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Brussels, 30 June 2005

Vice-President Wallström: “Europe Direct relays vital to new Communication Strategy”

Engaging people in the European debate at the local level – one of the central points of the Commission’s new Communication Strategy – was the theme of a keynote address given by VP Margot Wallström at her first meeting with the new Europe Direct information relays on 30 June in Brussels.

Addressing the relays from throughout the European Union at the first basic training seminar for the new Europe Direct information network “Communicating the EU: Key actors and policies in the construction of Europe” VP Wallström said: “For a long time we have been a project for a political elite and we have been bad at listening, bad at explaining and bad at anchoring EU issues in national politics. This was perhaps acceptable when the results of cooperation - peace and prosperity - were self-evident. But now it is no longer enough”.

Having learned the lessons from the recent referenda, the Union should take time to re-think and draft and implement a plan D – “where D stands for dialogue, debate and democracy”. Wallström said her vision of Europe was one of sustainable development, where economic progress is linked to social security and care for the environment - areas in which there is clear popular support for EU-wide action. Furthermore, she said, the Union should also tackle terrorism, drugs, people-trafficking and organised crime. But all this can only be achieved in a system, in which ownership of policy formulation and output is returned to the people.

Accordingly, EU communication policy has to be responsive, bottom-up and attuned to its many different audiences. The relays will play a pivotal role in achieving these goals since they act as a unique bridge between policy makers in Brussels and citizens throughout the EU.

400 new Europe Direct information relays – launched on 1 May 2005 - offer EU-citizens information, advice, assistance and answers to questions on the Union’s legislation, policies, programmes and funding opportunities. The Europe Direct network is the sister information service to the EUROPE DIRECT contact centre, accessible from all the Member States on freephone 00800 6 7 8 9 10 11.

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