In Slovakia, only one out of eight referendums has ever been successful, and this was the one about joining the European Union [EU] in 2003.
Thanks to European integration, Slovakia has received many opportunities as well as funding, and has gained an unprecedented level of development, with the standard of living greatly increasing. Naturally, those initial, over-optimistic expectations slowly began to fade. At the end of the first decade, it was clear that the pro-European Slovaks needed to defend the status-quo and try to balance the constant campaign of disinformation. The leitmotif of Russian propaganda obviously amplified the division — “Us = Slovaks” and “Them = bad EU”.
There is a saying: “Russian communication strategists are like an evil doctor; they are capable of diagnosing you, but they will use that diagnosis to make you more ill.” The problem with involving Slovak citizens in decision-making in Brussels was real. Brussels seemed to many to be far-far-away and the processes happening there were hard to grasp. So, in the end, people were not interested in finding out about them. The pro-Russian narratives, when they arrived, easily built on existing prejudices and fear.
The most recent European Parliament election in 2019 was an opportunity for us to create an educational exhibition, as a small effort to support Slovakian EU-membership. The project team consisted of creatives based in Nová Cvernovka, along with lots of help from Zuzana Gabrižová of Euractiv, who provided us with most of the information we needed.
Our main goal was to portray the message of inclusion, something like: “We, Slovaks, are in the EU together with other nations and are co-deciding how everything evolves.”
The exhibition had a few quasi-independent modules, intended to provide different perspectives. The visual style, together with its intentionally misspelled title, reflected the discourse of users on social platforms and the overuse of emojis. Each nation in the EU was referenced with a specific emoji, citing popular international prejudices in a humorous way.
The timeline of EU pre-history, the constitution, and growth was accompanied by a time-lapse animation showing centuries of redrawing State borders on the European continent.
Last, but not least, was an installation by graphic artist Matúš Maťátko, inspired by the popular parable of the Slavic King Svätopluk, teaching his three sons a lesson on unity. Whereas one twig can be broken easily, it is much harder to break three twigs that are bound together. Going further and applying the concept to the EU, this would involve trying to break 27 twigs at once (referencing the total number of member countries)!
To see the exhibition contents in Slovak, download the PDF — for educational and personal use only.
This is the shortened version of the article. Click here for the full version.
Each nation of the EU was referenced with a specific emoji and an underlying sense of humor, citing popular international prejudices. The relationships chart was made to clarify relationships and competences in the quite complex decision-making and creating of the European legislation.author: Branislav Matis, Boris Meluš, Peter Líška
The timeline of the EU pre-history, constitution and growth and time-lapse animation of “redrawing” the borders of the European continent states. Statistics of major war conflicts (and truces) between current members of EU from 1600 BC to present. Foto © Michal Líner.author: Brano Matis