Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Eighth Report





COM(02) 350

Commission Communication: an Information and Communication Strategy for the European Union.

Legal base:


Document originated:

2 July 2002

Deposited in Parliament:

24 July 2002


Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Basis of consideration:

EM of 9 August 2002

Previous Committee Report:

None; but see (22538) 10511/01: HC 152-vi (2001-02), paragraph 8 (14 November 2001)

To be discussed in Council:

No date set

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:

Cleared, but further information requested



    1. On 14 November 2001, we cleared a Commission Communication that proposed a new framework for co-operation on the EU's information and communication activities, based on inter-institutional cooperation, particularly between the European Parliament and the Council. A key aim of the framework was to improve the supply of meaningful information about the EU to the citizens of the Union.
    2. The document

    3. On 8 July 2002 the Commission issued the present document. It proposes a strategy to be adopted by the Commission, Council, European Parliament and Member States to address the low levels of public awareness and understanding of the European Union and its role amongst the public at large. According to the Commission, the proposal comprises a two-fold approach:
    4. "(i)  Improving co-ordination between the Institutions and the Member States at national, regional and local level so that the provision of information and the formulation and dissemination of messages on priority issues are more coherent and focused on the end user, the European public;

      "(ii)  Establishing a voluntary working partnership with the Member States, fostering genuine synergy between their structures and know-how and the activities of the European Union."[42]

    5. In short, the policy aims to co-ordinate the efforts of the Institutions and Member States to deliver consistent and focused messages in order to raise people's awareness and understanding of the EU. The messages will be devised to meet the particular concerns of different groups. For example, the concerns over enlargement will be different amongst people in applicant countries from those of people in Member States. The Commission's policy messages, strategies and communication activities, which will be developed with the aid of opinion polls and focus groups, will reflect these different concerns.
    6. In focussing its information efforts, the Commission has identified four priority topics: enlargement; the future of the European Union; freedom, security and justice; and the role of the Union in the world. The Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Peter Hain) describes the role of Member States. He says:
    7. "Each Member State would then choose whether to endorse these [messages], and would draw up a communication plan in co-operation with the Commission, adapting it to meet specific national needs, target groups and Government communication policy. Member States may choose to sign a voluntary Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalise this arrangement.

      "The Commission also proposes that EU information networks in Member States should be assessed to propose a new and more coherent framework for action that could also be extended to future Member States."

      The Government's view

    8. The Minister welcomes the increased emphasis on the need to communicate the activities of the European Union to its citizens. He notes the work of the EU Public Diplomacy Section of the FCO, which already raises awareness of the benefits of UK membership of the EU through a variety of activities, including regional visits, speeches, articles, publications and websites.
    9. The Minister also notes the comprehensive network of information centres throughout the UK, including European Public Information Centres (EPIC), which use a network of 3,187 libraries, 21 European Information Centres (EIC) aimed at the business community, 43 European Documentation Centres (EDC) for the academic community, 12 European Resource Centres for Schools and colleges, and 6 centres (Carrefours) to provide EU information, links and exchanges in rural areas.
    10. Conclusion

    11. Given that there is clearly a lack of accessible and reliable information on the EU, we welcome further efforts to disseminate information on such key issues as the future of Europe and enlargement. However, we also have some concerns about the quality of such information, specifically the risk that such information and communication activities could degenerate into propaganda for particular Institutions or the EU generally.
    12. In the light of this, we would like the Minister to inform us how high standards of accuracy and integrity will be guaranteed and whether there is a case for a code of practice to be devised so that the European public can identify the key principles and standards which Institutions will be expected to uphold when implementing the information and communication policy.
    13. Meanwhile, we clear the document.


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Prepared 11 November 2002