Story-telling is key for Europe

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

MEP Lambert Van Nistelrooij hand the Region Star Awards to the managers of a Social Housing program in the City of Ostrava. [European Commission]

While Cohesion Policy remains a cornerstone of EU’s action to boost growth and reduce inequalities in the continent, the policy lacks visibility, writes MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij.

Lambert van Nistelrooij is a Member of the European Parliament and the European People’s Party coordinator for Regional Policy. 

The negotiations on the EU budget are in full swing. Here we see that, despite the cuts, EU regional policy will remain a cornerstone of the entire EU, no region or country excluded. But shouldn’t a cornerstone of the EU that serves 500 million people, deserve better visibility?
Especially in the run-up to the 2019 European elections, people wonder, “what does the EU bring for me”?

It is clear: Europe finances thousands of projects every year. Large infrastructure projects spring to mind, but Europe is more than just that. Until recently, an EU logo here and there was sufficient. A little flag in the corner, the logo of the EU, more often on the last page of the brochure or booklet. In the upcoming years, this will no longer suffice.

A new approach for those who participate in EU-programmes or who earn a living in the world’s biggest internal market. For a Europe ever closer to its citizens. Think of the many companies that, thanks to EU support, develop innovative new technologies that make everyday life better, for all of us. Unfortunately, you hear too little about these ‘stars’ from Europe. Europe’s communication is too offer-orientated and does not take its citizens on board.

It’s time for action. That is why the EU invites its citizens and entrepreneurs to share their experiences. For better and worse. Member States, regions and beneficiaries will have more possibilities to communicate on results. When we concluded the negotiations for Cohesion Policy in the current 2014-2020-period, social media was already all around.

A few years onwards, the importance and sheer size of social media content has increased even more. Therefore, it is only natural that cohesion policy follows suit; there will be more possibilities to develop large social media outreach plans. Because what better way to reach the citizens than through their own digital device in their back pocket?

A good example is the Erasmus-programme for exchange students. Here we ask youngsters to become ambassadors, to tell their stories, looking to their takeaways in the following years.

There is a need for single branding, covering all different EU funds and initiatives, no more array of different logo’s that only add to the confusion. Simultaneously a single portal will be led that displays all available funding for businesses, while the Commission will run a database listing all the ongoing and finished projects.

I call on all of you to tell your stories. The ‘Let the Stars Shine’-initiative lists a number of good examples. Who’s next?

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