Richard North, 14/11/2012  

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Not that you would know it from the legacy media, but the EU is in crisis. That the budget conciliation process has collapsed and the deadline has expired (last night – and they didn't even talk) means that the EU annual budget proposal falls and the Commission must submit a new one, starting the negotiations all over again in an informal "third reading" procedure.

From memory, I think this has only happened three times before, and one of those times was in 1980. It is a huge blow to a political construct which prides itself on its negotiation skills and its ability to divine a consensus. More seriously, it means that the Commission does not have the funding to meet existing commitments and, since it is not permitted to borrow and is required to balance its budget, this is rather a serious crisis.

What is, therefore, rather remarkable is the paucity of reporting in the British media, and a certain amount of confusion with the multi-annual budget negotiations, which are a separate issue.

But then, with a media that has never understood the difference between a "summit" and a European Council, it is unsurprising that it has failed to register what is going on. Talk about "conciliation procedure" to the average hack and you are likely to get a blank stare.

However, not even the German press, or EurActiv seems to be giving this the weight the event deserves, which makes you wonder what is really going on.

I think, actually, the media have not understood what has happened, and have confused themselves by conflating the two separate sets of budget talks, one annual and the other multi-annual. This is certainly the impression I get from the error-strewn Mail story. But you also get the impression that the EU is downplaying the issue, the EU parliament offering only minimal comment in the hope that the media won't make a meal of it.

Meanwhile, the media news of the day on the Europe front is a wave of strikes which is, at least, something tangible that the hacks can understand. Workers are coordinating their actions in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, with Belgium chipping in with a 24-hour rail strike, giving plenty of picture opportunities and scope for lurid commentary.

Under the noses of the legacy media, however, a far greater institutional crisis is building, and so far they don't seem to have noticed. Clearly, no one has told them what to think, and they're all adrift. They have a crisis on their hands and they don't know how to report it.


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