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Sadly, most of the information in these upcoming advertisement campaigns will probably consist of rhetoric, generalizations, and dogma. Hard facts and analysis will be discarded in favor of feel-good, Pan-European sloganeering. Which is a shame considering that, if there was ever a time for open, clear-cut debate, it is now.
Consider the scope of the task. In order to get to where they are now, every EU candidate country had to close some 31 chapters of a comprehensive accession agreement, each chapter containing hundreds of pages on such diverse issues as customs, fishing, health care, human rights. For Latvia alone the EU bureaucratic onslaught amounted to a staggering 85,000 pages.
Can anyone pretend to be a specialist on the aggregate advantages and disadvantages of such a gargantuan agreement? Now imagine the same paper mass tenfold - this is the entire colossus of all 10 candidate countries' negotiations, which have been held for several years now.
When we stop to think about it, there's probably not a single soul in all of Brussels who understands everything about what all of this accession hooplah amounts to. Hungarian roads, Czech hospitals, Polish fishermen, Slovakian industrial emissions, Estonian sheep herders, Lithuanian school cafeterias...Trying to make sense of it all would be akin to memorizing the financials of every stock listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Hundreds of thousands of pages. A small forest, really. And though all this may have nothing to do with trees, it has everything to do with the rights of citizens to access information and to make an informed judgment on a matter of supreme importance. But since no one can be expected to peruse tens of thousands of paper sheets filled with stodgy "euro-speak" and legal mumbo-jumbo, we will be left with an ignorant public susceptible to official dogma.
Which brings us back to the referendums. Since few, if any, government officials and bureaucrats really know what the sum benefit of EU membership means for their country, the upcoming propaganda storm will inevitably contain more generetic gibberish than incisive analysis. Eight million Balts will scratch their heads in bewilderment, wondering how to cast their ballot.
"The biggest challenge is to teach people to concentrate and realize how the EU mechanism works," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis said in Vilnius upon returnng from Copenhagen.
Right. As if he knew himself.