Communicating Europe in partnership
Informed dialogue and debate are vital to maintaining a healthy European democracy and the Commission cannot do this alone: it needs the support of the other institutions and the Member States.
Communication from the Commission of 3 October 2007 to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Communicating Europe in partnership [COM(2007) 568 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission has outlined a number of measures in this Communication to improve the way the EU informs and listens to the public. They are the result of the extensive White Paper consultation, launched in February 2006, which has since then prompted hundreds of responses.
Cohesive and comprehensive communication
The Commission does a lot of different things related to communication and these activities are carried out by different departments. For this to happen, they use a lot of different tools, including audiovisual media, the internet, the written press, publications, events and information relays. But they need to be brought together. All the players concerned must communicate on EU policies effectively: the Spokespersons' Service, Commission officials, the Member States and the Commission Delegations in Non-EU Member Countries.
To involve citizens in the debate on Europe, the first thing the Commission needs to do is go local by:
- having extra communication staff at the Representations in the Member States and regional offices. The Representations are responsible for promoting a European debate at national level. They also organise visits from Commissioners and supply information to journalists. They can also present Community initiatives to the general public on the day of their adoption;
- renewing the Europe Direct network in the 27 Member States and improving its geographical coverage;
- coordinating the numerous and diverse information and assistance networks covering Europe, such as EURES, SOLVIT, the Euro-Info-Centres and the Innovation Relay Centres;
- creating European Public Spaces. As a "meeting place" for citizens, NGOs, political stakeholders and the media, the European Public Spaces will be designed to host exhibitions, films, meetings, visits, discussions, debates and lectures.
The Commission will encourage active European citizenship. It proposes helping interested Member States explain in schools how Europe works, using a range of measures including:
- sharing best practice on education and training for active citizenship;
- compiling information dossiers on European themes for schools and teachers;
- organising visits of European civil servants to talk to students and schoolchildren;
- inviting the public onto the premises of the Commission Representations and Europe Direct Relays;
- the European Lifelong Learning programmes.
The Commission will make it easier for civil society organisations to have access to the Commission in designating a specific civil society contact point in each of its departments.
Developing a European public sphere
To promote a debate which goes beyond national boundaries it is necessary to involve the political players in the process. National and European political parties, and elected representatives in general, are in a privileged position when it comes to generating debate. The Commission is working on the creation of Pilot Information Networks (PINs), a network of internet discussion forums between members of the European Parliament, members of national parliaments, journalists and opinion-leaders.
Media and information services also need to be further exploited. The Commission wants to make sure EU affairs are covered more often and more regularly on existing audiovisual channels and will encourage European networking by broadcasters. It proposes doubling the capacity of the EU's televised news service, Europe by Satellite. It wants to make the Europa website more interactive, more accessible and more user-friendly.
The Commission will help civil society, NGOs and the private and public sectors to set up a network of websites focusing on European affairs.
Finally, developing a European public sphere means listening to and understanding public opinion in Europe. To this end, the Commission wishes to make more use of the Eurobarometer by using more innovative qualitative research tools and targeted public opinion surveys to measure the impact of communication. The Europe Direct service is also able to provide information on the main concerns voiced by citizens. Finally, consultations allow the Commission to sound out European public opinion on important legislative proposals. The Commission's Representations will be involved in the campaigns to encourage the public to participate in these consultations.
Reinforcing the partnership approach
Communication should not be the remit of Brussels only, which is why the Commission wants to work together with the Member States. In this connection, it proposes developing management partnerships with interested Member States. These management partnerships will be based on joint communication plans. This will help adapt communication to local circumstances and link it to national political agendas.
The Commission also wants to work more closely with the European institutions. In particular, it proposes strengthening the role of the Inter-Institutional Group on Information (IGI). This group is responsible for selecting common communication priorities for the EU and agreeing on the EU strategy on communication.
As the Commission cannot improve communication single-handedly, it proposes an inter-institutional agreement on communication with the European Parliament and the Council, the aim being to achieve a convergence of views on the main communication priorities of the EU, make better use of each institution's resources and encourage Member States to cooperate. The agreement will lead to the adoption of a common annual work plan laying down EU priorities in the area of communication. The aim is not to standardise the messages of the individual institutions, but simply to coordinate what they say on the same subject.
This fact sheet is not legally binding on the European Commission; it does not claim to be exhaustive and does not represent an official interpretation of the text of the Treaty.