Sunday 26 October 2014

Currently browsing 'Communications'

The EU’s communication strategy has been under the spotlight since the French and Dutch “No”s to the EU’s Constitutional Treaty. The new ‘Reform Treaty‘ in the offing and the European Parliament elections scheduled for Spring 2009 will be major political debates.

 

Branding federations in EU Affairs

Posted by on 24/10/14
Due to the complexity of the EU institutions and its mechanisms, visibility and branding are a priority for European Federations, especially if they have an operational office in Brussels. I already touched upon EU federations more generally in earlier posts, but in this post I will go more in-depth regarding branding. EU federations need more [...]

A European narrative: Propaganda or debate?

Posted by on 23/10/14

Kathleen Garnett

Last week the Committee of the Regions organised its fifth EuroPCom conference at the Committee of the Regions on how to communicate Europe to a wider public. With the rise of vocal, populist right-wing parties that tap into people’s fears, never has the need for Brussels to present it’s case been more important. It is estimated the EU has approximately five years, before the next Parliamentary elections, to do so. If it fails there is the risk that the EU’s very legitimacy will begin to crumble and give way to forces that promote fragmentation rather than union, rupture rather than settlement, chasm rather than understanding.

Many within the EU are trying. God knows they are trying. From catchy You Tube style videos, to social media tricks, from glossy brochure, to children’s comic-strip info-pack, from out-reach programmes to all-singing, all-dancing local youth events. Every single aspect of communicating the EU to a wider European audience has been and was analysed. All interesting. All very expensive. All pretty useless. Those tools can best be described as the props. They are not exactly defining the plot. Nor can they act as the foundation on which to build an effective, accurate communications strategy.

The only tool capable of reaching out to a wider European audience is a pan-European press that presents the European, as opposed to the national, perspective.

For the moment, however, the European narrative is being written elsewhere far away from Brussels by largely hostile script-writers and no amount of social media, You Tube videos, glossy brochures, awards and out-reach programmes alone will be capable of communicating Europe to the wider European public audience.

Never underestimate the vital role that an independent and varied press plays in communicating local, regional and global affairs to a wider public. At the moment most Europeans read, listen and watch the news as presented to them by their national media and they have proven time and again that EU affairs are not their priority.

Worse than blanking out or ignoring EU policies is the continual drip, drip of negative and blatantly exaggerated coverage of the EU by writers who are more than happy to write a hostile narrative. Those controlling the plot portray the EU as the villain – either an egocentric, power-hungry, corrupter of national sovereignty; a bureaucratic tormentor intent on destroying national values or as a petty autocrat imposing tangled diktats on hard-working member sates.

As long as the good times roll such a narrative is largely ignored and put down to the ranting’s of the loonies that are known to inhabit the shadowy swamps of the periphery. By and large the EU is viewed, as an engine for growth, prosperity and peace. Although little understood most Europeans view the EU positively at best, with indifference at worst. Yet years of unchecked snipping from the side-lines by bored journalists, ignorant of EU affairs have slowly but surely begun to tilt the balance. It is their narrative that is creating an opening for the loonies to migrate out of the shadows and colonise the mainstream.

One need look no further than the announcement yesterday by UKIP that it is forming an alliance with a party that denies the holocaust and promotes wife bashing to realise how mainstream the loony views of UKIP have become. The sad reality is that far too many in the UK have become so brain-washed by the constant stream of negative coverage they are now more prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to a Polish holocaust denier than they are the EU. Something is very flawed indeed when UKIP can ally itself with such extreme views and still hope to win thirty seats in Westminster.

For too long the EU has allowed the narrative to be written by editors who have stated, in public, they oppose the EU. Unless a pan-European media is developed to act as a counter-balance to such hostile positions it will be the national media that will shape how Europeans perceive the EU not those in the driving seat. This is problematic. It is the script-writer who has the power to decide the fate of the protagonists. Does the EU really want its fate to be written by an openly antagonistic media?

Yet, the development of a thriving, well written, newsworthy, independent pan-European press to counter-balance the views of the national media was barely touched upon at the conference. When it was, it was dismissed as too expensive, unprofitable, impossible to realise and too politically sensitive to organise. Past failures were cited as evidence that a pan-European media is economically unviable.

Over and again it was said that the promotion of a pan-European media could be construed as EU propaganda. To which euperspectives replies why such timidity? Has Brussels become so brow-beaten and bullied by the snarlings of the euro sceptics that they actually believe there is any merit to such an argument?

