AER’s “Subsidiarity is a word” movement is recruiting a new leader to replace Subsidiarity Man, its unlikely suit-and-tie “superhero”
Strasbourg (F)/ Brussels (B), 16th June 2009
In what is certain to be a European first, employment websites in Brussels and across Europe are this week carrying a vacancy notice for the post of “Superhero”.
The vacancy has been issued by the Assembly of European Regions’ (AER), Europe’s largest network of regional authorities and creators of “Subsidiarity is a word”, a movement securing recognition of the word in major dictionaries and spell-checker applications (notably Microsoft Word) around the world. Subsidiarity is the principle that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the citizen.
AER’s movement has been led by an unlikely suit-and-tie superhero, “Subsidiarity Man”, whose lobbying efforts and publicity stunts have brought worldwide attention to a word mentioned in the EU’s proposed Lisbon Treaty 30 times but largely unknown outside political and legal circles.
“It’s not easy promoting a clumsy, six-syllable word devoid of all sex appeal,” says the movement’s outgoing Subsidiarity Man, AER spokesman Richard Medic. “But considering the importance to democracy of the principle it represents, bringing the word to the wider public is well worth the effort.”
For Subsidiarity Man, the effort has been considerable. Last year, Medic attempted to scale a building in Brussels to hang a huge “Subsidiarity is a word” banner facing the offices of the European Commission. That effort led to his administrative arrest and imprisonment after Belgian police were wrongly tipped off that the extreme climber posed a security threat to the Commission.
In another stunt, Subsidiarity Man set a new world record for the most people – several thousand – chanting the word at one time as they watched him jump from the famous Mostar Old Bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina. For that effort he was briefly hospitalised with a cracked vertebra.
“The job isn’t just about the publicity stunts,” explains Medic. “We’ve been targeting very diverse forums across Europe, speaking to different audiences in the regions, working with institutional partners, mobilising supporters, and generally ‘spreading the word’ at every opportunity.”
Explaining the decision to outsource, in effect, the leadership of AER’s movement, AER president Michèle Sabban explains: “Subsidiarity is all about decentralising decision-making and initiating change from the ground up. So what better way to put that principle into practice than to decentralise the movement responsible for promoting it?”
“We’ve observed how centralised European campaigns, often endowed with more money than sense, are prone to spectacular failure. AER’s movement, despite its shoestring budget, has continued to grow and have an impact because we’ve mobilised supporters on the ground. Hiring a new leader and ‘superhero’ is just a natural progression in keeping the movement relevant and sustainable,” Ms Sabban says.
AER’s vacancy notice calls for a creative, dynamic and enthusiastic spokesperson for the principle of subsidiarity, bringing fresh ideas and energy to the movement’s lobbying efforts and taking the awareness campaign to new and diverse audiences. The deadline for applications is 7 August 2009.
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