National EURACTIV Award winners line up for EU final

National winners of the ‘EURACTIV Awards for Debating Europe Nationally’ include a number of debate platforms, various media organisations, individual bloggers, politicians, NGOs and two films among their number. The thirty-odd laureates now head to the pan-European final contest, the winners of which will be announced on 12 November in the European Parliament.

From the pool of more than 110 nominations submitted for the Awards, national juries have selected three winners for each of the languages in which EURACTIV is published.  

One of the winners is Home, a film by French photographer and ecologist Yann Arthus-Bertrand. In France alone, the film attracted an audience of 8.3 million in just one evening, triggering an unprecedented buzz which some say led to the Greens’ impressive results in June’s European elections. The documentary takes a look at the evolution of the Earth’s climate and stresses the need to stop irresponsible human activity (EURACTIV 10/06/09).

Another winner is Politics.ie, a grassroots online debating forum in Ireland. The portal was already running during the campaign for the 2008 referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, which saw Irish voters reject the charter. Today, the forum is again providing a place for all views to be aired and debated ahead of Friday’s (2 October) second referendum.

German business newspaper Handelsblatt, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek and the Slovak Euro-Atlantic Centre also feature among the national winners, nominated respectively for their balanced EU business reports, engagement in EU politics in a spirit of dialogue, and support for discussions on Euro-Atlantic integration in Central Europe. 

InterRail, a rail pass allowing young people to explore Europe on a low budget, was also ranked as a winner in this first round of the competition. 

Around a fifth of the nominations were made in Turkish, indicating a keen interest in communicating and debating Europe in the candidate country. One of the three Turkish winners is Coffee Futures, a documentary film which “weaves individual fortunes with the story of Turkey’s decades-long effort to become a member of the European Union” and aims to spark renewed debate of Turkey’s EU accession prospects.

Natalie Todd, managing director of Ogilvy Public Realtions Worldwide in Brussels, one of the sponsors of the awards, described the national winners as “models” for how to reach people and get them to talk more about the things that really impact upon their lives.

Pan-European winners announced on 12 November

The national EURACTIV Award winners now head to the pan-European final contest. A high-level jury – including the director-general of the European Commission’s communication department and number of politicial, think-tank, corporate and civil society leaders – will select five pan-European winners, to be announced at a prestigious prize ceremony at the European Parliament on 12 November. 

The announcement will be followed by a high-level debate between political leaders on the EU’s priorities. 

In recent years, the European Commission has launched several initiatives to tackle citizens' growing lack of trust and interest in the EU project. Following 2005's 'Plan D' response to the institutional crisis which arose from the 'no' votes against the EU's draft constitution in France and the Netherlands, a White Paper on a European communication policy was launched in 2006. 

'Debate Europe', the most recent initiative, was launched in spring 2008 as part of the EU executive's new Internet and audiovisual strategies, which were unveiled ahead of the European Parliament elections in 2009. It is an online discussion forum on which all input is translated into all the EU's official languages. The Commission has also opened its own channel on YouTube and revamped its central web portal Europa in an attempt to make it more user-friendly (EURACTIV 21/09/09EURACTIV 14/07/09). 

European Commission Vice-President Margot Wallstrom, responsible for communication, emphasises that the EU executive must use "all the means at its disposal" to communicate with European citizens. At the same time, however, she acknowledges that "it is only when the European debate is anchored nationally, regionally and locally" that citizens will engage in and seek to be informed about EU politics and the decisions affecting them.

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