José Manuel Barroso was right. Had the European Union instead of the United States fallen into partial government shutdown, the world would not have hesitated to use this as an opportunity to berate Europe and its influence as a global leader.
The trade in caricatures about the EU is a favourite pastime. The time is ripe for European public diplomacy to take centre stage. Europe, and particularly the EU, is often misunderstood and seen in unnecessarily negative terms.
The Eurozone crisis exacerbated the existing image of prevailing self-doubt. We argue that the EU myopically devotes too great a proportion of its communication resources to outreach with its own citizens. Communicating Europe in other parts of the world will become increasingly important to Europeans and to business interests.
The erosion of European influence and attractiveness is already evident in a number of policy areas. With international opinion in flux, it is urgent to prevent foreign publics from looking at Europe as a shopping paradise for high-end luxury items, or a continent suffering from endemic pessimism.
As far as the EU does engage with the rest of the world, the problem is that communication is too often based on one-way information. EU member-state governments are still behaving as though state-based diplomacy remains the name of their age-old Westphalian game.
EU leaders should change tone when talking to rest of the world. Op-ed by Mai’a Cross and Jan Melissen on EUobserver.com, 22 October 2013.