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Last Updated: Friday, 2 March 2007, 13:47 GMT
Europe diary: Avoiding a vote

1 March 2007

BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell on whether referendums should be held on any new treaty based on the European constitution... and on the merits of diaries versus blogs.

The diary is published every Thursday.


French Oui campaigners
Idealists are happy to see this all over again
Will the Germans blink first in the battle for the constitution? The fight is now on between idealists and pragmatists, and time is running out. I hardly have to say that rejectionists don't have a seat at the table, or a voice in the proceedings.

The German presidency maintains it is determined to bring back as much of the European constitution as humanly possible, hoping those pesky Dutch and French are now thoroughly ashamed of themselves for denting the European project with their referendums and rejections.

While the Polish and the Czechs have been admirably open about their position, setting out their governments' negotiating stances in public, the real deal is going on behind locked doors at a very senior level. The basic premise of the pragmatists is that if the people of Britain (or Denmark or the Netherlands or France) are asked if they want a constitution, or even a new European treaty looking suspiciously like the old constitution, they will say No.

So the trick for them is to get the changes governments want without triggering such a demand anywhere (or anywhere "except Ireland"... it is regarded as a foregone conclusion the Irish will be tiresomely democratic). There are detailed studies going on to discover what, legally and officially, would act as such a trigger in Denmark and the Netherlands. In Britain it's more difficult, because it's a straight political question, not a quasi-constitutional one.


It's clear that those in the UK who are strongly against the European Union are gagging for a referendum. They forecast that any such popular vote would be on our whole relationship with the EU, not on the narrow text. They think a No-vote would blow the final hole in the current EU set-up, and force a major re-think.

David Cameron is still deciding whether he should back those who will call for a referendum, or whether this will make him look like a loser. Much reference is made to William Hague in the middle of his ill-fated "Save the Pound" phase. Whether you are a pragmatist, rejectionist, or cautious Cameronist it seems to me this debate is firmly grounded in political reality.


But this is not the way life is seen in Berlin, or indeed Madrid or Rome. The 18 countries which have backed the old constitution say they want as much of it back as possible.

Romano Prodi in the Italian senate
Mr Prodi wants to help, if he is still in power
The Italian Prime Minister (well, Mr Prodi is PM as I write this, although he may not be by the time you read it) and his Spanish counterpart have written a joint letter saying the constitution "is a priority goal" and they are committed to the "the greatest level of integration" provided for in the text.

They make a kind offer to nations which have rejected the document or aren't keen on its reapperance: "We are confident we can give a hand to those countries... in order that they can overcome their own difficulties and join the goals and aspirations of the Treaty."

It's hard to see what this "hand" might be (free Mediterranean holidays for potential No voters at the time of a referendum perhaps?)

Pragmatists, who apparently have the upper hand at the European Commission, shake their heads in despair at the lack of understanding of realities on the ground. They argue that unless Germany abandons this maximalist route, the chance of agreement on a swift and early new treaty will have been lost. Is this "awantura"?


I learnt the above word from an article by Timothy Garton Ash: it's apparently Polish for "a big, loud but secretly enjoyable quarrel".

The professor of European studies at Oxford is trying to provoke a debate about setting out values which Europe can unite behind. You can take part here. He settles for freedom, peace, law, prosperity, diversity and solidarity. Those writing the official EU version of this, the Declaration of Berlin, are having trouble agreeing how much to put in about, Yes, you guessed it, the constitution.


People often talk to me about my "blog" but of course this is really a diary, a weekly article.

Now my editors have asked if I want to turn it in to a real blog, something written whenever something pops into my head, as opposed to appearing regularly each Thursday morning.

I have very mixed feelings about this. Every journalist loves the thrill of the instant, and online is about as instant as it gets. And the rush to immediate judgement is part of the job. My day-to-day life is filled with decisions about how to squeeze complex stories into two-and-a-half minutes... and arguing when the TV bulletins want to lop 30 seconds off it. It takes most people two minutes to order a pizza, let alone explain the history and current status of, say, the constitution.

So it is really enjoyable to be allowed, once a week, to let initial impressions marinate in my head for a bit, to be modified by later conversations, to leisurely bash out a few notes over the weekend, to tinker with the text on a Tuesday and polish it a bit more a few hours later.

