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No Peephole Debate

Ukraine-Russia war creates a European-wide media discourse

Up till now, European societies have been negotiating and creating their public opinions in their national newspapers and other media channels published in their native languages. This has been one of many barriers towards building a pan-European civil society. The Ukraine-Russia war might be the trigger for change.

Europeans are no looking through peepholes on the the media debates of their neighbouring countries. Author: Luvi, Source: Flickr.

Europeans are no longer looking through peepholes on the the media debates of their neighbouring countries. Author: Luvi, source: Flickr.

Press reviews and occasionally highlighted sensational articles on the news reporting of the neighbouring countries have only provided a look through the peephole on the public discourse of other EU countries. A fundamental exchange of ideas, thoughts and positions in the mainstream media, which would allow for an all-European discourse and opinion building process outside of institutions, was absent.

Polish intellectuals address all Europeans

On 4 September, I came across a statement of Polish intellectuals on the situation in Ukraine published on numerous European online versions of the most well-known national newspapers. In this article Polish representatives from the spheres of politics, arts, culture and education appeal to the European civil society, their neighbours, fellow citizens of Europe, and their governments, with four claims aiming to contain Putin’s foreign policy in its expansionist ambitions. Essentially they are asking the French government to stop their arms trade with Russia, the German government to free themselves from the economic dependency on Russia, all European citizens to take a clear positions and get active in civil initiatives to support Ukrainian civil society, and the European Union to defend its values in a proxy war in the East.

The article was first issued in the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza on the 1 September. On the same day, its translated versions were published in the French newspaper Le Monde, in the German Die Welt, on the English-language The Economist blog, the Ukrainian За Збручем. and the Belgian La Libre. An increasing number of newspapers in different countries followed. On Monday, Europeans began their working week as well as started commenting on the same statements in the respective online versions but in their native languages. And they shared the article on Facebook. This probably happened in similar settings; during small working breaks in offices, a moment of procrastination, or in the tram to work, university or schools all across Europe. If this is not a European discourse, how else would it look like?

French government reacts on Polish call?

In the morning of the 4 September, I could read in the German newspaper Die Zeit that, two days after the European-wide publication, on the 3rd of September it has been decided by the French government that the delivery of French battleships Mistral to Russia will be stopped immediately. Was this already a reaction to the Polish call? Is it possible that national governments are starting to react to the people’s voice, even when they are from other EU countries?

Although at this point the last question is still a rhetorical one, the acknowledgement remains:  the Russia-Ukraine war has triggered a media discussion across the national borders of individual countries. While the Polish intellectuals warn not to commit the same mistakes of ignorance as in 1939, one thing is already different. Europe is discussing their war and how to avoid its escalation in a shared discourse.

Alisa Laila Fluhrer, EVS volunteer at Common Europe Foundation in Warsaw, Poland

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