Reconnecting Europe to its citizens - more and better communication at local level

CIVEX-V/049
Adopted

Reconnecting Europe to its citizens - more and better communication at local level

Christophe ROUILLON
Christophe ROUILLON
Member France
Mayor of Coulaines
 christopherouillon@orange.fr
 +33 2 43743518
 FR, DE
Commissions: CIVEX-VI , ECON-VI
 Adoption: 03/12/2014
 Theme: Constitutional and Institutional Affairs , Justice and Home Affairs
Commission: Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX-V)
stress that restoring public approval of the European Union and stimulating people's engagement with Europe is a political and communication challenge that must be backed up by a joint effort of all EU levels of government; it is the responsibility of the European institutions to put forward a new, partnership-based approach to communication about the European project so as to strengthen people's attachment to the EU. This decentralised, creative process should entail the institutions agreeing on a unifying communication concept that explains the advantages of the European Union, its identity, rationale, values and the actual results of its policies in people's lives; the CoR calls on the European institutions to make a joint commitment to the 2015-2019 Communication Plan: reconnecting Europe with its citizens, with a view to the next European elections, by setting quantifiable and measurable objectives for mobilising people and raising public awareness about the European project, based on coordinated and decentralised communication initiatives and strategic priority areas; Key principles of the Plan are: More interaction with citizens : two-way communication, with more participation and dialogue; "Going local" – big advantage of the potential of regional and local partners as multipliers (to disseminate information), as antennas (to capture local public opinion) and as facilitators (for dialogue between the European institutions and citizens Improve the inter-institutional coordination of communication policies at EU level the CoR opposes decreasing the current resources available to the EU institutions for communication during the period 2014-2020; the CoR suggests that 20% of the EU's communication budget should be decentralised to national and local level, e.g. to the Europe Direct and Europe House information centres, with a view to these bodies establishing practical cooperation arrangements with local or regional partners and reaching a wider audience.
Rebuilding citizens' trust in the European integration project and the EU institutions is high on the EU agenda, especially following the results of the European elections in May 2014 and the low turnout. A new institutional communication strategy will also be adopted for the new legislative period. The timely adoption of this opinion makes it possible for the CoR to influence the process of developing a new, multi-annual EU communication strategy and propose some concrete actions to be taken. The opinion received interest from institutional partners and it fits in well with the ongoing initiatives, such as Friends of Europe, New Narrative for Europe, etc. The rapporteur discussed with representatives of the other institutions on political and administrative level. He met communication directors from the Council of the EU, the European Commission and the European Parliament to discuss the proposed joint Communication Plan which needs involvement of all institutions. He also held meetings with two vice-presidents of the European Parliament – Ms McGuinness and Ms Guillaume. Many stakeholders and communicators expressed their interest in the opinion and in discussing measures to be taken to bring Europe closer to the citizens and to enter into dialogue with them. The opinion received a lot of media attention, mainly in specialised EU and communication media, as well as in French media. The rapporteur also wrote an article for a French local newspaper (Ouest France) and gave an interview for France 2. To see further and more tangible impact of the opinion, it is necessary to wait until the European institutions adopt their communication plans and decide on actions to be taken in 2015 and beyond and see in how far they correspond to the opinion's recommendations, in particular related to better coordination, decentralisation of communication budgets and giving citizens better opportunity to get involved in the EU policy-making. Meanwhile the CoR Communications Directorate explores the possibilities to get a higher involvement of CoR Members and other LRA representatives in the decentralised communication initiatives of the Commission (citizens' dialogues, strategic partnerships, online platforms, etc.).
THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS - stresses that restoring public approval of the European Union and stimulating people's engagement with Europe is a political and communication challenge that must be backed up by a joint effort of all EU levels of government; - points out that it is the responsibility of the European institutions to put forward a new, partnership-based approach to communication about the European project so as to strengthen people's attachment to the EU. A unifying communication concept should explain the advantages of the European Union, its identity, rationale, values and the actual results of its policies in people's lives; - calls on the European institutions to make a joint commitment to the 2015-2019 Communication Plan: reconnecting Europe with its citizens, with a view to the next European elections, by setting quantifiable and measurable objectives for mobilising people and raising public awareness about the European project; - notes the need to "translate" EU-specific language and terminology for citizens, and to use clear information material to help improve people's understanding of the EU's institutional structures and calls for information to be made available in all the official EU languages; - suggests that 20% of the EU's communication budget should be decentralised to national and local level, e.g. to the Europe Direct and Europe House information centres, with a view to these bodies establishing practical cooperation arrangements with local or regional partners and reaching a wider audience; - recommends concluding 500 strategic partnerships between the Commission representations and local and regional authorities as well as concluding partnership agreements with 500 local print media, television and radio stations to organise debates and give a voice to citizens; - suggests that the EU institutions should organise 500 Citizens' Dialogues in 2015-2019 involving regional/local representatives and MEPs, and recommends that each European region is visited every year by a Commissioner; - wishes to bring at least 5 000 municipalities, cities and regions into the Friends of Europe network by 2019 in order to mobilise, train and help communication professionals in the Member States.
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