In the aftermath of the European election shock and now that the European Parliament has started its new term, the EU's Committee of the Regions is proposing that the other institutions align their policies and communication tools with the aim of reconnecting people with the project and ideal of Europe.
The draft 2015-2019 Communication Plan was unveiled in an own-initiative opinion drafted by Christophe Rouillon (FR/PSE), Mayor of Coulaines and Vice-President of the Association of French Mayors responsible for Europe, at the meeting of the CIVEX commission of the Committee of the Regions, held in Brindisi (Italy) on 22 September.
The proposed plan places the regions, cities and local and national media resolutely at the heart of a decentralised communications strategy to be operated jointly with the other European institutions and the Member States. The aim is not to spread the glad tidings from Brussels - far from it, in fact: it seeks to initiate an inclusive debate with the public on what they expect from Europe.
As the rapporteur, Christophe Rouillon, put it at the meeting of the Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX): "We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand: the results of the last European elections testify loud and clear to the public's disenchantment with politics in general. The rise in votes for Eurosceptic parties (now with over 100 MEPs) and the record low turnout stand as a dire warning, calling for prompt action. Although the task ultimately falls to the European institutions to come up with a new communications strategy for discussing the European project, the strategy must embrace all levels of governance in Europe's 100 000 municipalities and regions.
The 2015-2019 plan for reconnecting Europe with its citizens lays down objectives that are tangible and measurable: essentially, by the time the next European elections come round in 2019, a majority of respondents in the standard Eurobarometer public opinion survey should report that "their voice counts in the European Union"; that they "understand the main decision-making processes and major policies of the EU"; that they are "well-informed about European issues" and that they have "a positive image of the EU".
The Committee of the Regions recommends drawing up new models for co-financing EU communication strategies and creating strategic funded partnerships between the representatives of the Commission and those of the regional and local authorities.
In particular, it calls for 20% of the EU's communication budget to be decentralised to national and local level, including the Europe Direct - "Maisons de l'Europe" information centres and local/national media, with a view to reaching the widest possible audience.
Other ideas which have been put on the table include organising once a year, in tandem with the European Parliament and the Commission, 500 "citizens' dialogues" in regions and cities the length and breadth of Europe, and insisting that every region in Europe should be visited at least once a year by a European Commissioner.
Another aim of the plan is to bring at least 5 000 municipalities, cities and regions into the "Friends of Europe" network by 2019 in order to mobilise and provide assistance to communication professionals in the Member States.
In the words of Christophe Rouillon, the plan should stimulate "a European narrative" that will open up a public debate in Europe on the historical, cultural, philosophical and sociological foundations of European integration and, simultaneously, pave the way for a dialogue on the tangible impact of European policies on people's daily lives.
The Communication Plan will be introduced and debated at the 5th edition of EuroPCom on 15 and 16 October, bringing together some 700 public communication managers and experts in Brussels, where they will focus on the subject of "Imag[in]ing Europe".
Contact:Nathalie VandelleTel. +32 2 282 24 99