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The communication strategy on enlargement

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1) OBJECTIVE

To summarise the activities carried out within the framework of the communication strategy on enlargement and to set out guidelines for the future.

2) ACT

Report from the Commission to the Council of 5 June 2002 - Explaining Europe's Enlargement [COM(2002)281 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

3) SUMMARY

This report is based on the idea that an enlargement of the present scale requires a communication strategy to keep citizens of the Union and the candidate countries informed, ensure their participation in the process and win their support.

For these reasons, in May 2000 the European Commission launched its communication strategy for enlargement. This strategy explains enlargement and its advantages to citizens of the present Member States and the candidate countries. It stresses, inter alia, that all of the participants stand to gain from the process since it unites Europe and extends peace, prosperity and security to the entire continent.

Responsibility for implementation of the communication strategy lies largely with the representations and delegations of the Commission in the candidate countries and in the present Member States. Representations and delegations establish partnerships with information networks and centres, civil society organisations and national, regional and local authorities. The Commission's Directorate-General for Enlargement is responsible for coordinating the implementation of the strategy, producing information products for use in the strategy and managing the information contained on the website.

Initially, implementation of the strategy involved concentrating on specific groups; only then did the strategy focus more directly on the general public.

The activities carried out within the context of the strategy encompass public debates, seminars, conferences, research projects, brochures, cultural events as well as collaboration with the media (especially television).

The state of public opinion influences the way in which the Commission manages its communication strategies. The following elements have an impact on the strategy for enlargement:

  • in the candidate countries, the enthusiasm aroused by the prospect of accession is not as strong today as it was in 1989;
  • issues linked to the accession negotiations are at present causing the greatest changes in public opinion in the candidate countries;
  • in the Member States, the level of knowledge about the enlargement process and the candidate countries is not yet sufficient;
  • citizens in regions that border on the candidate countries are more like to harbour concerns about enlargement;
  • many people in both present and future Member States feel that they are not well informed.

In this final phase of the accession negotiations, it is important to provide citizens with better information on the issues surrounding enlargement. The people of the Member States must be better informed of the candidate countries. More needs to be done to explain the positive results achieved, particularly those concerning Phare, Ispa and Sapard as well as the economic and political reform.

Efforts should also focus on informing citizens of the candidate countries about the process.

The next steps in the strategy

Cooperation with governments:

  • the governments are responsible for explaining enlargement to the citizens. The Commission will limit its contribution to developing partnerships with them, providing the necessary information and stimulating debate;
  • the Member States, the Commission and the European Parliament should cooperate in the framework of the communication strategy;
  • the governments of the candidate countries must cooperate.

Cooperation with civil society: the communication strategy must involve all levels of society. More work is needed with the media.

Greater clarity and openness: the Commission will improve the on-line information on the accession negotiations, the pre-accession strategy and the candidate countries.

A continuous commitment to information: the communication measures will continue even after accession with a view to ensuring a smooth transition.

Referenda in the candidate countries: since accession referenda will take place in most candidate countries, public opinion has a key role to play in the ratification of the accession treaties. The strategy must be flexible in order to take account of the topics to be dealt with at that time in each candidate country.

4) IMPLEMENTING MEASURES

5) FOLLOW-UP WORK

This summary is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document.

Last updated: 31.07.2002
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