5th Jul 2022

Commission in new communications drive

The European Commission on Wednesday (20 July) launched a new plan on how to make itself communicate better in the wake of the two rejected referendums on the EU constitution.

Calling the 50-step scheme a "pragmatic programme", communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom admitted that it would not provide a "quick fix" as a complete change of attitude is required in the commission itself.

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  • 54% of Dutch 18-24 year olds did not vote in the EU constitution referendum (Photo: European Commission)

This will mean brushing up the communications skills of officials in the large Brussels bureaucracy, as well as making sure that many different units co-ordinate the content of their policies and when they are to be made public.

In the past, the commission has been known to publish, on the same day, an anti-smoking measure, while at a different briefing a few hours later announcing EU subsidies for tobacco.

Mrs Wallstrom conceded that there was not too much new in the move - much has been said before and much appears to be common sense such as listening to citizens more - but stressed that "what is new is that we have a very clear approach [now]".

She also denied that what the commission is trying to do is put out more propaganda or spin the information so it is more palatable.

"I do not believe in spinning or propaganda", said the Swedish commissioner.

Other proposed steps include having a "citizens' summary" for all major policy proposals to come out of the bloc, a citizens' hotline service and re-organising the commission's website 'Europa', the quality of whose web pages varies enormously depending on which unit is accessed.

Engaging young people

But while these are steps for the commission to take, Mrs Wallstrom was less clear on how to make Europe more attractive to young people.

During the French referendum on the constitution at the end of May, 34 percent of 18-24 year olds did not bother to vote. In the Netherlands, three days later, the percentage was much higher still (54%).

Mrs Wallstrom said that Europe as a project for sustaining peace in Europe is no longer a factor that makes young people support the EU.

Asked about what it is that should make Europe more appealing, she suggested that the EU offer answers to issues such as globalisation.

"You will have to add how the European Union will solve today's and tomorrow's problems", said the EU's first ever communication's commissioner.


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