Thursday

15th Nov 2018

Brussels struggles with communication policy

  • Brussels is still unsure how to get its message across to ordinary people (Photo: European Commission)

Despite years of trying, Brussels is no closer to working out how to effectively communicate with EU citizens and bridge a gap that sees low voter turnout for the European elections and a largely disaffected public.

Luis Herrero-Tejedor, a Spanish conservative MEP who deals with the bloc's communication policy in the culture committee, said he has heard the same arguments and the same proposals for the past nine years.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"Absolutely nothing has changed," he said after listening to a special hearing on the ‘effectiveness of the EU's communication policy' in the European Parliament on Tuesday (8 May).

Outside experts from PR firms addressed the hearing to try and inject some professionalism into the debate and take away the navel-gazing aspect of the discussion.

Speaking in the jargon of the marketing professionals, they said that Brussels must define "exact target groups" and "tailor" its message to its audience.

Nicole Hebert from Associé said it is time to stop thinking of the European citizen as a homogenous body but rather as "multi-faceted individuals."

Too much marketing

EU communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom rejected their overtly marketing-based approach as being too facile.

"This is different from advertising or selling socks," she said noting that "it presents the ultimate challenge" as the commission struggles to disseminate accurate information in the 23 official languages on issues ranging from the number of cod in the Baltic sea, to aid in Africa through to explaining what the different institutions do.

She was backed up by Alejo Vidal-Quadras, responsible for the parliament's communication's policy, who said "we sell values" and that "we want to create European citizens."

While it has long been acknowledged that citizens feel removed from Brussels, communications issues only made it on the commission's top agenda in the wake of the political upheaval following the rejection of the constitution in two founding EU member states two years ago.

But still Ms Wallstrom, the first ever communications commissioner, says there is not enough money for her to do her job properly.

"We can talk about this until we are blue in the face [but] we need more resources," she said with a small €86.5 million put aside for communication purposes last year.

She asked MEPs, who are in charge of the bloc's purse strings, whether they really knew how many people and how much effort it took to get something up on the commission's website within a certain period of time and in all languages.

Aside from the money aspect, she believes the EU has to get more political and be controversial.

A dose of controversy

Controversy and diversity have "such a vital role to play," said the commissioner, who recently stirred the Brussels pot by openly supporting French presidential candidate Segolene Royal in her blog.

She also said that the communications policy needs a programme with "political ownership" with member states and the commission not always singing from the same hymn sheet on promoting Brussels.

Taking an example the commissioner pointed out that EU information offices were only last year opened in the UK while in some member states "you can go through school without learning anything about the European Union."

The commission itself is to publish proposals on how to communicate the EU better before the summer. The paper is expected to contain ideas on education, what the commission can do with its own audio-visual set-up as well as how to strengthen links with national parliaments.

The proposals will come just a short two years before the next European elections with MEPs anxious to avoid a repetition of 2004 which saw record low turnouts, particularly in the brand new member states to the east.

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM put Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources

Romania's data protection authority is headed by Ancuta Gianina Opre, who in 2017 was charged with abuse of office in her previous job. Last week, she threatened a €20m fine against journalists in their effort to uncover corruption.

EU to review animal welfare strategy

European Court of Auditors found there were "still some significant discrepancies between the animal welfare standards established in the EU legislation and the reality on the ground".

Opinion

Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?

Few people commented on one key point in Macron's statement: he did not justify the idea of a European army by the need to intervene in Africa, which would have been France's traditional approach. Instead, he invoked the Russian threat,

News in Brief

  1. Full text of Brexit withdrawal agreement published
  2. UK cabinet agrees Brexit deal after marathon session
  3. Czechs join other EU states in rejecting UN migration pact
  4. EU Commission to give verdict on Italy budget next week
  5. EU's Tusk is Poland's most trusted politician
  6. Finland prepares to step in for Romania on EU presidency
  7. Trump threatens tariffs on EU wine
  8. US defence chief backs Nato amid 'EU army' calls

Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army

Angela Merkel's much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament was brief and to the point. Her message: Europe is alone in the world, the EU should be more united on defence, but not on the economy.

Opinion

Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?

Few people commented on one key point in Macron's statement: he did not justify the idea of a European army by the need to intervene in Africa, which would have been France's traditional approach. Instead, he invoked the Russian threat,

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM put Orban on spot
  2. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability
  3. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal
  4. Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources
  5. EU to review animal welfare strategy
  6. Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?
  7. Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army
  8. Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us