Information strategy for the euro
To recall the very high priority that needs to be given to communication and information activities, so as to prepare all citizens for the move to the single currency and to encourage and assist the economic and financial community, both public and private, to prepare and set in train the procedures necessary for the move to the euro.
Commission communication of 6 February 1998 on the information strategy for the euro [COM (98) 39 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The successful introduction of the single currency depends on two main areas:
- the technical preparations necessary throughout the economy;
- preparing all citizens to understand, accept and use the euro.
These are the two priority aspects of a communication strategy for the euro.
Much work in the field of communication has already been done by the national and European public authorities and by various socio-economic groups. The following are examples of Community actions:
- "The euro, one currency for Europe", an element in the PRINCE programme (information programme for the European citizen);
- the EURO area on the EUROPA Internet server.
Several Member States have also launched large-scale communication activities involving television and the mass distribution of information materials.
Similarly, the major business federations and many banks have already circulated extremely detailed information booklets on the introduction of the euro to their members and customers.
This first stage in the communication process has enabled three major objectives to be attained:
- the certainty of the changeover to the single currency and its irreversibility are now acknowledged;
- all the key players have begun the preparations necessary for the introduction of the euro;
- the euro now has an image (notes, coins and symbol).
One main lesson can be drawn from this first stage: in order to be fully effective, information activity must use the information multipliers and concentrate on providing practical information at grass-roots level.
The euro communication strategy should now be built around three crucial periods:
- 2 May 1998: the announcement of the Member States which are qualified to adopt the single currency will constitute a major historic and media event which will create a very heavy demand for information;
- the 1st January 1999 will have to be used to shift the information effort into a higher gear at a time when the public and everyone involved in economic activity will be showing a great deal of interest and will be highly receptive;
- an information campaign with major coverage should be planned for 2001, just before euro notes and coins are actually introduced and national currencies withdrawn.
Communication on the euro must be guided by the principle of subsidiarity (so that all citizens find information about their concerns at grass-roots level) and managed under a partnership:
- partnership with the Member States, which makes it possible to devise a message and instruments that are tailored to national cultures and structures;
- partnership with information multipliers, which target their communication and whose task it is to distribute practical and specialised information.
The Commission's action will be organised along the following lines:
- providing information, basic material and technical support for the media and for specialised audiences;
- taking part in the framing and implementation of national communication plans for the euro through the conclusion of part-financing agreements with the Member States;
- ensuring that information activities on the euro are consistent across the Community;
- encouraging and taking part in cross-border activities, and information and communication activities on the euro intended for non-member countries.
So far, information activities have been targeted on the financial sector, large firms and government departments. All of them are actively engaged in preparations. The communication effort must now be directed to new priority target groups: the general public, small and medium-sized enterprises, local and regional authorities, elected representatives, civil servants and non-member countries.
All the available media will have to be used actively:
- radio and television, which are particularly effective tools for mass communication with the general public;
- brochures and leaflets, for which the public demonstrates steady interest;
- the Internet and modern methods of communication, which enable information to be disseminated more and more effectively and economically;
- systems for providing direct and swift answers to the questions asked by members of the public (telephones, fax numbers, electronic mail, etc.);
- tools for communicating at grass roots level, such as organised travelling exhibitions or "eurobuses".
Experience has shown how difficult it is to devise tools or messages on the euro, which are likely to have the same impact in all Member States and on all types of audience. A few common principles should guide the communication strategy for the euro: the importance of disseminating practical, concrete information, of contributing to a climate that enables the general public to understand and accept the euro, and of assessing the impact on opinion of action taken.