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Information and communication strategy on the euro and EMU
Communication goes beyond information: it establishes relations and creates a dialogue with European citizens. It is not a cosmetic exercise, but a decisive factor in the political process. For that reason, the Commission is presenting a communication outlining the strategy to be implemented two years following the introduction of the euro on 1 January 2002 as the single currency.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the implementation of an information and communication strategy on the euro and the Economic and Monetary Union [COM(2004) 552 final - not published in the Official Journal].
Long before the introduction of the euro as the single currency on 1 January 2002, the Commission was aware of the importance of an information strategy on the euro. This communication outlines the strategy to be implemented two years after the introduction of the euro, in particular, with a view to:
- the enlargement of the European Union on 1 May 2004 which will expand the euro area;
- the need to consolidate the single currency by increasing public acceptance;
- greater positive perception by third countries of the EU and its economic role.
Information and communication with European citizens
The information strategy on the euro is part of the "Information and Communication Strategy of the European Union" [COM (2002)350 - not published in the Official Journal] and its implementation [COM (2004) 196 - not published in the Official Journal. It is part the overall approach to Member States' communication policy and it must add a tangible European dimension to the democratic debate in the Member States.
The aim is to increase public knowledge within and outside the EU on the working of EMU and to contribute to a smooth changeover in the Member States which adopt the euro. The Commission feels it will achieve its objectives by:
- creating public awareness and understanding of the requirements for EMU to function, for example sound public finance and coordination of economic policies;
- providing neutral and factual information that will enhance the citizens' understanding of the euro;
- contributing to a smooth changeover in the Member States which adopt the euro;
- providing the media, economic agents and policy-makers in third countries with the information they need concerning EMU.
Role of the key players: Member States and European institutions
The Commission bases its communication strategy on decentralised activities involving the sources of information closest to the public. The information activities must reflect the culture, language and concerns of the citizens. The Commission feels that it is mainly for the Member States to define and carry out the activities because they are the best placed to create information tools and products and to encourage the regional and local authorities, public interest services and civil society networks to relay information.
The Commission's role will consist of:
- ensuring consistency of the messages;
- stimulating and coordinating the communication activities of the Member States and civil society organisations;
- proposing a range of information tools and implementing specific actions;
- organising and supporting transnational communication initiatives and information activities in third countries;
- managing its own centralised activities such as conferences, information products and public relations, regular assessments, etc...
The Commission, Member States and the European Central Bank (ECB) will coordinate their communication activities. Partnerships between the Commission and Member States, which are allocated a considerable part of the Community budget, can be concluded in one of three forms:
- Strategic partnerships: the Member State and the Commission agree on the details of a communication programme and the division of tasks between the two partners. The two partners each pay the cost of the activities they undertake and thus, there is no direct financial link between the Commission and the Member State;
- Management partnerships: the Member State manages the whole campaign on behalf of the Commission in accordance with the EU's Financial Regulation;
- Ad hoc partnerships: the Commission contributes to expenses incurred by the Member State.
Interinstitutional cooperation between the Commission, the Council and the Parliament will be organised by an interinstitutional group on information.
In order to facilitate the setting up of partnerships with the new Member States, the Commission makes provision in this Communication for dividing the latter into groups according to progress made towards EMU as assessed on the basis of the convergence reports. The adoption of the single currency by a country following accession implies that detailed conditions will be met, and the Commission will adapt its communication strategy to the timetable for the future introduction of the euro.
The European institutions and the new Member States must agree on objectives, communication strategies, target groups, messages, media, etc. as well as financial aspects and monitoring. The Commission makes provision for twinning programmes between the old and new Member States, the use of information relays, the organisation of conferences and seminars etc.
Meeting the public's needs
Since 1 January 2002, the Commission has organised opinion polls on the introduction of euro coins and notes. The following conclusions emerged:
- the euro area: four years after the introduction of euro coins and notes, European citizens are now largely at ease with their new currency. However, the Commission feels that additional efforts must be made to explain the architecture of EMU, the reasons why certain economic policies are necessary and the benefits deriving from the single currency;
- Denmark and the United Kingdom: the two countries enjoy an "opt-out". In these countries, the Commission bases its communication policy on the fact that it is for the national governments to decide whether or not to apply to adopt the euro;
- Sweden: following the no vote in the referendum on the euro in September 2003, the Swedish Government is not planning any specific information activities. The Commission's Representation in Sweden will provide brochures and practical information.
- in the new Member States: the question of participation in the euro and EMU is directly linked to accession, and seen as a consequence. The Commission encourages the implementation of a communication strategy similar to the one adopted previously for the introduction of the euro. During the first phase, the changeover to the euro is placed in the broader context of the history of European integration. In the second phase, governments, banks and large undertakings will be encouraged to start preparing themselves quickly for the introduction of the single currency. In the last phase, information campaigns will become more intensive and larger-scale. They will target the general public and be adapted to the specific needs of different population groups e.g. the elderly, young people, the disabled, the economically disadvantaged, etc. Opinion polls show that citizens have mixed feelings about the introduction of the euro in their countries. However, respondents are aware of the practical advantages of the euro but they wish to be more fully informed on the matter. Extensive information campaigns should overcome hesitations in connection with the euro.
- Non-member countries: a survey [PDF ] conducted by the Commission via its delegations shows a growing awareness of the euro. The Commission is therefore basing its communication policy on the stability of EMU and the benefits of the euro and the use of the euro internationally, etc.
The Commission is aware that the general public needs up-to-date information. The communication strategy is both a multimedia and multidisciplinary instrument: publications on paper, leaflets, Internet, CD-ROM, local information tools (info-bus, exhibitions, information evenings etc.) conferences, seminars, television, radio, etc.