I am not pompously claiming that this diary is filled with wonderful prose or stunning insights, just that it might be worse without the reflection. Perhaps I am just saying I am not sure a blog would allow me to be as verbose as I would wish. What do you think about this, and the merits of blogs in general?

Please use the post form below to comment on any of the issues raised in the diary.

Funny how politicians without power love referendums but the ones in power always hate them. If it's a single question, ie do we swap the pound for the euro or the Queen for a republic, then a referendum is the perfect tool. On the other hand if it's a treaty we have six hundred plus MPs in parliament who should have time to read it, understand it, then have a free vote on it.
Simon, London

'It is regarded as a foregone conclusion the Irish will be tiresomely democratic'?? This is again an example of English xenophobia, a rather rich and ironic statement from a country that still refrains from actually joining the EU properly. Content to to reap the benefits of being in the EU, trade-wise, political cover etc, but not sufficiently pro-European enough to join the monetary union. So why knock Ireland for expressing our own constitutional right to decide on something at a national level, especially a burning issue such as this? I think Ireland stands as an example to many in the European project, a leading light in expansion and integration and very much pro-Europe.
Al, Ireland

National sovereignty belongs to the people, not politicians. Any handing over of sovereignty should be put to a referendum. Everything in the rejected constitution handed over more British sovereignty, with the exception of changing the QMV voting system (and only this because the QMV change was in the UK's favour). So logically, unless the latest rumoured "de minimus" text is on QMV voting changes only, it should be put to a referendum in the UK.

Furthermore, 85% of the original rejected text contained the Nice and Maastricht treaties. So these treaties (ie the whole "project") were also rejected by the Dutch and French people, and would also surely have been rejected by the British people too if we had been given the chance.

So it's now surely time that all the peoples of Europe were given an opportunity to vote on the whole "project" - those peoples who want to federate their countries can then go ahead on a proper democratic basis, and those who do not can simply revert to EEA status like Norway.
Mark, Edinburgh Scotland

The bottom line is one of whose law should govern the UK. Ultimately, in our country, our law should always be above EU law. This constitution will place it the other way around and that is simply not on. The EU was only supposed to be a trading alliance. It is now rapidly developing into an all-encompassing super-state and the majority of British people do not want this.
andy williams, holyhead

I do not understand how the EU discussion has moved on to constititutions and federal structures before agreeing and delivering on free trade. And I like the diary. Blogs always seem so self-indulgent.
Bill Young, Arlesheim, Switzerland

Mark Mardell makes some very good points. However, the real reason that people in the UK have very little confidence in the EU and the constitution, in particular, is that they see faceless, corrupt bureaucracy for its own sake. We have witnessed in other countries, where the people vote but the politicians don't get the result they wanted. The next step is just to keep repeating the process until the electorate eventually give in, and give the politicians their way. There is something about this process that just rubs people in this country the wrong way. Our own political classes do not help when they continually deny that any new treaty will wash away our own laws, but after this is signed by an embarrassed PM, we find that this was the case after all. It does not fill us with great confidence to think that Mr Blair is more concerned about his "legacy" to us, than our nation's freedoms.
John Neill, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland, UK

The diary format is enjoyable and newsworthy, as you write on the problems of the European Constitution. I think every thinking voter in every country should read The Great Deception for a realistic view of what the unlicensed bureaucracy is trying to impose through the use of second-hand, cast-off or failed politicians, who are power-hungry for their own benefits with neither loyalty for their own countries or for their peoples. No constitution should be imposed on any country without a democratically held free vote of referendum.
Christopher Rowe, Itajai, Brazil - (expat - UK)

I would like to see greater use of the referendum in both domestic & European politics. I am committed to the European ideal and would welcome a well-thought-out constitution covering basic freedoms, rights and responsiblities of both individuals and states within the Union.
Megan, Cheshire UK

