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The Institutional Communication of the European Union

Sara Ceccarelli - Università degli Studi di Perugia - [2005-06]
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  • Tesi completa: 104 pagine
  • Abstract
    On 1 February 2006 the European Commission presented the White Paper on European Communication Policy with the twofold purpose of giving way to a consultation regarding the possible choices that the European Union must make in the communication area and to emphasize the strategic value that a solid information and communication structure has towards strengthening and facilitating the process of European integration.
    The White Paper represents the landing point of a series of propositions made over time by the Commission and it is a sign of the partially successful efforts made to reduce the distance between the EU and its citizens. A rather tremendous effort if we consider the distance that seems to have come between the citizens of the Member States and the supranational structures including actions and policies which they find difficult to understand.
    In spite of all the efforts that the European Union, its institutions and the parties involved in the construction of a European identity (Member States, regional and local authorities, political parties, organised civil society) have made throughout the years to involve European citizens and to plant «feelings» of belonging in them, the Europe of today with its 25 Member States cannot yet consider itself the Europe of the citizens.
    In order to fully understand the significance of the White Paper, it must be read contextually and analytically. This paper will attempt to explain the division between the EU and its citizens by tracing it back, not so much to the overly worked democratic deficit, but to the more up-to-date information deficit phenomenon whose responsibility may be attributed not only to the European institutions but aboveall to the “inertia” of the Member States and the National Mass Media.
    The possibility of implementing an actual European Communication policy is connected to other highly discussed arguments such as the birth of a European Public Sphere. This argument has seen experts sided up on opposite sides leaving the discussion open to the possibility of a public arena where national debates can come together and acquire a European dimension. At the same time, the hypothesis of a European public opinion is connected to the multilingual theme, which the Commission has dedicated partucular attention so that the guarantee of a linguistic parity can reinforce the democratic legitimacy of the communitarian work.
    An explanation will be given of the instruments used by the communitarian institutions to reach the general public, such as the antennas of Europe Direct, European Centres for Permanent Education, the official web-portal EUROPA, as well as audiovisual services. The Union also has access to another tool, the Eurobarometer, which is used to determine in what direction national public opinions are heading regarding European issues. The methodology used for the Eurobarometer will be discussed and changes suggested which will render the data acquired more reliable and better structured.
    An overview of the iter which the European Institutions, and in particular the Commission, have followed up to now in managing both information and communication aimed at the general public will allow us to introduce an analysis of the above-mentioned White Paper and as well of two other important documents which are a completion of the framework of the actions to be taken in order to reinforce both the transparency and openness of the European Union towards its citizens and that is, the Action Plan by the Commission to Improve Communicating Europe and Plan-D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate. These arguments are still in an evolving phase but nonetheless they allow us to formulate hypotheses regarding possible routes to follow and proposals for the future. in conclusion, the European Union, in particular after the last enlargement, cannot ignore the «citizenship deficit» without strongly compromising the integration process .
    Probably the greatest limit to overcome is still the fact that European communication activities are still not disciplined by binding norms.
    Perhaps only the recognition in the Treaties of a new and actual «policy» can turn communication into a means that is capable of deeply weighing on the reorganisation of the European institutional framework in its relations with the citizens.
    It is in this way that communication must consider itself a concept that is inseparable from that of integration and democratic legitimacy, a mission that must be given priority, and a means and a way which the Union must improve its potentiality and structure its administration.

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