In the free world it is vital that news is presented from a variety of sources capable of expressing their own interpretations of world events. In the UK, The Guardian is a left-leaning paper whilst The Times leans to the right. The Mirror panders to Labour voters. The Daily Mail to UKIP. Few question the legitimacy of this approach. As far as the EU is concerned the only voice being heard is that of the national perspective, which is why there is such an imbalance in the reporting of EU affairs.

The EU has but a few years in which to rethink its communication policy. Now is the time for it to seize the initiative and develop a fully functioning, well respected media staffed by experienced journalists and commentators, capable of presenting broad stories that touch a cord with all Europeans. Only in such a way can Europe regain the initiative, write its own narrative from a European perspective and let Europeans decide whether the EU is worth investing in or not based on accurate, informed stories not on half-truths and deception.

Such a project is not only viable, it is the only way to communicate European objectives to a wider audience. Call it propaganda if you will but it you do the EU would only be doing what the national press are already culpable of – no more, no less.

 

Building a career in non-institutional EU Brussels

Posted by on 19/10/14
Brussels hosts more than 100.000 persons working in EU affairs. Only 50% of the jobs are to be found in the EU institutions. The other 50.000 EU actors work at industry federations, consultancies, media, corporate organisations, non-profit organizations, think tanks, region and city representations. The objective of these entities is to advocate and communicate their [...]

EU BANS TEDDIES IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS!

Posted by on 16/10/14

True? False? Who cares?

It’s a great headline. With many shops, particularly in the UK, already displaying Christmas baubles in their windows it’s a timely news item certain to grab reader’s attention – especially that broad demographic “parents” who are already fretting over how to fill their children’s stockings in time for Christmas.

The answer of course is false. Let us spell this out clearly: No. The EU is not proposing to ban any teddies in time for Christmas. There is no such proposal on the table. No debates in Parliament. No member state pushing for it in the Council. No ECJ judgement imminent. Some years ago it nearly became headline news but that was a long time ago now…..

….in the mid-1990’s Emma Bonino, the chain-smoking radical feminist who, until recently was Italy’s Foreign Affairs minister, worked as the EU Commissioner for Consumer Affairs. At the time I was working for a public affairs consultancy. Late one Friday afternoon I got a panic stricken message from a client whose job it was to oversee the safety of toys sold across Europe. You can say many things about manufacturers, corporations and industry, all possibly true, but the one thing you can not say of the toy manufacturers is that they do not take safety seriously. If anything goes wrong it’s belly-up for them. Toy safety and the Toy Safety Directive was something they worked on round the clock. Each manufacturer had a dedicated safety officer in charge of designing safe toys and ensuring that all toys sold on the EU market met the safety criteria set out by the Toy Safety Directive.

That Friday afternoon the boffs were in disarray, panic was spreading amongst the ranks, disaster was nigh. Calamity sizzled in the air. Some lowly official in the Commission had proposed an amendment to the Toy Safety Directive that would have classified all toys with long hair as too dangerous for circulation in the EU. Were the amendment to go ahead it would have meant an effective European wide ban on all Barbie’s, teddy-bears, dolls and countless other toys that have fake hair attached to them. Something had to be done. Quick. I was to sort this mess out. Now. I rang the lady in the Commission responsible for the amendment. She didn’t deign to talk to me. I tried calling a few MEPs working on the proposed amendment. None of them were around; nor were their assistants particularly interested in helping me out. I tried to talk to some people higher up the command structure of the Commission. To no avail. No one was in the least bit interested in returning any of my calls or answering any of my urgent requests for more information on this proposed amendment. In the meantime I had the client on my back asking if I had any news? Desperate, I sent a fax to Emma Bonino’s spokesperson. In the subject line I wrote:

COMMISSION BANS TEDDIES IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS”.

Within five minutes I had a meeting with none other than the Commissioner Emma Bonino herself. Result. The meeting went well. The toy safety team presented their case. Satisfied that EU consumers were not at risk from toys with long hair the amendment was scrapped. Readers will be pleased to read that in the intervening twenty years or so there have been no reported cases of children being maimed by or killed by toys with long hair.

A rather long anecdote to make a simple point: when it comes to tabloid head-lines the Commission runs scared. For good reason. The press have been brilliant at ridiculing, belittling, mocking but above all misrepresenting Europe. How easy it is for some bored, ignored Brussels journalist to make up a little story that feeds into the populist mood and grabs the attention of the misinformed.

