It's always amusing to witness journalists and politicians with euro-enthusiastic tendencies having a go at parts of the British press for being biased on Europe, while at the same time being guilty themselves of some seriously one-sided and dubious reporting.
One of the most conspicous examples is when we caught the Independent - at the height of the debate about a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty - reprinting a Foreign Office briefing note on the Treaty almost word-for-word, but without any attribution that the FCO was the source. (Compare the Foreign Office briefing here to the Independent article here). A newspaper simply printing what the government tells it word for word is not considered quality journalism in most places.
On Friday, the Independent’s John Lichfield got a bit over excited about the prospect of a Conservative government 'spooking' Europe. Quoting a couple of French politicians, a Spanish MEP and a second-hand “source in Ms Merkel's Christian Democratic Party” he predictably got stuck on the idea that Europeans these days live in perpetual fear of the Conservatives coming to power. A potential Conservative government is now up there with global warming and terrorism as the greatest threats to humanity (we made up that last part).
The discussion about the Tories in Europe has always verged on the hysterical – and few people outside the bubbles in Brussels, Paris and Westminster pay much attention to it. But what’s arguably worse, at times it comes across as outright ignorant – despite all the lofty talk amongst commentators for the need to increase the quality of the discussion on the EU.
For example, Lichfield makes a song and a dance over the Tories’ manifesto, which spells out that the EU should be an “association of states”. In mainstream European politics, Lichfield claims, to talk about the EU in this way is “unhelpful” and is “reopening an argument that Britain lost more than 50 years ago.”
Er, say what?
That argument is alive and well around Europe – in fact, it is increasingly moving back to the fore. The German Constitutional Court used this exact phrase in its explosive ruling on the Lisbon Treaty to make clear its view on what the EU is and what it should remain (Verbindung souverän bleibender Staaten). Also the Swedish governing Moderate Party – which is at the mainstream of the mainstream of European centre-right politics – is using very similar wording to describe its vision of the EU (mellanstatligt samarbete).
It does take knowing a couple of languages, but the information is quite clearly there for anyone interested in a quality report. But then again, the need for such reporting only applies to one side of the argument, doesn't it?