How to reconcile the national and European dimension when communicating Europe
At its plenary session on 10 July 2008, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted an exploratory opinion setting out proposals aimed at improving communication on Europe.
Béatrice Ouin, rapporteur-general (FR- Group II - Employees), drawing on expertise from Babette Nieder, secretary-general of the Maison de l’Europe in Paris, Jane Morrice (UK – Group III- Various Interests) and Maria Zvolska (CZ – Group I - Employers), proposes simple and tangible measures.
The opinion points out that at present each EU institution and agency issues information about itself, but none provides information about the European venture as such. What is needed is communication which, while adapted to different constituencies, nevertheless covers the achievements and plans of the Union and not those of each separate institution. Both European political representatives and national governments must promote this joint communication policy.
It is impossible to communicate to 500 million Europeans from Brussels. Local elected representatives of civil society, who are close to members of the public, are much better able than polls and Internet sites to express the aspirations of the public about Europe.
Among the proposals made in the opinion are to use clear and simple language, to produce fewer brochures and to target them better at opinion formers. It also proposes making available to Member States a common core of knowledge on the European integration process and its values and achievements. This should be identical for all, translated into every language and endorsed by the European Parliament. Whilst intended primarily for the civic education of pupils, it should take a form that can also be used by multipliers such as teachers, journalists, local elected politicians and members of civil society. The opinion also proposes making coverage of Europe a public service obligation for audiovisual media, considering European affairs as internal affairs rather than external or international ones and making good use of sports events, national festivals and Europe Day to speak about Europe.