Look, let's be frank... it's RIDICULOUS to ask millions of ordinary citizens to give their considered view on something as complex as the EU's constitutional arrangements. It's accepted these days that "democracy" - vital though it is - has limits: most of the time we let better-informed experts (subject to the welcome push and pull of the political process, the media and NGO lobbying) get on with running our affairs, while we - the people - have a chance to give an overall judgment every few years in an election. That's just as it should be: we don't always see what's in our own interest, and sometimes need our duly elected governments to decide on our behalf!
Angus Macdonald, Strasbourg, France

There is of course a inevitable reluctance for us brits to embrace a written constitution, it goes against a historical incremental process of change. But the realities are clear, without a simplification of rules and practices the workings of the EU with continued enlargement are doomed. The EU will become that infamous bureaucratic Leviathan so feared by the Daily Mail readers. The constitution is needed, and will clarify the future direction for Europe. The the debate must be won with education- how many of the European population are aware of what will be the impact of the constitution?
D Hills, reading

Thanks Mark, for such a detailed and well-thought out analysis. You are of course, correct, when you say it comes down to politics. The constitution would help bring about a more active and efficient EU, which is of course the last thing the UK govt wants, as it could not play the anti-EU card when necessary as it too often is. My guess is it will emerge but piecemeal, and not called a 'constitution' at all!
Richard Paterson, Dorset, UK

There is something very unsettling about an organisation which was happy to allow a referendum to be held on the EU constitution - until it returned the "wrong" result. Now they want to get their way by either changing the question that's asked, so they get the "right" result; or introducing it in small chunks in the hope that we won't notice what they're up to. I thought democracy was allowing the people to have a voice and a say in what was done. I didn't think that included subverting the process if the people didn't happen to give you the answer you wanted.
Geoff Harrison, London, UK

It would be even more absurd to suggest Turkish entry to EU should be put to referandum in some countries, if EU constitution will not be voted! Is it not a double standard? (Not to mention, none of the previous candidate countries were put to vote)
Dogan Fidan, Paris

Could someone explain to me why we cannot have an EU-wide referendum on a new constitution? After all, if would be silly to require every county to say yes in a referendum on a matter concerning the whole of the UK.
Chris Isbell, Southampton, European Union

How can people in the UK agree to an EU consitution when we don't have any experience of a written UK Consitution? The concept is outside our experience in this country and therefore it sounds particularly threatening for our political actions to be measured to a 'supra-constitution' which has not evolved from British historical experience. I hate to sound negative because I support the EU in it's current form and hope and expect it to continue to deepen and grow organically. For this reason I believe a piecemeal, step by step approach is the best method to gain 100% agreement to putting some of the more positive and forward looking clauses in place even if this means serial referenda.
David.V.Harrison, Ashford Middx - UK

The problem for the EU in France and the Netherlands is that they voted against the Constitution therefore to bring back any part of the Constitution would trigger a referendum as they have no mandate to introduce it in part or whole. Similarly in the UK we were promised a referendum on the Constitution therefore introducing any part of it, likewise requires a referendum.
Stephen Hollinshead, St. Ives, England

I would say that if anything that was in the proposed constitution is present in any future document, ratification of that document should be subject to a referendum in the UK. That will hopefully stop the slow creep to the point that was rejected by the French and Dutch and would have been rejected by Britain.
Dave, Cambridge, UK

Nothing wrong with referenda, although one has to wonder why they are only considered by national politicians for EU matters. Obviously, they don't want voters to have too much of a say in their own realm. The real problem is that the level of knowledge about the EU is dismal among Europeans (I very much appreciate Mark's efforts to change that). As long as this does not improve, the referenda tend to become expressions of national bias and stereotypes. I watched much of the French and Dutch refrenda coverage: The French confused enlargement with globalisation and then the single market with capitalism as such. Ultimately, they concluded that France is the greatest country and an EU not 100% modelled on France would have to be rejected. I think they missed a point or two. The Dutch followed their obsession with money and concluded that they pay too much which isn't even true if the Rotterdam effect (Member States collect import duties for non-EU goods and transfer them to Brussels) is excluded. I don't even want to think what a Polish referendum would focus on.
Ronald Grünebaum, Brussels, Belgium

