On Thursday September 12, a panel of netizens were given the opportunity to ask European Commission President José Manuel Barroso a question during a Google Hangout. They had submitted their questions on social media using #AskBarroso and were picked up by euronews.
Example of question
Mr.President could you please describe a bit the next enlargement wave of the EU? Will you do your best to have Ukraine there? #AskBarroso
— Yuri Ivanchenko (@YIvanchenko) September 6, 2013
Watch the Hangout
A few days later, we asked members of our panel what their experience of the event was. Here are their answers, unfiltered:
Were you satisfied with it?
“I’d say partially. I think he was very comfortable during all the Hangout, and he – naturally – replied to our questions the ‘politician way’. As you may know, as Portuguese I know him and his political career quite well and for that I was expecting some details on his behavior and the way he addressed all the questions. And he was quite similar to what I expected from him.” #### If not, what was missing from his answer?
“I think he ran away from the core of my answer. When I spoke about Libya and Syria was just as examples, not to take it as the center of the whole question. It was more related to the way the European foreign policy is being taken care of, the strange role Mrs. Ashton is playing and what future this particular area is going to take. Mr. Barroso thought it differently and took the route of explaining the EU failure in the most recent crises.” #### Do you think the Hangout exercise was interesting?
“It was very interesting. A great idea, I had very good partners on the panel, great questions they had. Also, it was great to have diversity in the topics addressed to Mr. Barroso. Human rights, environment, enlargement… Just great! You should take this idea to a more recurrent practice and invite more and more people.” ### Yuri, Ukraine
“First of all, I’d like to thank you and the Euronews team which made this interesting idea real. I didn’t take a part in such kind of actions earlier and so I was really excited to speak directly to the head of the greatest state in the world!
“Regarding to a story you are going to publish, I can say that I’ll can answer any questions, I’m really satisfied with Barroso’s answer to my question. I think his answer was sharp-cut, direct and fully understandable to me.
“Also I didn’t expect that he has claimed at the end that Ukraine is an European country. That was truly pleasurably to hear and I think that statement keep us (Ukrainians) strong and we will keep a stiff upper lip.”
“I was a little disappointed with mr. Barroso’s answer, namely that he was not familiar with this particular issue. I can relate to the fact that after a week in which he took part in the G8 meeting and prepared the State of the Union speech, Romania’s current agenda was not a priority for him.
“However, this struggle against the destructive mining project at Roșia Montană has been going on for 14 years now. Europa Nostra declared Roșia Montană one of the 7 most endangered sites in Europe.
“Along with many other Romanians, I have written a letter to Viviane Redding, using the online contact form on webforms.edcc.eu. I have received no answer but an automated reply.
In this context, M.Barroso’s lack of information of the subject was upsetting.”
“Having secured one of the seven precious places in the euronews/Google hangout with Barroso was a pleasant surprise. What a great opportunity to get the attention the most coveted politician in Europe, albeit only for 15 seconds, the duration of a question, and over the internet.
“During the Hangout, it was obvious, that Barroso, as a seasoned politician is at the height of his game, answering all kinds of different questions with ease. Fair enough, for some of the more technical, or perhaps more sensitive questions, he referred to the need for more discussion with his cabinet and colleagues.
“Unfortunately, due to cracks in the internet, he only really heard the first part of my question. He stressed the importance of reconciling work and family life, childcare and fighting poverty. However, the fact that Europe is doing better than China what concerns social welfare is not exactly what I hoped for, and it was great how euronews’ own Isabella Kumar jumped in and followed-up with asking about the austerity policies induced cuts to social services, which are forcing women out of the labour market, and have a devastating effect on families and children in Greece, Spain and Portugal. The part of my question about the European Year got lost in cyberspace. Perhaps someone out there will hear it and give us an answer?”
“It comes clear that in the last period of his mandate Jose Manuel Barroso is trying to get more and more consensus among European citizens thanks also to digital platforms put at his service by the only truly European media Euronews; he is slowly reaching his objective, at least as long as people confident with internet are concerned.
“While the hangout is an useful tool for those users who are willing to seat in front of the computer for an hour paying attention to people debating about the State of the European Union, it is now becoming important to attract audience also via TV and in multiple languages since topics covered during the program affect either the large majority of population which is still behind in terms of technological progress. The President did not go further than his speech at the European Parliament of the 11th of September while addressing the questions, including some political propaganda every now and then which of course sounds cool for those who already believe in Europe but may hardly convince Euroskeptic on pratical matters.
Whereas it is highlighted from his words that those who want to come closer to European politics are right in choosing a Federalist approach going beyond from political conceptions of the majority of Member States, it is not clear yet to which extent MEPs and MS look forward to the political union so desired by the chief Commissionner.
“Overall the experience was great and in a certain sense I feel lucky to have had the possibility to ask a question to The President and get an answer in matter of seconds, I really think that these initiatives shall run on a weekly basis involving all prominent figures of European Union, from MEPs to Commissioners including members of national governments inviting all of them to debate about Europe and all its field of expertise finally using the proceeds to instigate curiosity in Euronews followers.”
Was I satisfied with the answer? What issues he failed to address?
“Mr Barroso made some very important statements on climate change. He said: ‘The cause of climate is of existential nature for the planet. So [taking climate action] is a duty we have, also towards future generations. So I hope that the leaders of Europe, at national level, also keep the momentum to fight climate change. Because it is an existential threat to our planet.’
“I wanted Mr Barroso’s word on two things. He didn’t give his word on either of them. He said the Commission is working on a proposal for a new climate and energy package for 2030 (which I already knew), but not that it will be legislative, nor that it will have adequate targets.
“On the issue of Europe leading climate action by example, Mr Barroso sees “getting the others on board” as leadership. He said: ‘Yes, I can commit to keep European leadership.’ But I’m not so sure Europe is still leading. And he certainly did not give his word on leading by example. There are rumours now that there is consensus in Commission and Council on a 40% CO2 reduction target. Speaking of ‘adequate’ measures: 40% reduction is insufficient to stay on the safe side of 2 degrees warming!
“In his State of the European Union address, Mr Barroso said with regards to the European Union: ‘Be big on big things; small on small things.’ Climate change being an existential threat, I’d say: be big on climate change!
What action would I like to see the European Commission take on environment?
“The European Commission should be bold and brave in tackling the climate crisis. It has a moral and legal duty to protect its citizens from security threats. Therefore it should take at least three actions: 1) deliver a legislative proposal with adequate targets to stay on the safe side of two degrees global warming; 2) deliver a strong structural reform of the European emissions trading system (EU ETS); 3) lead global climate talks by example.
What did I think of the hangout format?
“As a citizen, one normally never gets to talk with the President of the European Union. The Hangout is a nice and relatively open and accessible way to discuss what matters to many people in Europe. I really appreciate the effort of bringing the European Union closer to its citizens. I think Mr Barroso should do Hangouts more often!”