The European Dream

The European Dream by Jeremy Rifkin

Book: The European Dream by Jeremy Rifkin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jeremy Rifkin
CSO participation. The reason the EU is willing to share at least some governing power with civil society organizations is that they bring with them the kind of local, grassroots credibility that Brussels so desperately needs to effectively maintain its legitimacy in a world torn between local, national, regional, and global forces.
    A recent study conducted by Edelman PR, one of the world’s leading public relations firms, found that among public opinion leaders, especially in Europe, civil society organizations are more favorably regarded and enjoy higher levels of trust than either the commercial or government sectors. While 41 percent of European opinion leaders were favorably disposed toward CSOs in Europe, only 28 percent regarded businesses favorably, and a mere 17 percent were favorable to government. 14 Opinion leaders in the U.S., however, were more favorably disposed to business and government, with 40 percent favorable to commerce and 46 percent favorable to political institutions. Only 34 percent were favorable to CSOs. 15
    When it comes to trust, again European opinion leaders said they have greater trust in CSOs than either business or government. The figures are compelling. Fifty-one percent of opinion leaders say they trust CSOs, only 41 percent say they trust business, and a meager 26 percent say they have trust in government. Again, the United States’ opinion leaders express greater trust in government and business than CSOs, but the difference in trust levels between the three sectors is only slight. 16 Other surveys confirm similar findings.
    It’s not hard, then, to understand why the European Union has embraced, at least tentatively, the idea of sharing governance with CSOs in European policy networks. CSOs enjoy widespread public support and bring a new sense of participatory democracy to the political process. The EU is often criticized for a failure to narrow what observers call the “democratic deficit.” With European public opinion polls showing lukewarm support of the European Union, the bureaucrats in Brussels have everything to gain and little to lose in embracing CSOs as partners in Europe-wide policy networks.
    Equally important, CSOs are the social engine for preserving cultural diversity throughout the European Union and for mobilizing public support behind universal rights agendas. They are both embedded in geographic communities and, at the same time, connected in their activities beyond regional and even EU boundaries. They are local, transnational, and global players and the essential political partner for an EU regulatory state dedicated to advancing both cultural diversity and universal human rights.
    What’s becoming clear is that in a world increasingly dominated by global corporate interests, governments at every level—municipal, regional, national, and transnational—will have to establish deep interlinking policy networks with civil society organizations if either are to amass enough political power to provide an effective counterbalance to the commercial arena.

13
    Unity in Diversity
    T HE EUROPEAN DREAM is compelling but seems a bit utopian and out of reach. It’s hard to imagine hundreds of millions of people coalescing around such a grand vision. But, then, the idea that people might come together around democratic values and nation-state ideology would probably have seemed equally fanciful and far-fetched in the late medieval era. The question is, What kind of new-shared bond would propel people to transcend their old loyalties and make the European Dream a viable universal dream? Put simply, although it’s no simple task, we’d have to be willing to broaden our sense of attachment from property rights and obligations grounded in territory to universal human rights and obligations grounded in our collective participation on a shared Earth.

Shared Vulnerabilities and Global Consciousness
    Before the skeptics and cynics dismiss such notions as utterly

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