Sunday, 22 March 2015

EU: Understanding the European Union

Is it the final countdown for Europe...

I've gathered several resources below which should help you get to grips with the EU, a complex organisation which has a major influence on life in the UK but about which we tend to know very little.

Of course there is a Wiki you can use, but you should try to avoid relying on a single source.

TASK: Individually or in a small group you will be assigned one broad EU topic to research. Your research should include a range of sources, and your report should make clear which sources you have used. You can present this report in whatever style best suits you: a KeyNote/PowerPoint; a paper document; informational posters; video; news-style report (TV news, radio news, or written newspaper/magazine article each with images too). Ask if you have another idea on how you want to present this. You can also call in to K5 most lunchtimes if you need to ask some short questions for help (be aware that I am busy with Media work!). You can take a slightly comical approach or a very formal style for your presentation - so long as you make sure your presentation is loaded with information. There will be a prize for the best presentation/report.
1: How the media report on the EU: is it fair and accurate? 

  • there is a left-wing and a right-wing press; one of these usually report very negatively on the EU...
  • certain papers are notorious for their bias; you can find some great examples of this mis-reporting!
  • you could use a day when there was a major EU news story to compare front pages (Kiosko; BBC; Paperboy)
  • you could use simple searches such as 'books eu media bias'
  • there are many useful resources further down this post...

2: The European Parliament: what does it do, how is it organised, where is it, does it really matter?

3: MEPs and their election: how are they elected (are there issues with the election?), why do small parties do better in this than House of Commons elections?, what do they do, use a case study of a UK MEP.

4: EU Law: how influential is the EU on how we live: immigration, business, privacy, culture, travel, safety, environment, workers rights, discrimination, war/peace etc.

5: History/Future of the EU: tell us the tale of how it started and kept growing - key dates, people, events; how do you think it will look in 10 years time?

  • it has been through several name changes!
  • the origins lie in plans to prevent WW2 being repeated; can you see examples of how the France/Germany relationship remain central?
  • the UK was blocked several times by one of those countries and only joined in the 70s ... will it now leave the EU?
  • will we get an EU army?
  • the Euro is a major development - will it survive?

6: 2015 UK General Election: is the EU a major issue to (a) politicians/parties and.or (b) the public?; what are the parties' policies on it? You could conclude by explaining which party you most agree with, stating why, on this.


  • A range of resources ... so, not just Wikipedia!
  • A clear list (including the URL) of every resource used, including videos, eg this post: CitPol blog post on the EU,
  • Quotes should be kept short; a good presentation will put points you've read about into your own words, not just copy/paste (this doesn't indicate you've read or understood anything, and you can find you look silly when asked questions you can't answer!)
  • At the very least, ten facts, figures and/or quotes, possibly more if working in a larger group.
  • If working in a group, a short but clear list of what each person specifically worked on/contributed.
  • Be in a format that can be displayed on the screen - if you're working with paper, then photograph or scan this.
  • Each person must have the same final report on their iPad (or saved in your My Documents). If you don't and one person is missing meaning you don't present the report, you will all get a Homework comment.
  • Whether you choose a comic or serious approach, your report must be informative, and you must be prepared to face some questions - so you all need to engage in some reading/viewing/thinking!
  • Every topic requires you to give your views; try to back these up with some evidence (quotes, statistics, graphics etc).
  • Have a blend of writing/speech and (audio-)visual illustrations - think of your audience!

If you want to use SHORT (they must be short) clips from existing news or educational videos, perhaps even party political broadcasts, you can save clips to edit within iMovie through sites such as clipconverter.
Edit out everything you don't absolutely need. This will help you hold your audience's attention.
Likewise, use titles on screen to identify people, places, topics etc.

Official EU Guide:
The website: this is the official website of the EU itself, this is a comprehensive guide. The language can be a little challenging at times, but its menus are very helpful. site: a bit dull, but details every part of how the EU works!
BBC Guides: 90-second videos!
As is the case for many of the areas you study in Citizenship, the BBC has produced a series of user-friendly guides, centred on short - just 90 seconds each! - films, about the various parts of the EU and how it works.
Not very detailed, but highly user-friendly: the BBC guide.
BBC Special Report on EU
Created for the May 2014 EU elections, this site gathers together new BBC analysis of many of the issues and challenges facing the EU today.
This BBC site has longer, more detailed articles on the EU today and the challenges facing it.
Tracing EU enlargement up to 2004
This doesn't include the more recent additions, but is still a useful, simple visual guide to how the EU has grown from its original six member countries in 1957. This was part of a Guardian special series back in 2004, which also features reports on the new EU member nations - such as this one on Poland (just scroll down and you'll find links for reports on the other countries too) - which might be of particular interest to historians amongst you! There is also a more recent (2013) guide to the debate around holding an in/out referendum on the UK's EU membership.
You can find sections on most UK newspapers' sites which gather together recent EU news and articles. Two examples: The Guardian, a left-wing paper which tends to be quite pro-EU, and the Daily Telegraph, a right-wing paper which tends to be quite anti-EU ('Euroscpetic').
The Guardian is often biased in a pro-EU way in its reportage
By contrast, papers like the Telegraph tend to be very anti-EU ('Eurosceptic') in how they cover it
This is one of the issues on which the bias of the UK press is very easy to spot. While TV and radio have to be neutral/objective in the way they cover news (the media regulator OfCom can fine or even remove the license required to legally broadcast any companies that fail to uphold this), our press has no such restriction.
The story is nonsense, but a fairly typical example of how some UK papers approach EU 'news'; read Greenslade's analysis here.
Although the press regulator (due to be replaced, but still the Press Complaints Commission at the time of writing) has as clause one of its Code a requirement for accuracy, some of our papers go to extreme lengths to reflect an anti-EU opinion. Above and below are two examples.
Again, an inaccurate story; the effect over time is to build hostility towards the EU; read Greenslade's analysis here.
You can read analysis of some examples of just how blatant and missleading some press articles on the EU are by searching for 'guardian greenslade eu' (Roy Greenslade is a highly respected expert on the UK press).
A simply false scare story that encouraged hostility towards immigrants and the EU
Above is a screenshot of another example, from March 2014, this time encouraging readers to be more hostile towards immigrants as well as the EU. All the UK national daily papers, except the Indie/i, Guardian and Mirror express anti-EU views in their reporting.
According to the UK press, what food item was to be legally renamed as 'emulsified high-fat offal tube'?! Read this BBC report to find out...
The BBC also covered this tendency towards 'Euromyths' a few years back - this is a long-term trend. Read this article (pictured above) to find out which fruit the UK press claimed, completely falsely of course, that the EU was going to insist must be straight or else banned!
Another Euromyth debunked by the TabloidWatch blog!
Although it doesn't seem to have been updated since 2013, the TabloidWatch blog has many detailed analyses of UK press articles which simply fabricate stories which are likely to lead readers to think negatively towards the EU, the above screenshot being just one example they take apart in some detail.

How the EU Works (7mins) by 'TalktoEU'

A Brief History of the EU by 'EPinUK'

If you've any suggestions for other useful resources, please add details (a URL) as a comment below and I'll add them to this post

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