A member of your country’s senior government resigned this week, amid charges of improper lobbying: you probably read about it. Or maybe you didn’t, because that individual was John Dalli, European Commissioner for Food.
Indeed, if you didn’t live in the Brussels bubble, or follow the right people on Twitter, it’s highly unlikely you’d have seen headlines like the one here anywhere apart from Malta.
At one level, we might not be surprised. Dalli was from a small member state, didn’t hold a senior portfolio, nor was particularly thrusting in trying to get media coverage. However, that would still seem to miss the point.
Dalli, like all his colleagues in the Commission, worked for the entire Union, with responsibilities for food labelling, consumer affairs and other matters that touch on all our lives. OK, the issue that brought him down – snus – wasn’t of any great interest to British citizens, but the principle certainly was.
Moreover, the manner of his resignation is also noteworthy. It was apparently requested by Commission President Barroso in the wake of an OLAF investigation. This cementing of the President’s power marks an important step forward, as does the meaningfulness and impact of OLAF as an organ of good governance, after many years of strife.
All of these things do and should matter to Europeans, and make the lack of media interest all the more disturbing. Indeed, it was remarkable how both pro- and anti-Europeans were able to agree that the situation was unsatisfactory this week: the former because the integrity of the system which it demonstrated, the latter because of the venality.
As I have discussed before, without media engagement, we will find it very difficult to reach lasting solutions to the Union’s current crisis: this week doesn’t give much hope.