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The EU’s weak brand explains rising Euroscepticism and potential break up of Europe

The EU has maintained peace in Western Europe for seven decades, since the Second World War. We are just entering a third generation of Europeans who have never known the horrors of war. We must not underestimate the importance of a united Europe, or of the European elections of 2014, writes Nicolas De Santis.

Popular dissent and disillusionment against national governments and the European Union are currently at an all-time high, with Eurosceptic parties set to take a historically high share of seats in the upcoming European Elections. Not only are the citizens of Europe becoming increasingly disengaged (as evidenced by the successively lower turnouts in the European Parliament Elections), but those who are engaged with the union are now increasingly Eurosceptic, and demanding clarity on the future vision of the EU. With Eurosceptic parties forecast to win the largest share of the vote in the European elections, and the possibility of a UK In/Out referendum looming on the horizon in 2017, there has arguably never been a greater disconnect between citizens and the European Union.

Regular citizens are not well connected with Europe, especially in the UK. The popular media is increasingly Eurosceptic and sensational, strongly influencing public opinion and scaring politicians, citizens, and other media outlets alike from speaking in defence of the EU. National politicians have often been guilty of scapegoating the EU for their domestic problems, and conversely also claiming the EU’s successes as their own, causing the EU’s influence in peoples’ lives to be vastly underestimated. The EU’s institutional distance, coupled by its lack of an effective brand vision and communication strategy, causes it to be subject to populist attacks, further weakening its foundation. A recent Onepoll survey for UK adults found that 1 in 5 adults are ignorant as to precisely which countries make up the UK. Imagine how distant then Europe must seem to them, and how easy it is to accept it as a distant, bureaucratic spectre, as Eurosceptics would have you believe.

We at Gold Mercury International believe that the EU’s problem is fundamentally a question of brand identity. The solution does not lie with politicians, but rather with the citizens. The EU’s brand has never been properly managed or protected, and has never truly connected with its citizens. The brand’s weakness is propagated by the media and by politicians. Citizens are not aware of all the vast benefits which a united Europe brings to their everyday lives, and the EU is all too easy to blame and attack, as a result of its poor brand management. We need to change this, otherwise the European project will not just stall; we risk a catastrophic break-up that would put decades of peace and stability at risk. The EU is the greatest success story in global governance, but the Brand EU is not well managed, understood or communicated. It is a great product but presently – very difficult to understand and poorly communicated. This lack of clear identity and poor ‘brand management’ reduces citizen support and puts the entire purpose of the EU at risk: allowing anti-EU forces to attack it, without much sign of a defence.

The cracks are already beginning to show. Like in the past, secessionist, nationalist movements are beginning to emerge throughout Europe: in Scotland, Spain (Catalonia and Basque Country), Flanders in Belgium, and Venice, among others. We risk returning to the nationalist, weak and separate Europe of the past, threatening peace and stability for all. The break-up or weakening of the EU; a scary reality, would mean dire consequences for us all as a new fragmentation of Europe would lead to chaos.

Gold Mercury International have launched the non-partisan Brand EU Centre, an independent initiative with the ultimate aim of building, consolidating, and strengthening a powerful EU Brand identity. The Brand EU Centre will help create a meaningful vision and emotional connection between the EU and its citizens. Citizens currently do not connect with Europe on either an emotional or a rational level, and such identification can only be achieved through a proper management of the BRAND EU. The Brand EU Centre builds on Gold Mercury’s 50 plus years of experience in strategic vision development and working with global and national brands. In an uncertain and very unstable international scene, Gold Mercury aims to clarify and advance the brand of Europe to its citizens and the world, and show people the major benefits of living under the miracle of global governance that is the EU.

Gold Mercury and the Brand EU Centre want to guarantee that the people of Europe, and beyond, recognise the Brand of Europe as a symbol of peace, and understand the universal values which its member states have chosen to represent and defend: values like liberty, democracy, solidarity, human rights, and the rule of law. These are the values that the EU exports to the world; the values that all global citizens of goodwill aspire too. The EU’s values, and its brand, are universal and global. The Brand EU Centre will help build this global brand, and will serve as a guarantor of these values. The EU recently won the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize for advancing peace, democracy and human rights in modern times. We believe that if we are able to clearly communicate what the EU really is and what it stands for in the world, then all Europeans and non-Europeans alike will increase their support and involvement in the European project.

The Brand EU Centre is a Gold Mercury International independent initiative to manage the brand of the EU and increase its understanding and value in the world. Nicolas De Santis is the President of Gold Mercury International, the Corporate Vision Strategy® Think Tank.


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