The problem with referenda is that very few people actually vote on the question asked. I remember the French votes on Maastricht and the Constitution: press coverage centred on how each politician would be embarassed by a "Oui" or a "Non" and thus people voted for which politician they preferred. As you rightly point out, it is clear that in the UK the vote will centre on isolationism or "Europeanism", rather than concentrating on what's best for national and local interests. this constitution has very few points which can be regarded as controversial and none which move towards a "super state". So let the politicians do their legislative job and we will judge them by their actions at the next regional/national/EP elections.
Simon, Paris, France

The only democratic way for this is for people to vote, via a referendum. I suspect the answer is no, but that's immaterial. Give people the opportunity to have confidence in themselves, and the self seeking politicians answer their concerns. If you don't follow this mantra, eventually people revolt. Read history, you closetted rulers.
Andrew Senior, Dewsbury West Yorks

This whole constitution thing will just keep being hijacked by the anti-eu brigade who are intent on telling us all that "foreign is wrong, British is right". They seem to forget that the UK is a union, that we have a single currency in that union, that people have different democratic rights depending on where they live in that union. Oh, and within that union we have no written constitution! At least the EU is trying, even if they are getting things wrong. We as a nation could benefit in the longer term if only we as a nation can get a handle on the idea that others can sometimes have better ideas. Ok, so some things about the EU aren't right, but if we're to benefit we need to get in there and fight the good fight, not keep moaning "get us out". The world is getting smaller and countries who get involved will be the ones that win, island mentality will loose!
Alex Bailey, Corby, England

"it is regarded as a foregone conclusion the Irish will be tiresomely democratic"... Well, given any changes to the treaties require a constitutional change in Ireland and given such a change can only be ratified by referendum, then it is not just a foregone conclusion. Recent history (the Nice Treaty rejection) would indicate that whatever is agreed will be a tough sell. Anyway, the Constitution is dead, long live the Constitution. Full of necessary and innovative ideas for Europe, just a really bad name for the latest treaty: very few people want an 'EU constitution'.
Ruadhri, Dublin, Ireland

"...(or anywhere "except Ireland"... it is regarded as a foregone conclusion the Irish will be tiresomely democratic)... " Bunreacht na hEireann (the Constitution of Ireland) requires that any treaty that fetters the power of the Government to act, requires the assent of the people through a referendum. It's a legal requirement for Ireland, and not just a token nod at democracy.
Michael Mangan, Cork, Ireland

Referenda are governments' most useful tool. They can be so easily manipulated by using wording that, in effect, pushes the voter towards the answer the government wants, or, in the case of Ireland with regards to the Treaty of Nice, the government just keeps on asking the voters until they relent.
Malcolm Orton, Chelmsford, UK

If there is a new referendum I'll vote NO as the first time and for the same reason. Nowhere is there mention of what "EUROPE" stands for. It is not defined either geographically, nor historically, nor culturally. One could as well replace the word "Europe" with "Whatchamacallit" for that matter. Therefore how can I vote for something that is not identified?
Francois Thevenin, Bangkok, Thailand (Originally from France)

Has Mark Mardell ever wondered what would have happened if Tony Blair had put his decision to follow Bush into invading Iraq to a referendum ?
john s, brussels belgium

The difficulty with renegotiating the Constitution is the vast differences in opinion and reasons for adoption and rejection. On the one hand you have the "pragmatists", or as others see them, sceptics: the UK, Poland and the Czech Republic. On the other hand you have non-political pragmatists like myself who have to work in this system, and baulk at the idea of not introducing the more efficient double majority system and introducing a longer Presidency to help speed up and orient this terribly slow policy machine. You have the majority of MSs who've already adopted the text and understandably want to prevent the few difficult states from upsetting the apple cart. You have the French who want to make it more socialist (at least two of the candidates for the Presidency do) and you have those, like my colleague, who believe in the Federalist ideal. One thing I can say is that I'm glad not to be the one trying to find the answer.... Please stick to the diary! I look forward to your Thursday morning musings.
Chris, Brussels

I welcome Mark's diary notes from Europe. He needs more space on BBC News for these very informative reports. Sadly, the BBC seems to concentrate on the USA tittle-tattle far more than European real news for some reason. The suspicion in this household is editorial laziness as the US stories need little translation. Back to this week¿s diary: Suggestion - why don't all Europeans vote in a single across-counties referendum to give a clear voice of the European people? Everyone would then have an equal voice without the country politicians bullying us. Good Luck!
Bill Potter, Telford, England

