Commission seeks to end ‘blame game’ over communicating EU

Berlin conference tries to rekindle decision-makers with citizens as Europe still reels over PA fiascos such as the Constitution and Bolkestein directive.

Around 300 representatives from the Commission, member states and civil society will meet in Berlin on 18-19 January at a conference on “Communicating Europe together” hosted by the German Presidency.

“Public communication is one of the most difficult and sensitive issues in contemporary democracies,” said Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström, in charge of institutional relations and communication strategy. “There is a high political and ethical dimension to it, and this must be fully acknowledged,” she added.

The conference will try to work towards a better partnership between the Commission, member states, the media and other institutions to avoid discrepancies on how EU policies are communicated to citizens.

Wallström said that European citizens and their democratic rights should be at the starting point of every communications policy, which should be based on basic “common principles”. These include:

  • The right to full and fair information about decisions that affect their lives, wherever they are taken; and,
  • the right to express their views and to be heard.

“It would be very important that issues of common interest – for example energy security, climate change, Social Europe – are discussed more or less at the same time, by people across the European Union,” Wallström said.

Latest Commission efforts have centred on media relations with a conference in December last year, “Europe in Vision”, focusing mainly on TV coverage of European affairs (EURACTIV 7/12/06).

Wallström’s wishes reflect a long sought-after “European public sphere”, a topic that has been addressed in many academic studies but that has not as yet materialised.

The stakeholder forum will be based on Commission proposals laid down in a White Paper on EU communications presented by Wallström a year ago.

The conference conclusions will form the basis of a final report to be published next spring.

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