Then again, if the EU is too stupid to develop it’s own independent media to present it’s case then really it deserves all it gets. More of the EU communication budget goes on paying expensive Consultancies to prepare glossy corporate-style brochures than it does to supporting an independent pan-European media outlet capable of presenting independent, newsworthy stories on a daily basis that readers can identify with.

Yet, at the same time it has to be admitted that a profitable pan-European media is notoriously hard to develop. Many have tried. Many have failed. In the early 1990’s Maxwell launched “The European”. Eight years later it was dead in the dust. In 1995, The Economist launched European Voice but sold it last year to a French company. One of the few survivors has been EurActiv, founded in 1999. EU Observer is perhaps the only other survivor. Neither are large enough to take on the entrenched, media giants that dominate the national landscape and who shape voter’s perceptions of the EU.

There has been much talk in Brussels recently of the new Axel Springer-Politico Joint Venture that will create a new pan-European wide media. Will it succeed where other have floundered? That remains to be seen. More on that later.

In the mean time, in a spirit of mis-information, half-truths and misleading headlines euperspectives has been scouting around for some good, newsworthy stories to boost reader numbers and has come up with some highly probably stories that are bound to engage readers.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson bans Londoners from speaking English!

The Greater London Authority has announced that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wants to turn London into a “mini-Holland”. Were in not printed in black you’d think they were making it up – but the headline clearly states “Mini-Holland trial starts in Walthamstow!”

This can only mean one thing – Londoner’s are going to have to learn Dutch. Dutch is a guttural language that does not lend itself to estuary English or cockney so we went out to ask what ordinary Londoners thought about the idea. Pete, a cab driver from Lewisham hadn’t heard of the plan but when explained that Johnson intends to turn London into a mini-Holland he was furious. “If Johnson thinks I’m going to learn Dutch he’s got another thing coming. Who does he think he is to tell me what language to speak!”

Sheila Connors, a GP in Hackney worried that many of her patients would not be able to understand her. Hugh, a city worker in Canary Wharf took a more pragmatic view pointing out that Holland had better cycling paths than London so perhaps it was time for Londoners to start behaving more like the Dutch and less like Londoners?A good place to start would be to switch from English to Dutch.

Given the sensitivity of turning London into a mini-Holland we caution Johnson to think carefully about where this plan is heading. What starts out as some loose plan to offer Dutch-style cycling paths in London will soon lead to the complete Dutchification of London. Londoners are just not ready to abandon English in favour of Dutch. At the very least they should be given an “in-out” referendum so that their voices can be heard.

Farage in secret talks with tobacco industry to feature UKIP colours on cigarette packaging

If you’re worried that your teen-age kids might be discouraged from taking up smoking or from drinking cheap alcohol because of proposed plans to introduce plain packaging and minimum alcohol pricing then fear no more. Vote UKIP. Farage, the charismatic leader of UKIP, well known for his love of a pint of lager and a packet of fags is totally opposed to plain packaging of any form. According to the UKIP website the party opposes all “plain paper packaging’ for tobacco products and minimum pricing of alcohol.”

So delighted is the tobacco industry with Britain’s latest rising political star, rumour has it they are in talks with UKIP to use their bright colours, purple and yellow, on all cigarette packages before the end of the year. A spokesperson for the industry said, “Nigel Farage is a role model to all young people. He is a fine example of what a success you can make of yourself if you learn how to smoke more than twenty a day and drink in the pub at lunch time. We would most certainly welcome closer ties with UKIP.”

Farage has never made a secret of his love for drinks, smoking and women and he has not completely denied that he accepted a donation of EUR 25 000 from a British e-cigarette company. He later went on to make a You Tube video promoting their product.

True? False? Who cares?

 

Participation Success Factors: a quick followup

Posted by on 16/10/14
What happened when 60 odd people had a go at the Participation mindmap? The Europecom session went well yesterday, judging by the Tweets. I’d never even been to an event run on World Café lines, so thank goodness the others knew what they were doing. In the end the mindmap – which started out as [...]

The beginnings of modern PR

Posted by on 16/10/14

Whitehouse Consultancy Associate Director and author of The PR Masterclass Alex Singleton discusses the beginnings of modern public relations.

To read Alex’s’ article, please click here.

The Whitehouse Consultancy is one of Europe’s leading public affairs and communications agencies.

Launch of Next Europe

Posted by on 30/09/14

My new book Next Europe is now officially launched. Of course this comes with a modest campaign to create attention for the book.

I published several opinion articles, on news sites as well as in the Dutch paper Het Parool. You can read the ‘launch article’ at EurActiv (English) and on Opiniestukken.nl (Dutch).

