12th Nov 2019

Brussels ups battle for better EU communication

  • It is a "major" but "realistic" policy, says Ms Wallstrom (Photo: European Community, 2006)

The European Commission will on Wednesday (3 October) publish an overhaul of its communications strategy, representing a substantial rethink after years of turning a blind eye to the impact of EU policies on citizens.

Communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom aims to move from the current "totally ad hoc" approach to "creating political ownership" for what Europe stands for.

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

One of the basic proposals in the strategy is to get both MEPs and member states to agree on communication priorities each year - until now Brussels' approach to communication has been piecemeal and fragmented.

According to Ms Wallstrom, common issues for next year could include climate change, energy, communicating the new Reform Treaty and mobilising voters for the 2009 elections.

Ideally the Swedish politician would like to see average turnout for the European elections in two years time of "over 50 percent" - as a result of her new communications policy.

It is currently around 45% on average and reached only around 30 percent in some member states in 2004, when the last European elections took place.

Ms Wallstrom proposes beefing up EU representations in the member states – making them more than just "storage for brochures"; setting up European political foundations and developing a new internet strategy to promote debate about Europe among citizens.

The move comes as a fresh survey by Tomorrow's Europe shows that 87.9% of Europeans have either "never" or only "just a few times" discussed EU matters with citizens from other EU countries.

But despite talk at many levels about the need for better communication, something that became a hot Brussels topic after the shock EU constitution 'No' votes in France and the Netherlands in 2005, the EU's next treaty is not set to be its best example of transparency.

A mini treaty

Likely to be agreed by the end of this year, the new Reform Treaty is a dense maze of protocols, footnotes and cross-referencing and is likely to remain a mystery for most EU citizens.

Responding to this criticism, Ms Wallstrom says she will produce a "consolidated version" that "will be more accessible."

The commission version would "focus on content" and "what it means for citizens."

But there is a limit to what the commission can do without a legal basis for communication.

Ms Wallstrom would like an article "acknowledging the citizens' right to information" written into the new treaty.

She pressed for one during a treaty meeting last month but admits she is unlikely to get anywhere.

Without it she says, the commission will continue to remain open to charges of "EU propaganda."

However, her paper does press member states to do more to teach people about the European Union.

"Young people at school should learn the basic facts about the EU," says the paper.

"We are just pointing it out [in the communications strategy]," says the commissioner, noting that education remains a national issue.

Proper education would stop the "blame game" of national ministers holding Brussels responsible for unpopular decisions while taking credit for popular EU decisions, believes Ms Wallstrom.

EU learns perils of viral communication

The European Commission has pulled a video clip meant to promote the benefits of enlargement but seen by several viewers as being xenophobic.

Far-right Vox celebrates, as Spain left without majority

Although the governing Socialists Party (PSOE) won the most seats at Sunday's elections, the political deadlock continues with a deeply-fragmented scenario, in which the far-right Vox party is in a strong position while the centre has become irrelevant.

Can Sunday's election end Spain's endless deadlock?

Uncertainty surrounding this weekend's Spanish election - the fourth in four years - is rising, as polls suggest that the outcome of Sunday's vote could be as inconclusive April's election. Thousands of police are on the streets of Barcelona.

New Romanian commissioner completes line-up, bar UK

Ursula von der Leyen has chosen Alina Valean to be Romania's new commissioner. She will get the transport portfolio, putting an end to speculation that Hungary might lose the enlargement portfolio.

Belgium's political deadlock is complete

After 163 days the Belgian government formation is not going anywhere. The King needs to be more creative than ever in trying to find a way out.

News in Brief

  1. Three new commissioner-designates pass legal scrutiny
  2. ECJ: EU countries must label Israeli settlement products
  3. Belgian asylum centre set on fire
  4. Xi Jingping in Athens promises new investment
  5. Farage's Brexit Party will not stand in Tory-held seats
  6. British founder of Syrian 'White Helmets' found dead
  7. Eight member states ask for EU aviation tax
  8. EU allocates €55m humanitarian aid to Sudan

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. New commissioners clear 'conflict of interests' hurdle
  2. Israeli labelling ruling lets consumers make choice
  3. What does Macron really want on Western Balkans?
  4. Far-right Vox celebrates, as Spain left without majority
  5. EU 'climate bank' won't rule out carbon capture
  6. New hearings for the von der Leyen commission This WEEK
  7. Bosnia wants explanation for Macron's 'time-bomb' remark
  8. MEPs slam Commission over common charger delay

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us