EU information campaign to win support for enlargement

The European Commission adopted a communication strategy for enlargement with an indicative budget of nearly 150 million euros on 10 May.

In a attempt to win back falling public support for EU’s enlargement to 12 or more new members states, the European Commission adopted a communication strategy with an indicative budget of nearly 150 million euros on 10 May.

The Commission is aware that “an enlargement process which will almost double the number of EU Member States and bring about major changes affecting the citizens can only be carried out successfully while thoroughly informing public opinion and gaining its support”.

The strategy aims at providing information, generating dialogue with citizens and dispeling the misapprehensions about the enlargement process. The information campaign will be conducted both in the Member States and the candidate countries from 2000 to 2006.

Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, who initiated the proposal for the strategy, said: “Reunifying our continent is for the European Union a core strategic priority, which cannot be limited to a closed circle of negotiators, but must be widely explained to the people and supported by them. The communication strategy which was adopted by the Commission must allow citizens from both our Member States and the candidate countries to understand the reasons for enlargement, its benefits as well as its challenges”.

The communication strategy should address or involve:
– Political institutions : the European Parliament and other European Institutions, governments, parliaments and regional assemblies
– Business and industry : business leaders, trade unions, professional associations
– Civil society : press, non-governmental organisations, religious and intellectual bodies, universities, teachers in secondary and higher education.

The 13 candidate countries will receive 59.15 million euros (of which 50.05 million euros for Eastern European countries, 5.8 million for Turkey, 1.5 million for Malta and 1.8 million for Cyprus), the Member States 57.9 million euros, and the Brussels based activities 29.7 million euros.

EU actors reactions:

Such a programme should have been in place since the very beginning of the enlargement process, according to Mara Silina, enlargement co-ordinator at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). She welcomes the fact that the strategy covers both the EU Member states and candidate countries.

The EEB says that the information campaign should not tackle only the general developments in the enlargement process, but it should also provide information about the negotiation positions on different issues from both the EU and candidate countries. “Different opinions, also critical, should be heard and communicated to a broad public,” says Mara Silina.

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