When we vote in a general election we consider many things, the EU only being one. We often end up having to choose on balance and not being all that happy with any of our options. I would not want my vote, cast in a general election, to be my only input into the EU ¿debate¿. It is arguable that the EU and out relationship in/with it will massively affect all of us - and our descendants, for possibly centuries to come. It is massively more important than party politics. It impacts on each and every one of us and we need to have a decent shot at thinking about it and getting it right. It¿s not something I would feel comfortable letting politicians handle either way without direct specific input from the people on the subject. A referendum on all the important stages is what I would like to see.
Phil A, Essex.

Dear Mr. Mardell, the position you represent seems to indicate that the German politicians are idealists, to a certain point surely right, but it sounds like you're not just criticising the demand of them in the EU, it sounds like you're having problems with "the Germans" generally and I don't think a reporter should have such ambitions and should stay more neutral. Also, if it is "just" a diary, that is read by thousands of people. Indeed, a provocative diary. With kind regards
Mary, Germany

I find it disgusting that politicians are finding ways to avoid a referendum they know they are likely to lose. If a whole country doesn't want the constitution then throw the plan out and stop trying to force things on us that we don't want.
Vincent Murphy, Malaysia (expat)

This has been predicted ever since the 'NO' referenda. Anything even remotely similar to the failed 'EU constitution' should be subject to a proper referendum in England. I remember people voting to become part of something called the 'common market' - little more than free trade zone. No one has ever voted to become part of a federal state of 'Europe' that stretches as far as (soon) Turkey.
John, England

On blogging:

Brussels is not just full of bureaucrats but also some pretty good restaurants and of course there is the huge variety of beer. I think sticking to the weekly diary, with its reflection and revision, means you wouldn't have to sacrifice potential time enjoying the Belgian lifestyle to tap away to keep the blog updated regularly. Keep the diary.
Clare, Warsaw

I think you should hold a referendum on whether you put out a blog...
Ian, Lasne, Belgium

I'm happy to wait for a good quality product. There is a lot of poor quality writing in blogs or "citizen journalism" already out there online. What sets the BBC news apart is a consistently decent quality.
Nicola, Cambridge, UK

Nick Robinson's blog tends not to be verbose. However, Peston's Picks and Evanomics do tend to be more wordy. The blog format does not predicate against long posts, but does permit more timeliness. I think it depends on whether you feel that your thoughts are more valuable after taking a few days to consider them. But, if that is the case Mark, should I disregard your more immediate television and radio pieces as ill-considered? Somehow I doubt that to be the case.
graybo, East Sussex, UK

I view Nick's blog fairly regularly and enjoy it. However a more measured response (as provided in this discussion on EU constitution revival) is also very useful and helpful. I think a balance is already here between these two forums. Keep you diary as it is please.
Paul Tournoff, Lagos, Nigeria

Once a week's enough for me. There are thousands of blogs that aren't even updated every week. Without naming names, a certain Swedish Vice-President of the European Commission rarely updates her blog. Although, given the hostile tone of many replies posted there (mostly by British euro-sceptics), one can hardly blame her I suppose.
Ben, Brussels

I agree that to be able to tinker with a post for a few hours before actually committing it will result in a far more intelligent and readable piece of writing. And I can take more than two and a half minutes reading it too. As for the damned EU constitution, just look at "the right to bear arms" and see what it did for the Americans, or see what the Bible has done for Christians. What part of "no" or "non" don't they understand? Fixed rules don't work on dynamic civilisations.
eccles, Bristol UK

I miss the old New Statesman with the lead article starting on the front page and not a picture to be seen. The only colour was a beautiful deep resonant blood red in the masthead. And printed only one step up the food chain from toilet paper. In an instant world I want thoughtful, well-written and mildly witty depth. Or, a little more than skin deep. There's precious little of it. A diary. The publish them in volumes... and be damned. Best wishes.
David Whitfield, Portland, OR, USA

Blogs, on-line diaries, forums, all seem to be converging and distinctions are fading. I am an active member of a Thai web blog site, it is evolving into a forum in some areas and a diary in others. Basically one has a web presence, feel free to do as you wish with it:-)
Ian, England and Thailand