The presentation took place on September 22 at the Press Club in Brussels. More than 100 people attended the event. First I gave a short summary (link to Prezi) of Next Europe to the audience, followed by the handover to Constantijn van Oranje-Nassau, chief of cabinet of Commissioner Kroes. A panel of experts – Shada Islam of Friends of Europe, Claude Grunitzky of TRUE, and Marietje Schaake of the European Parliament – gave their first responses.

Shada Islam: ‘This is an insightful study of Europe by a young, thoughtful EU Watcher.’

Dutch public radio 1 made a report on the launch event, you can listen to it here.

On October 14, Next Europe will be presented in Amsterdam, followed by a debate with Paul Scheffer and Adriaan Schout. Programme and registration on the site of Pakhuis de Zwijger

Photos of the Brussels launch, September 22 at the Press Club

 

 

Re-branding Greece: 7 Tips for Sustainable Nation Branding

Posted by on 29/09/14
By Stavros Papagianneas Between 2009 and 2011, Greece went from being seen as a full member of the eurozone to “Ground Zero” in the Nation Brand Index. Today, it is time for a rebranding of the country. Here's seven ways Greece can put itself on the map again...

A history of traumas of EU Communication (1992-present)

Posted by on 05/09/14
If we look at the European communication history, we see a crucial moment: the referendum of 1992, when the Danish rejected the Maastricht Treaty. They will finally provide their approval next year, after the government negotiated several sectorial amendments, especially in the field of justice and home affairs, but also in terms of defense cooperation. [...]

New book: Next Europe

Posted by on 01/09/14

Next Europe – How the EU can survive in a world of tectonic shifts

After many months of interviewing, research and writing, I am happy to announce the launch of my fourth book: Next Europe.

It is already downloadable from Amazon, the Apple StoreGoogle BooksKobo BooksBruna and Smashwords. Other ebook stores will follow soon. 

Next Europe cover

Summary

The EU is in deep trouble. As the eurozone crisis keeps raging on, the European dream lies shattered on the ground. Euroscepticism and nationalism are on the rise, tens of millions are unemployed, Great Britain is heading for the exit door, while Russia flexes its muscles and the Middle East burns.

Is there any hopeful future for the European Union? Are we going to lose the race with the BRICS? Will Europeans ever truly engage with the EU institutes in Brussels?

Next Europe gives some compelling answers to the big questions of our time. EU Watcher Joop Hazenberg, a young Dutch writer who has been based in Brussels since early 2013, takes the reader on a venture across the globe to gain insight into the position of Europe in the 21st century.

His findings are surprising. The old continent is stronger and richer than we are inclined to think. Though the EU is in a mess, so is the rest of the world. Many of the rising giants will stumble and may even fall before they can do Europe harm. But it is also true that we are no longer the coolest dudes on the planet and that new (and old) dangers threaten our security and well-being.

Based on extensive research and interviews with leading experts, Next Europe soothes the unease that looms over our future. Joop Hazenberg also formulates a bold and strong agenda for reform of the EU. If we want to survive the coming age of uncertainty and tectonic shifts, then the European Union needs a restart. Not only in Brussels, but also in the capillaries of our society.

By acting now, Europe could become, once again, a leading continent. Next Europe is the starting point for a better understanding of our world, whether you are a student, Commission bureaucrat, a voter for UKIP or a Chinese businessman.

Praise for Next Europe

‘A spirited and courageous work’ – Jonathan Holslag, Professor of International Politics at the Free University in Brussels

‘Joop Hazenberg is a young thinker with the wisdom to realise that Europe has taken a wrong turn and the courage to want to change things’ – Philippe Legrain, author of European Spring: Why Our Economies and Politics are in a Mess and How to Put Them Right

Launch details

The official launch is in Brussels on Monday 22 September. I will hand over the ‘first copy’ to Constantijn van Oranje-Nassau, Head of Cabinet of Commissioner Kroes.

If you want to know more about the programme of the presentation or attending, please contact me.

I am also available for (media) interviews, lectures and panels.

 

Regolamento del Parlamento europeo e nuova legislatura

Posted by on 27/07/14

 Considerando quali pubblicazioni del Parlamento europeo possano essere interessanti, credo che avere un riferimento ai regolamenti interni sia sempre utile.

L’altro giorno, sto camminando insieme al mio amico G al terzo piano dell’edificio Altiero Spinelli e passiamo di fronte alle buche delle lettere in legno chiaro dei 751 eurodeputati. Le buche sono senza serratura, disposte come un muro e suddivise per stato.

