Monday 22 December 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.

 

What was important in 2014?

Posted by on 16/12/14
From a European viewpoint… 2014 delivered on its promise of a full and exciting year at the European level: parliamentary elections in May, and the new Commission which took office this fall. This new beginning has come not only with new members in these institutions, but with a desire to increase the legitimacy and effectiveness [...]

Good media relations require a two-way relationship

Posted by on 16/12/14

In an article for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, Whitehouse Associate Director Alex Singleton explains why spamming journalists with press releases doesn’t work.

To read Alex’s article, please click here.

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

Terminologia del Parlamento europeo

Posted by on 14/12/14

Parlamento europeo 12/2014Mi capita per caso di passare a lavorare nella biblioteca del Parlamento europeo: un grande ambiente dal soffitto alto dove regna un perfetto silenzio, interrotto soltanto dai passi della gente, dal rumore meccanico delle stampanti e dai bibliotecari che sistemano i libri.

Guardandomi intorno in cerca di un computer libero, mi cade lo sguardo su una pubblicazione particolarmente interessante, Terminology for Parliamentary Work (ndr., Terminologia per il lavoro del Parlamento): un libretto con i termini più comuni usati nel Parlamento europeo e il loro significato.

Logicamente si tratta di un libro in Inglese, Francese e Tedesco, lasciando l’Italiano e le altre venti lingue ufficiali un po’ da parte, ma è comunque interessante darci un’occhiata. Per esempio, si vede che il corrispettivo di Bureau (Ufficio di presidenza) in Inglese è lo stesso che in Francese ed è altrettanto breve in Tedesco con la parola Präsidium. È invece decisamente più interessante vedere termini in Inglese come catch-the-eye (procedura catch-the-eye in Italiano) che in Francese è mains levées e in Tedesco è System des Augenkontakts bzw. der erhobenen Hand.

Il Tedesco tuttavia non è sempre una lingua prolissa. Per esempio, se si considera Verhaltenskodex (codice di condotta), si scopre che in Inglese è Code of Conduct for Members of the European Parliament with respect to financial interests and conflict of interest (ndr., viene anche usato Code of conduct a seconda delle occasioni) e in Francese è Code de conduite des députés au Parlement européen en matière d’intérêts financiers et de conflits (ndr., viene anche usato Code de conduite a seconda delle occasioni).

 

Per chi fosse interessato al testo, ecco il link dove scaricare il pdf: http://www.termcoord.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/23094-BROCHURE-A5-EN.pdf

Per chi fosse interessato al sito europeo IATE per la traduzione di termini nelle differenti lingue europee, l’indirizzo è: http://iate.europa.eu/SearchByQueryLoad.do?method=load

Reforming rules on in-work benefits doesn’t require treaty change

Posted by on 11/12/14
Following David Cameron's speech on immigration, much has been made of his comments that the package of measures he proposed to reform EU free movement would require treaty change.

In some cases, the speech was ambiguous about what exactly was being proposed. For example, did Cameron really say EU migrants will need a job offer before coming to the UK? This is important because it has legal implications regarding whether some, all, or none of the proposals require treaty change, changes to secondary EU legislation or simply changes to domestic law. Although, politics will of course also play a major part.

In addition, some have questioned whether the proposal, outlined by Professor Damian Chalmers and our Research Director Stephen Booth and adopted by Cameron, to limit EU migrants' access to in-work benefits for a certain period of years could be achieved without treaty change, as the authors claim.

Today we have published  Chalmers' and Booth's assessment of the legal implications of the measures proposed in the Prime Minister's speech and a restatement of the case for why access to in-work benefits can be restricted via amendments to EU legislation rather than a treaty change.

Safe to say much of this is legally complex, but below is a summary of a summary of a longer legal note by Professor Damian Chalmers, which you can read in full here.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

David Cameron's speech can be divided into four broad types of demand:

1. Four-year restriction on EU migrants’ access to in-work and child benefits

David Cameron mentioned two proposed reforms:

a) “once they are in work, they won’t get benefits or social housing from Britain unless they have been here for at least four years.”

This could be achieved via amendments to EU legislation: This is the most legally complex of the proposals but we argue that it does not require Treaty change for two reasons. Firstly, access to in-work benefits is currently granted in EU law by virtue of a piece of secondary legislation, rather than by the Treaty article on free movement of workers. Secondly, the Treaties grant considerable discretion to the EU legislature (the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament) to place restrictions on access to such benefits provided that the legislation facilitates free movement more generally (which the relevant Directive would continue to do), the restrictions are based on objective criteria and are not disproportionate to the objectives they pursue.

b) “If their child is living abroad, then there should be no child benefit or child tax credit at all no matter how long they have worked in the UK and no matter how much tax they have paid.”