On blogs: there is a repeated tendency to think that we humans have, with one giant technological or social leap, escaped from our limitations. Blogging is another one of these supposed revolutions. I think certain iron rules apply from which technology and convention can't save you. One is that more is often less, that what you gain in quantity or speed you often lose in quality (constitution-writers, please take note). Mark, stick to your existing format. I, for one, enjoy reading it.
David Pritchard, Madrid, Spain

The problem with blogs from the respondent¿s point of view is that they appear to stutter like cars on bad petrol. Compare this with the near instant message board format (once the pre moderation stage is passed). Having said that I can see why you prefer a diary format, as it appears to give the writer opportunity to add more substance to content when compared for example to the R4 PM blog.
Andrzej, Cardiff, Wales

I agree with your thoughts on the more measured and considered approach of a longer weekly article. I am a teacher and these articles are invaluable for me and my students. Please keep the format the same as I really enjoy reading your thoughts.
Julian Sykes , Guildford

I much prefer your diary format. I am too busy to read hastily written blogs, but do appreciate well written , 'balanced' articles. ie ones that I generally agree with!
Antony Butcher, Warwick England

Given that blog is short for weblog, would the shotened version of newslog be slog? Whenever I wanted to I could read Mark Mardell's slog. Wonderful!
Andrew Thorne, Wavre, Belgium

About the blog, could you not compromise? Change the format to a blog, but keep the thursday 'diary', and have shorter more 'blog-like' entries in between with breaking news, and get people to comment on the blog entries. Then, you could build the blog feedback into thursday's articles, adding more detail or analysis.
Ben, Nottingham, UK

I think your weekly reflections on the workings of the EU and life "sur le continent" are more valuable than instant blogging. We already have much immediate news and analysis and we need this thoughtful, sometimes wry, look at the news behind the news, in the traditions of From our Own Correspondent.
Steve Emmott, Brussels, Belgium

Please stay with the diary and don't dumb down
Frank Bardgett, Boat of Garten, Scotland

Keep the diary. Your points about reflection and revision are valid. Besides, it's more pleasant to look forward to a leisurely Thursday pleasure than to read short daily blurbs. For that I have the Europe and World headline pages.
Wayne Tuttle, Slovenia

Keep the diary - more considered and reasoned approach compared with a hit and miss blog. Also, know to look on a Thursday morning for something interesting but might not see a blog entry for days.
Richard Wallis, Caterham, UK

The real question is about the quality of the reporter, not so much the format. I would happily read BOTH the Mardell diary (considered) and a Mardell blog (reactive). Can Mark agree to double-up please?
Peter Shaw, Sunninghill, UK

Stick with the weekly page for the reasons you've stated. As much as I often disagree with your slant on things, particularly when it comes to my adopted country of Croatia (a recent scurrilous piece about old Ustashe men for example), I'd much prefer a thought-through prose than a "shock horror" explosion of breaking news which later, with hindsight, turns out to be mostly knee-jerk derived garbage. Please don't forget that your pronouncements are read as 'the view of the British' by many foreign observers. You may not like that idea but you're stuck with it.
Paul Fischer, Varazdin, Croatia.

Could you not do both? Instant thoughts can be very interesting and more thought provoking due to their un-moderated position. It is also good though to have well considered thought to put alongside the kneejerk reaction. Indeed, putting into words why and how the kneejerk reaction has matured upon greater consideration could be truly instructive! We, the great unwashed might even learn how to interpret the instant reaction better. Oh yes, do tell politicians to do the same!
Bill Tucker, Portsmouth

Started liking u'r diary very much!! not sure if i will read the blog as regularly as the diary (like u mentioned "it is once a week").
dush, India

I certainly prefer considered comment and opinion based on knowledge. Blogs and forums are often the opposite. The non professional writers like myself are so keen to get their view across before someone else that they rattle off any thing that comes into their head. It is pub opinion with no capital letters, little punctuation and appalling spelling. There I go falling into the trap.
Charles Crisp, France

Go to a blog Mark - then it'd be a lot easier for us to find you! You'd have your own web address and RSS feed. Plus - just because you have a blog, doesn't mean you can't still take time to do it right/your way. A blog is what you make it.

