Lambasted by MEPs for its over optimism and lack of new policy proposals, Barroso’s fourth State of the European Union (SOTEU) speech this week did make at least one good call, notably the Commission President’s statement that “Now is the time for all those who care about Europe to speak up”….because speak up they did and for those who hold Europe dear, social media became their soapbox.
In the 12 hours before and after Barroso’s speech, there were 5095 tweets and 64 facebook discussions on the SOTEU.
But who are the Europeans speaking up for Europe and where are they from?
For the most part the older member states proved to hold the most vocal twitterers but their Eastern neighbours were not far behind; Bulgarians and Romanians certainly made their opinions heard amongst the twitterati.
The top 20 tweeters on the SOTEU proved to be a solid collection of media commentators and not surprisingly representatives of the European Parliament. FleishmanHillard’s 2011 European Parliament Digital Trends survey that “61% [of MEPs]consider social networks as effective channels of communication” and this trend appears not to have abated in the years since. Will they go so far as to run their 2014 election campaigns through social media too? We will be watching very closely!
Top 20 SOTEU Twitterers
So what did President Barroso say that inspired Europeans to debate?
Based on a Wordle.net analysis, which highlights the most used terms in a word cloud, the key words in Barroso’s SOTEU cloud this year shows his attention is still very much on the economic stability of the union and tackling the financial crisis. Compared to his 2012 speech, this year Barroso’s cloud paints a more inclusive picture highlighting the importance of member states and citizens of Europe acting together.
What did social media have to say about the State of the Union speech?
SOTEU commentators this year were clearly looking to the future, with their key terms on social media focusing on EU’s budget discussions and the 2014 European Parliament elections. But social media debate also reflected the failure of Europe to stand together as Barroso had hoped. This is nowhere more evident that the tweets surrounding the passionate and somewhat controversial statements made by MEPs in the Strasbourg plenary in response to the SOTEU – notably from Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, BE) who called for ever closer union and Nigel Farage (EDF, UK) who questioned climate change.
Whatever your perspective on Europe and its togetherness, it is clear that open debate is the only way to find effective answers, and increasingly social media is offering the most accessible platform for discussion.
Hendrik and Lorraine