Depending on what is sought this could be achieved under domestic law or amendments to EU legislation but if the objective is a hard and fast residence requirement this could be achieved via amendments to EU legislation rather than Treaty change.

2. Tighter restrictions on EU jobseekers

David Cameron mentioned two proposed reforms:

a) “We want EU jobseekers to have a job offer before they come here and to stop UK taxpayers having to support them if they don't.”

This depends on exactly what is proposed. If he meant that any EU citizen must have a job offer before they can come into the UK, this would certainly require Treaty change.

However, read in combination with the pledge to “stop UK taxpayers having to support them”, the proposal is better interpreted as suggesting that no social benefits will be granted to jobseekers. EU law already establishes that jobseekers are not entitled to social assistance and therefore such a reform would not require changes to EU legislation.

b) “We also want to restrict the time that jobseekers can legally stay in this country. So if an EU jobseeker has not found work within six months, they will be required to leave.”

In principle, the UK can already do this under its domestic law. EU law only grants a right of residence for more than three months to those who are employed, self-employed, and economically self-sufficient as well as their family members.

However, the ECJ has ruled that individuals cannot be expelled as long as they “can provide evidence that they are continuing to seek employment and that they have a genuine chance of being engaged”. While the onus is on the individual to prove this, clarifying what this condition means could be achieved by amending EU legislation. A hard and fast six month deadline would likely require Treaty change.

3. Abuse of free movement

David Cameron mentioned two proposed reforms:

a) “stronger powers to deport criminals and stop them coming back…and tougher and longer re-entry bans for all those who abuse free movement including beggars, rough sleepers, fraudsters and people who collude in sham marriages.”

Those deported at the time of conviction can be refused re-entry under existing EU law. Indeed, the German government has said it will use its domestic law to impose re-entry bans of five years for those who commit benefit fraud. The potential difficulty is for those EU citizens with family in the UK, who may be able to appeal deportation under the rights to family life guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

In the case of significant criminal offences where the individual has served a long prison term, the deportation may be several years after the offence, and it is open to the individual to argue that they are a reformed character. This poses difficulties as the individual threat to public policy must be a present threat. Albeit this requirement is currently imposed by an EU Directive, we believe that, if the provision were repealed, there is a strong chance that the ECJ would reinstate it as a Treaty requirement.

b) “We must also deal with the extraordinary situation where it's easier for an EU citizen to bring a non-EU spouse to Britain, than it is for a British citizen to do the same. At the moment, if a British citizen wants to bring, say, a South American partner to the UK, then we ask for proof that they meet an income threshold and can speak English. But EU law means we cannot apply these tests to EU migrants.”

This would likely require Treaty change: There are a number of judgments where the ECJ has stated that refusing to grant a non-EU national family member residence would violate the Treaty because it would discourage the EU citizen from exercising their rights to free movement.

Alternatively, it would be possible for new EU legislation to harmonise requirements on family reunification between EU citizens and non-EU nationals, so that the latter could only join the EU citizen in another member state if they meet certain requirements. However, this would entail harmonisation in an area (non-EU migration) where successive UK Governments have sought to limit the EU’s influence. Concern to prevent marriages to citizens from other member states being used as a vehicle for marriages of convenience can be addressed through tightening up existing EU legislation.

4. Tighter restrictions on migration from new EU member states

David Cameron proposed:

“So we will insist that when new countries are admitted to the EU in the future, free movement will not apply to those new members until their economies have converged much more closely with existing Member States.”

The UK could use its existing veto over new countries joining the EU to insist on these terms.




Wow. Has it come to this?

Posted by on 08/12/14
Is primetime TV advertising the right way to connect citizens to the EU? Last week I saw and commented on an interesting blog post by Iveta Kazoka exploring one of the ‘broken channels’ which are supposed to link interested citizens to EU decision-making: “The report uncovered an uncomfortable truth: few civic society organisations are capable of [...]

25.000 EU experts in each EU country

Posted by on 20/11/14
The EU is a complex game in which Brussels has a key role in close connection with the 28 capitals of the EU Member States. In previous messages I identified the 100.000 EU actors in Brussels, and now the “local EU actors”, those working in the Member States, will be mapped out. On the executive [...]

Message for the new European Commissioner for Education

Posted by on 31/10/14
The new European Commission takes office in November 2014. The new president Jean-Claude Junker said that it is his “desire that the EC will be very political in nature”. I wish good luck to the new team of Commissioners; the EU really needs politicians with vision and with experience in developing European dossiers for a [...]

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...

Advertisement