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Culture

Polyglot Publicity for Europe

While Europe boasts the grandeur of a Commission, a parliament, and the imminent birth of its own armed forces, what it lacks is an audience. It's an imbalance which a Website called Café Babel is trying to redress.

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Young people are crucial to the creation of a European audience

For the past four years, a polyglot project with an essentially European vision has been working away from the historic heart of Paris to tap into what founders believe is an unexploited audience.

"This job is like no other. We work with young people from across Europe on a project which is based on genuine idealism, a transnational debate which breaks down the boundaries of national media, and the ability to get excited about the idea of creating a European audience," Tobias Troll, head of the German edition of Café Babel said.

Moschee in Gelsenkirchen

Café Babel addresses a wide variety of topical issues

Project founders know that they cannot force an awakening of interest in EU subjects, but they also know that if they are to succeed in their vision, they have to approach people in their native tongue. To that end, Café Babel draws from a huge pool of freelance writers and translators who each week put between 8 and 10 long articles on the site in the six project languages. The palette of subjects is extensive, with EU-Russian relations getting just the same column space as Muslim life on the continent.

Staying alive

The unique nature of the project fills a gap in the market, even in Germany where reporting on European issues is less of an industry than it once was.

"We need more than statements such as 'no more war in Europe' in order to integrate people and to create a mutual European feeling. And given that so many people are interested in European culture, that's where the chances are," Düsseldorf media expert Klaus Kamps said.

In order for Café Babel to secure as broad a spectrum of opinion as possible, they have set up editorial departments in most EU countries. In some countries, as in Germany, they have offices in more than one city.

It's expanding, but for all that, the project survives on the goodwill of those who volunteer to contribute to it. One of the site founders, Adriano Farano is concerned that the project could run into difficulties if Brussels were to remove its rug of financial backing.

"It's a danger for all initiatives, but that said, there is a chance that in the future Café Babel will manage to access its own source of funding, for example through subscription. At the moment we are very proud that what we offer is for free," Adriano Farano said.

Europe makes perfect sense

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With 25,000 hits on the site monthly, and 17,000 newsletter subscriptions, Café Babel has already established a core audience. Nonetheless Farano and his colleagues have begun to explore other ways of penetrating a larger potential audience. For the coming year, the site is planning a continuation of audience debates with EU representatives on the subject of the European constitution. Tobias Troll hopes that such initiatives will help to strengthen a generation of Europeans such as create the fabric of Café Babel.

"We fully believe that the European Union not only makes sense, but is also necessary in order to sensibly tackle the pressing problems of our time. National systems can no longer solve problems of the economy, the environment, unemployment and terrorism alone. What's needed now are larger, supranational units like the EU," Troll said.

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