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Melike Akova

Cafébabel Paris

March­ing for op­po­si­tion? This was the main point of Civil march against the Na­tional Front (FN), which was or­gan­ised last Thurs­day through Face­book, after the broad­cast­ing of the re­sults of Eu­ro­pean elec­tions through­out France. The event was or­ga­nized in 24 major cities. The page dis­played more than 9000 par­tic­i­pants in Paris; maybe you re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion and al­ready read their misson. Bel­gians have even cre­ated a Face­book event in order to re­move the Fn (well, the 'Fn' key) from the key­boards, what com­mit­ment!

On a more se­ri­ous note, march­ing in order to ex­press your­self seems to be quite banal, but this time, we were in­vited to a demon­stra­tion to op­pos­e the re­sults of a de­mo­c­ra­tic vot­e; in other words, the ex­pres­sion of a poll which took place in ac­cor­dance with reg­u­la­tions and prac­tices. Gen­er­ally, the protest against an elec­tion takes place after bal­lot-box stuff­ing... Even if the elec­tion on 25 May 2014 mo­bi­lised more vot­ers than the last two elec­tions (56.50%, the ab­sten­tion rate of 2013) re­spec­tively, in 2009 (59.37%) and in 2004 (57.2%), the Eu­ro­pean elec­tions re­main the elec­tions with the least par­tic­i­pa­tion. 

Isn't it weird to protest against the out­come of a de­mo­c­ra­tic poll that rat­i­fies the cur­rent pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion, just elected? Well, maybe not. The demon­stra­tion was young, mostly or­ga­nised by young peo­ple; the ini­tia­tive was even launched by a 17-year-old teenager. So, not all of them have the right to vote. Maybe this ex­plains why they have been the first to hit the streets in order to ex­press their de­mands, dis­ap­point­ment, fears and anger. 

Thus, those with­out the pos­si­bil­ity to vote have shown that they were potential voters growing in power. Yes, these not-yet-vot­ers have po­lit­i­cal opin­ions and they ex­press them­selves de­spite the ab­sence of rep­re­sen­ta­tion. 

The event was directed against a party but it couldn't only be re­duced to this. It could also be in­ter­preted as an organised re­proach against ab­stain­ers. In an in­di­rect way, they are held re­spon­si­ble. Any­way, some of the ab­stain­ers have prob­a­bly taken ac­tion by par­tic­i­pating in the demon­stra­tion, agitated by a cer­tain dis­com­fort...

Dis­com­fort, that was the feel­ing which mo­bi­lised the demon­stra­tors on a bank hol­i­day. 

The Na­tional Front, in­deed, came out as the winning party in "France of the FN". The or­gan­i­sa­tion of the demon­stra­tion meant that this re­sult wasn't in­signif­i­cant at all, and that the FN would never have been a nor­mal po­lit­i­cal party or could never be nor­ma­lised, ac­cord­ing to these demon­stra­tors. 

The media could say that the FN be­came France's first party by de­fault, be­cause of non-ex­pres­sion, in other words, ab­sten­tion from voting. 25% of the votes in favour of the FN doesn't em­body 25% of the French peo­ple. There is a BUT. The score is good, even very good, showing the prob­lem that tra­di­tional par­ties have to mobilise voters. The elec­tors' fancy wasn't caught by the cam­paign and we didn't re­ceive the pro­grammes of all the candidate lists. 

Have cit­i­zens gotten tired of the Eu­ro­pean pro­ject? Let's go back to the young pro­test­ers. Their march is the ex­pres­sion of the dis­agree­ment over FN's votes and 24 new 'Fron­tist' Eu­rodeputies, who are known for their hos­til­ity against the EU pro­ject. But this demon­stra­tion also em­bod­ies a re­ac­tion against the ab­stain­ers. Eu­rope of ab­sten­tion, French ab­stain­ers, "Wake up, get angry!".

In­deed, we don't live in a captivating Eu­rope, where all Eu­ro­peans are in­formed and in­ter­ested. If this was the case, the elec­tors would have acted to express their opin­ion and so we could call this ab­sence of the oc­cu­pa­tion of pub­lic sphere as pro­blematic.

