internal policies) to directly and systematically involve the tens of thousands of beneficiaries/partners of these programmes,…

Three key concepts

Such a strategy requires a strong coherence between the discourse, the vectors of the discourse and the methods/instruments used by the Yes-But campaign.

In addition to the content described above, this coherence must be organised around three key concepts:

1 “The EU with a human face”, embodied in particular by a core of spokespersons foreign to the classical political field, but credible on Europe

2. “A democratic practice in action” to manage the vast network of organizations and individuals that will constitute the Yes-But camp

3. “A very high speed of action combined with a high adaptability” of the campaign, in order to anticipate the evolution of the debate, and even to try to structure it.

This coherence will be brought to the operational level by an essential use of the Internet for the entire organisation of the campaign, but by making the most direct human aspect, in particular the micro-debate in the field, the central component of the Yes-But method.

Notes :

(1) This group also has more opinions than questions about Europe. This makes it even more alien to the traditional information or communication methods used by institutions for decades.

(2) The argument on democratisation will be reinforced by the notion of a “strong Europe in the world”. This theme has strongly influenced people’s minds following the invasion of Iraq by the United States; and it should be largely declined within a Yes-But campaign, particularly because of its ability to convince voters tempted by the sovereignist vote (generally very anti-American). However, on a part of the target, especially the youngest, this argument can be complex to manipulate. Also for reasons of general effectiveness, it seems useful to keep a single central element in defining the Yes-But campaign: democratization.

(3) The sub-group of “opinion leaders”, direct beneficiaries of Community programmes, will be particularly sensitive to the third aspect of the Yes-But, thus strengthening its ability to become a driving force for the Yes.

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