Friday, July 08, 2005

The EU's New Communications Approach: Tell the Same Old Story, But Better

Attached is a speech made by Danuta Hübner, EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, to the Committe of the Regions on behalf of ailing Communications Commissioner Margot Wallström.

It it is interesting not so much for its specific proposals, which are characteristically woolly, as for the way it reveals underlying strategies and assumptions within the EU's apparat. One of these strategies is the "divide and rule" approach of setting regional representatives against national governments. The speech refers to "the blame game" - whereby national governments take the credit for successful EU policies, whilst blaming the EU for any failures. The Commissioner appeals to the regional representatives to resist their governments in this matter.

Aside from this, the speech implicitly assumes that the failure of the Dutch and French constutional votes was due to the failings not of the constitutional document itself, but to the way it was communicated to voters. A better, "more professional" communications platform, it is implied, will overcome citizens' concerns (and, it is implied, citizens' annoying inability to understand such complex matters). That assumption is worrying for more than its casual arrogance alone. For it shows that the EU - for all the noises it's making about "wanting to listen" - has no serious intention of doing so with a view to coming up with a different approach, but only with a view to selling the existing approach in a more effective way!

Commissioner Wallström's much-trumpeted "Plan D" (for democracy and dialogue), in other words, will exclude the give and take of actual democracy and dialogue, then. That is a great pity, as Commissioner Wallstöm had a golden opportunity to transform not merely the communication of overall policy, but the formulation of a new policy truly responsive to voters' manifest concerns.

The speech is in pdf format:

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