I agree with the weekly diary idea rather than the blog. As you say, the diary gives a chance for more considered thought to have percolated through the instant reactions and opinions.
Phil Jolley, Camarma de Esteruelas, Spain

Reflection is good. Spontaneity is for newsmakers, not always for observers.

you carry on writing a diary. there is enough unthoughtout "news" pervating the internet already
Robert Farnes, Keighley, UK

You dont have to give up the prose because you start a blog. With a blog you can have an idea on Monday refine it on Tuesday, argue against the idea on Wednesday come to a conclusion on Thursday and present a coherant arguement on Friday. Or just ramble on. Just a thought.
Ian Williamson, Kortrijk Belgium or Heysham England

Mark Firstly, a good article--keep us updated on Europe. Stick with the Thursday solution. There is too much 'instant reaction' on the web--how does anyone read it all?
Michael Holmes, Oxford, England

I very much enjoy the weekly diary and would be sorry to see it turned into a blog. I am of an age that has seen the EU grow from an idea to the size it is today. I enjoy the insights that Mark writes about, not because they are politically incisive, ( well not all the time) but because they allow me to see the issues in the whole of Europe not just the ones that are pushed by the media and politicians. To have the thoughts and comments of one who lives and travels in the EU is a great joy and I look forward each Thursday to be able to read the diary. I think that if it was a blog we would lose much that makes it so enjpoyable and informative. Thank you Mark.
Bob Elcome, Bristol UK

Stick with the diary Mark, we need all the depth we can get. Blogging is largely for the inarticulate and very, very few of them are ever read and almost none of them are worth it anyway. They are devalued.
Brian Hope, Huntingdon, England

Horses for courses. Blogs are great for fast moving news, while your diary is the perfect vehicle for following something as ponderous as "The Constitution". I think the word "reflection" you used above sums it up, the diary is a considered piece, not a quick statement or reaction. I like the 5 minute read or listen of From Our Own Correspondent and the Diary has a similar feel. It also has the benefit of allowing you to expand on a topic over several weeks, giving the possibility of much more depth. I appreciate things like FOOC and your diary as I now live and work in Switzerland (the country of 26 states who still (very politely) wind each other up! Awantura...) I miss out on the longer more considered pieces normally associated with newsprint and the BBC news site fills a lot of the gap. "See you" next week. Dave W
Dave Walker, Zurich, Switzerland / Reading UK

stay with the weekly diary - considered comment is much valued in this instant reaction world.
paul brewer, Bristol UK

You will be favourably differentiated by continuing in diary format - soon everyone is blogging. brgds Olle
Olle, Sweden

I think that Mr. Mardell's comments on journalistic writing and reporting, with regard to the blog versus the diary, are absolutely spot on. The blog offers briskly conceived thougts in bitesized chunks which, although offering a new perspective on reporting, should not be viewed as possessing the more considered (or is that 'marinated'?) style of the longer article or diary. Please keep writing your diary Mr. Mardell, a 'Europe blog' just wouldn't be the same.
Jez Strickley, Italy

I much prefer the diary format as it allows me to plan my reading better. I am often frustrated at blogs which either have not been updated since I last took a peek or have been inundated by multiple entries. Another pet peeve about blogs is that they are often short and, presumably, lacking in depth. This is something one is not used to on the BBC website, in general.
Matthew, Tokyo

Keep the diary Mark. Instant "news" is everywhere but well informed opinion is hard to come by. I feel that we all lose out as a result of the focus on form rather than substance. There's insufficient reward to devote space to everything, but some things deserve more time and attention.