A Eu­rope for all? We are pretty far from it now. What I would like to say is that Eu­rope isn't in­clu­sive of every­one, but it doesn't mean that it is in­ac­ces­si­ble (since there are chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ex­pla­na­tion). Eu­rope isn't com­pre­hen­sive and that's why it suc­ceeds in mo­bi­lis­ing us. For or against. How­ever, this de­bate isn't the only one which should push the cit­i­zens to­wards the bal­lot box. Eu­ro­pean elec­tions aren't sup­posed to be a sim­ple "Yes to Eu­rope". Which Eu­rope(s) are we talk­ing about ? The cit­i­zens who don't re­ject Eu­rope are also the ones who de­cide about which kind of Eu­rope, or dif­fer­ent Eu­rope(s) that could exist and it is a re­spon­s­abil­ity. 

In fact, Eu­rope is al­ways at the cen­tre of the de­bate but we aren't aware of it, the Eu­ro­pean per­spec­tive is kind of in­vi­sible. The Eu­ro­pean Union in­fil­trates many as­pects of pol­i­tics: eco­nom­i­cal, ju­ridi­cal, en­vi­ron­men­tal, so­cial, tech­no­log­i­cal:

The Eu­ro­pean se­mes­ter has framed the French Fi­nance Act, including the bud­getary pol­icy and es­pe­cially the (im)pos­si­bil­ity of let­ting the deficit in­crease (the golden rule);

Con­sumer law in a con­sumer so­ci­ety, did you know that the 'Hamon law' orig­i­nated from a di­rec­tive?;

Food pol­icy grows out of a Eu­ro­pean agri­cul­tural pol­icy which makes the pro­duc­ti­vist choices or not;

A human rights pol­icy, men­tion­ing the rights to pri­vacy fol­low­ing the NSA/Snow­den scan­dals, the right to abor­tion through­out Eu­rope ? The recog­ni­tion of ho­mo­sex­ual mar­riages?;

Air­bus, the quin­tes­sen­tial Eu­ro­pean com­pany.

Any­way, the list is long, but you can clearly see that Eu­rope has got po­ten­tial as the plat­form of po­lit­i­cal de­bates and dis­cus­sions which con­cern us, the cit­i­zens. 

If a real teaching will be used, and the Eu­ro­peans will be in­formed, then maybe we could con­sti­tute a Eu­rope of Euro-cit­i­zens, in­stead of this Eu­rope of the Eu­ro­peans who con­stantly re­main silent about their fu­ture. 

A more com­mit­ted Eu­rope might be more di­vided, but the dis­agree­ments are in­te­gral parts of de­mo­c­ra­tic de­bates. So, what is the lesson? It is prac­ti­cal. Teaching is in­deed a re­spon­s­abil­ity, which be­longs to everyone:

Politi­cians, whether at the Eu­ro­pean or na­tional level. Eu­rope can't be the focus of the whole media only for one month every five years, pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing Eu­ro­pean is­sues is a day-to-day ne­ces­sity. With­out this, we could see nei­ther any action re­al­ised at the Eu­ro­pean level nor the is­sues con­cern­ing Eu­rope in the de­bates, meaning the in­vis­i­ble Eu­rope.

Na­tional media. Of course, there are Eu­ro­pean media sources, but the na­tional media could con­tribute by using its power to pro­vid­e daily in­for­ma­tion at the local level.

And also cit­i­zens. Dif­fer­ent or­ga­ni­za­tions of cit­i­zen ped­a­gogy are dis­persed through­out the ter­ri­tory: the Houses of Eu­rope, Eu­rope Di­rect net­work, in­for­ma­tion bu­reaus of the Eu­ro­pean Par­lia­ment and of the Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion. Also they all have the web­sites, along with ex­pla­na­tions con­cern­ing the func­tion­ing of the Eu­ro­pean in­sti­tu­tions and Eu­ro­pean agenda. 

With­out cre­at­ing an ide­ol­ogy out of Eu­ro­pean Union, we could high­light that the real, de­ci­sive de­bates have been tak­ing place at this level, they would become more well known and de­mo­c­ra­tic. The pol­icy of ped­a­gogy, which is run­ning at the Eu­ro­pean level, is not suf­fi­ciently rep­re­sented at the na­tional level. Yet many French-Eu­ro­peans would be ready to have an opin­ion if they were pre­pared for it dur­ing the Eu­ro­pean de­bates. 

As being more com­mit­ted Eu­ro­peans, it is up to us to build a more rep­re­sen­ta­tive Eu­rope.

The con­clu­sion comes from the words of a French and Eu­ro­pean deputy: "Eu­rope works nei­ther against the states, nor against the peo­ple". Nei­ther against the states, nor against the peo­ple. This says it all. 

Translated from Une marche contre le pas que.