Tuesday

19th Nov 2019

Brussels to educate Ireland on EU realities

  • Commissioner Margot Wallstrom says the citizen's right to know should be enshrined in the EU Treaty (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission plans to help the Irish government communicate "Europe" better to citizens after June's shock No vote on the Lisbon treaty, with a new inter-institutional agreement to pull together the PR efforts of the main EU institutions.

"It's not about the European Commission interfering with the procedures and referenda on the Treaty, but it is investing in trying to correct the situation where so many people said they didn't know anything about the EU, or didn't know enough to take a position when they were asked," communication commissioner Margot Wallstrom said on Wednesday (22 October) in Strasbourg.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Ms Wallstrom plans to sign a "memorandum of understanding" on launching a new communication "management project" in Ireland when she visits Dublin on 13 to 14 November.

The one year partnerships - already up and running in Germany, Hungary and Slovenia with eight other EU states about to sign up - see the commission provide EU literature, journalist training, school manuals and other civic education programmes.

One concrete project in Germany was "Guess who is going back to school," in which about 500 German officials paid visits to their former schools, explaining to pupils what their job is within the EU institutions.

The commissioner on Wednesday also signed an inter-institutional agreement between the European Parliament, commission and Council to co-ordinate the three institutions' communication efforts.

She said the move was not designed to create a "propaganda machine" but to support the fundamental democratic principle of the right to know. "It is the first time we have this framework after heavy resistance from member states," the commissioner explained.

The new agreement foresees co-ordinating future communication efforts on common priorities, such as the 2009 European elections, energy and climate change and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

It is also designed to avoid situations where both the parliament and the commission organise events or print leaflets on the same topic without knowing what the other is doing.

Co-ordination will be provided by the Interinstitutional group on information (IGI) comprised of Ms Walstrom on behalf of the commission, French minister Jean Pierre Jouyet on behalf of the European Council and the vice-president of the European Parliament, Spanish conservative MEP Alejo Vidal-Quadras.

IGI will not have its own budget, but will draw from the coffers of the three institutions.

Irish public was misinformed

Going back to the Irish referendum on the Lisbon treaty, Ms Wallstrom said the public debate included a lot of "emotional arguments" and "disinformation," such as the idea that by voting Yes, people would have to send their children to an "EU army."

"The EU uses too much bureaucratic language, too much of a jargon impenetrable to normal people. There is no need for emotional arguments either, but for a factual language that people can understand," she explained.

Asked what would be the outcome of a pan-European referendum on the Lisbon treaty - as suggested by some Irish campaigners - Ms Wallstrom stressed that it is "the ultimate challenge" from a communication point of view to hold any referendum on a complex legal text.

"Whatever you do, you won't have in the end everybody reading a 400-page document," she said. "That's what MEPs are being paid for."

Opinion

Communicating Europe together

If people are not adequately informed about the policies their governments are signing up to, then the EU risks generating a crisis of legitimacy, communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom writes, after signing a joint declaration on communicating Europe with the other EU major institutions.

New commissioners clear 'conflict of interests' hurdle

The parliament's legal affairs committee narrowly gave the green light to France's Thierry Breton - with some MEPs critical of the candidate's links to IT firm Atos. Meanwhile, Brussels still waits for a UK commissioner.

EU parliament quietly keeps visitors' wi-fi data

The European Parliament is retaining the data of everyone who uses their wi-fi network, including journalists and visitors, and providing access to police in case of investigations.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary's new commissioner approved by MEPs
  2. Balkan coal power plants fail to meet emissions targets
  3. Belarus vote: zero opposition candidates elected
  4. Germany: Tehran should hold dialogue with protesters
  5. US ex-diplomat: Trump's 'historical mistake' on EU
  6. France's MoDem finance director indicted on EP funds
  7. Cyprus hopes for reunification talks in December
  8. Russian link to €406m crypto disappearance

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Column

Why the EU can't do security and defence

What if the EU can't guarantee European security? In times when US physical presence does not make up for its mental absence, the question got urgent.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us