Skip the blog. Stay focused on thought that reflects reflection. That is the stuff that's worth reading.
Kitt J, Kauai USA

This is great stuff, esp your even-handed comments on the constitutional debate. I personally wd resist the blog temptation: a polished weekly diary on which you have reflected seems to me more valuable, and surely less hard on your nerves as a writer. Why not ask Gideon Rachman how he manages? Congratulations, meanwhile
edward steen , brussels, belgium

No: keep it weekly. Blogs suffer from journalistic indigestion.
John F James, Kilcreggan, Argyll & Bute

Go with your own instincts: you know how you work best. Blogs work for some people, a weekly diary works for others.
antifrank, London, UK

I agree with you, there are too many blogs on the net and too few reasoned articles. Your current weekly format is better.
Nick Tsivranidis, Thessaloniki, Greece

If we are to be creatures with a mind and a free will, it seems to me that reflection is a useful activity. Most beautifull and good inventions have been the result of long thoughtprocess, of rejecting many ideas and holding on to a few. The big brother mentality, in which every human fart becomes a celebrity event, seems to me annihilating our own culture and history. Therefore mr Mardell, continue to think before you write, to edit before you publish. The result will give all of us something to really think about. Hans van Seventer, filmmaker.
hans van Seventer, Aduard, The Netherlands

Much journalistic reporting isn't reporting at all it's been honed and polished over a number of hours to suit the writers ego and emotional needs. That is why a lot of what's written in newspapers is just a load of crap and not honest on the spot instant reporting and response to an event that is or has just happened. Political correctness I think it is called among other things.
Maurice de Ville, Chesterfield - England

Keep with the diary; the news is already full ebough with soundbites, reactions, and lacking analysis and thought.
David Morrison, Dublin, Ireland

Mark Mardell
Who really wants to read instant thoughts of conceited clever-dicks? PLease stick with the diary, for the reasons given in your last two paras. I read your diary (most weeks) but I would never read your blogs. PLease change your smirky bloggy grin!!!!
Alan., Tampere Finland

Hello Mark, May we encourage you to stick with the diary and not be tempted into the swanmps of the B[L]ogs. Whether you label it reflection or as we would as committed Christians - meditation/contemplation/prayer etc the need for measured judgements is still vitally necessary. The modern world is full of words but decidedly lacking in wisdom - "let your words be few" is still a good guiding axiom. Yours Eternally, Bill & Margaret Saunders
Bill Saunders, UK Worcester

Mark, stick with the diary. It gives us readers something intersting to look forward to on a weekly basis. Besides, the trend of the increasing number of blogs on the internet is rapidly approaching levels of oversaturation.
Lieven, Washington DC

My gut feeling on the blog was, 'no'. I've had a think about it... and it's still 'no'. I find your articles well rounded and presented. I don't feel any need to offer a counter argument. I understand what you are saying and feel that, at the end of the article, I have a balanced grasp of something I knew very little about when I started. This is quite unusual for me. I am constantly have to hold back from diving into an on-line discussion because I believe the journalist has not got it right, never mind the respondents. You may be able to deliver a succinct article in Blog mode, but as you doubt this, it is probably unlikely. Practice would no doubt make you better, but how many articles would we have to endure, with a stream of respondents chucking in their tuppence ha'penny, to maybe reach the same conclusions. Of course, you could ignore the respondents, but I doubt you will. I reckon you would find yourself in a Gerry Springer type role. If you are still tempted, declare you will do it for a fixed period, say one month. Then take a break and reflect... I'm still on a, 'NO'. If you give it a trial, can you really go revert to the status? The more I think about it, the more it's a 'no', but that's enough for the mo.
Richard Smith, many places

I recall reading an article by Mark Mardell in The Guardian just before he left the UK for Brussels as the BBC's Europe correspondent. In i5 he said colleagues had questioned hims as to why he wanted to reprot from the European 'graveyard' (or some such term). Well, I am glad he's gone, he has made the whole European political scene more accessible with his thoughtful and insightful coverage and that goes for his diary too. Blog? Forget it, Mark, you're above that!
D Hobbs, Teddington, UK

Please keep with the diary format. There are enough instant opinion blogs around; to read something that has been given a bit of time for reflection is a nice balance to our 'now' society.
Harry Pollit, Nottingham, UK

Please keep the diary format. They are for professionals - blogs just seem to be the refuge of amateurs
Louise Green, Carlisle, England

Mark, don't listen to them - stick to the diary.
Peter, London, UK

Diary not blog please - there are too many blogs around, mostly self-indulgent, unreadable and boring. A weekly diary stands a chance of being properly written, genuinely informative, and more enjoyable.
Tim, Singapore

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