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"[Re]shaping European Dialogues"  
During the opening of the 8th edition of the European Conference on Public Communication - #EuroPCom today - EU leaders, communication professionals and EU political representatives made the case for finding new ways to effectively engage citizens in the European project as well as dealing with a lack of trust by the general public. The goal was to establish active channels for two-way communication through listening, debating and implementing feedback. This approach also lies at the heart of the CoR's communication campaign Reflecting on Europe.
Organised by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) in partnership with the other EU institutions, EuropCom brought together over 600 public communication professionals, including high-level political representatives, to debate current challenges in both EU and public communication.
Along the theme "[Re]shaping European dialogues", this year's edition placed particular emphasis on how to engage citizens in the European project whilst examining the cross-over between communication and engagement, and mapping the latest trends in communication and digital marketing.
Opening this two-day event today in Brussels, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the CoR, emphasised: "There are no simple answers to the complex issues facing Europe today and there is no simple way to communicate on these issues. We need a new participatory democracy that transforms the way the EU communicates so it listens, engages and responds. We need a future people's EU budget that improves people's lives, is more visible and places cohesion policy at its core. We need a new narrative that backs facts with emotion and pulls all our resources together so we work in partnership."
Matti Maasikas , Deputy Minister for EU Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, added: "We should all dare to make the positive case for the European Union. The cost of no EU is simply too high. For example, the role of Presidency of the Council of the EU has offered Estonia better opportunities to explain the essence of the European Union and bring people closer the core of the work done by the institutions, and explain the values we stand for. Our aim has been to explain the substance of policies in plain and simple language using a mix of channels, including audio-visual storytelling and blogs which have been received well."
Jaume Duch Guillot , Director-General for Communication of the European Parliament, stressed: "Our communication should stay objective, factual, and trustful. It should also shift to embrace emotion; to define the messages according to the target audiences; to be strategic and consistent. Not forgetting that, as public communicators, we are dealing with taxpayers’ money: so we need to be cost-efficient and result-oriented, more than ever."
The Deputy Secretary-General of the European Commission, Jean-Eric Paquet, emphasised the Juncker Commission's ambitions to make the EU more transparent and accountable: "Better Regulation and the #EUHaveYourSay tool give now citizens the possibility to track how and when the Commission acts, and share their views at any stage of the policy-making process. In fact, this makes the Commission one of the most transparent and accessible public organisations worldwide."
Michael Smyth, European Economic and social Committee's Vice-President for Budget, said: "Combating mistrust and engaging people on European issues must start with ordinary people and organised civil society on the ground rather than in the Brussels bubble or in the academic world. It is not enough to combat misinformation by communicating real facts and figures. When talking to people we have to dare to be passionate and communicate also feelings. We must also listen to them, address their real feelings and expectations and make their voice heard by the decision-makers."
EuropCom Award
As in previous editions, the the EuropCom Prize recognises outstanding EU-related communication campaigns developed by a national, regional or local authority. A jury consisting of of EU communication experts attributed the award to the province of Antwerp for its "Pop up Europe " campaign. The initiative, launched in May 2017, aims to "bring Europe to its municipalities" and prompt discussions about Europe with "fun, interactive and free activities", such as exhibitions, theatre plays, movies, contests, and school activities. By combining a mix of activities for all kinds of audiences, "Pop up Europe" seeks to reach out to all people, not only well-informed or pro-EU citizens.
The event is also to be seen in the context of the CoR's extensive consultation process called "Reflecting on Europe" which, as part of its contribution to the ongoing political reflection on Europe's future, aims at collecting citizens' feedback on the ground and make these voices heard at EU level. This consultation is complemented by a pan-European online survey . As a result, the CoR will adopt its vision on the future of Europe from a local and regional perspective in the first semester of 2018.
Special Prize 2017
In line with the focus of this year's edition on engaging citizens in the European project, a new Award was given to celebrate citizen-lead innovative communication projects designed to boost citizen engagement with the EU. A Special Prize was awarded to " WhyEurope", a pro-EU initiative led by young Europeans which, mainly through social media, seeks to spread "positive populism" about Europe, using simple yet emotional pictures regarding the EU.
Note to the editors
EuroPCom , the European Conference on Public Communication, is the annual meeting point for EU communication managers and senior experts from local, regional, national and European authorities. This two day event provides a space for public communication professionals coming from all EU Member States and beyond to discuss how to improve public communication and raise awareness of the European Union and its policies.
The programme for EuroPCom 2017 features a wide range of workshops, networking sessions and lectures on issues such as how to tackle Euroscepticism, "Surviving in the world of fake news", "Raising emotional engagement with Europe", "Exploring innovative engagement approaches", "Interactive Cities", the "Age of Big Data", and the rise of "MADCOMs".
The event is an initiative of the European Committee of the Regions, organised in close cooperation with the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee.
Carmen Schmidle
Tel. +32 (0)2 282 23 66
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