Ci fermiamo lì a fianco, dove si trova la vetrina con le ultime pubblicazioni del Parlamento Europeo, che osservo interessato.

“È uscito il Regolamento del Parlamento europeo dell’ottava legislatura!” dico riflettendo ad alta voce.

“Sì, ce l’hanno inviato pochi giorni fa in ufficio” mi risponde G, che è un assistente di un eurodeputato.

Per chi fosse interessato a trovare il regolamento online, il sito è: http://goo.gl/xag85l

Per chi volesse direttamente tutto il documento in formato pdf, il sito è: http://goo.gl/YZ5g2X

 

Trasparenza, crowdfunding e il Parlamento europeo

Posted by on 16/07/14

Sono al Parlamento europeo, seduto con la mia amica G al bar del terzo piano: quello di fronte alla stazione media, con le sedie dalle gambe lunghe e i tavoli slanciati in metallo lucente.

Io e G stiamo parlando dei dossier del Parlamento europeo e di come seguire il lavoro degli eurodeputati, quando mi chiede: «Ma tu conosci ParlTrack?».

Le parole le escono spontanee come un pensiero cui ha dato parola.

«Sì ed è molto utile» e spiego che è un database che raggruppa tutti i dossier, i risultati dei voti, gli eurodeputati e le agende delle commissioni del Parlamento europeo. Poso il gomito sinistro sul tavolo, mi sporgo in avanti e aggiungo «Sai chi l’ha fatto?».

«No, chi?» risponde G, che intanto osserva un eurodeputato inglese passare dietro di me.

«Un informatico ungherese, Stefan Marsiske. L’anno scorso ha fatto una campagna di crowdfunding su Indiegogo, ha raccolto 10.000 euro e ha creato il database», ritorno con la schiena dritta sullo sgabello e chiedo «Sai perché l’ha fatto?»

«Perché?»

«Per dare uno strumento alle persone per lottare per i propri diritti e fare leggi migliori» rispondo, finisco il caffè e aggiungo «Lui è la dimostrazione che chiunque può dare il proprio contributo».

Per chi fosse interessato ParlTrack è all’indirizzo: http://parltrack.euwiki.org/

My book: Next Europe

Posted by on 09/07/14
Our blogger Joop Hazenberg joined BlogActiv some nine months ago, kicking off the research for a book on Europe. After many blogposts of his interviews and thoughts on the EU's big questions and challenges, he now launches the finished version of his book 'Next Europe': "The EU is in a serious mid-life crisis and seems to have lost direction."

UNBELIEVABLE INCOMPETENCE EUROPEAN SCHOOLS HAVE MESSED UP BAC 2014, same exam, same inspector, same subject, different year

Posted by on 01/07/14

eeb1.com_fichiers_news_fichiers1_1679_2014-06-LD-34 BACC 2014 CHEMISTRY

VP Sefcovic made some commitments to the European Parliament. He said in 2013 ”Concerning European Baccalaureate 2012 exams, the Commission regrets the problems encountered at the mathematics and chemistry exams. The Commission requested a detailed report from the Office of the Secretary-General of the European Schools which was prepared by independent external experts. A number of recommendations were made that will be followed-up closely in order to avoid similar problems in the future.”

Mr Kivinen the Secretary General should be querying his position now 

I have previously told you that for Chemistry no such independent external expert report was prepared, the report is here RIES report i queried whether the Commission had mislead Parliament.

What were the recommendations he refers to?

what was the close follow-up and by whom?

in the light of this how did it happen again?

I expect MEPs will want to here from the Commission yet again.

the latest disastrous news from the school is at the top of this post.

Will the EURSC now admit its fundamental problems

Will the Member States and the Commission now recognise the harm being done to pupils?

Will the Member States and the Commission now redress the lack of any appeal rights or legal accountability of the EURSC

Will EURSC become subject to EU law, instead of being anarchic?

 

in shock at latest snafu?

oops they did it again!

Mr

New Crisis at European Schools? Rumours are that the Baccalaureate exam mess of 2012 has been repeated.

Posted by on 26/06/14

The European Schools (EURSC) administration appear to surpass themselves yet again.

Having botched the Baccalaureate in 2012, and since then having seen all sorts of commitments to put things right one might expect that things can only get better.

Rumour has it that the 2014 BAC has suffered a fate even worse than that in 2012.

Most likely this is a direct result of the EURSC being an anarchic body, not subject to any normal legal oversight. Amazing though it might be it is not subject to the TFEU or European Law

Watch this space.

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