Pic via @avaltat http://yfrog.com/kkvfsebjI’ve been attending the EuroPCom conference in Brussels yesterday and today, and the panels and coffee breaks are full of discussions about how to better communicate the European Union to citizens.

Sorry but I am really tired of this ‘debate’.

Throw as many tools and content at the problem and you are not going to solve it. The problem with EU communication is deep and structural. It is not a problem with communication per se.

When does a political body (or in fact any organisation or company) communicate well? It’s when their own future depends on it. When a politician will not be re-elected, a company will go bankrupt, a NGO will not achieve its campaign ends. That drives good quality communications.

The problem for the EU institutions is that the people doing the communications – officials in the Commission, Council and Parliament – are often too far away from this. Their own futures do not depend on how they communicate. Yes, there might be some fuzzy concern that citizens don’t like of trust the EU, but that touches very few people in Brussels personally. Many of the politicians in Brussels are too insulated from direct accountability as well.

The problem then relates to the structure of the institutions – get the democracy and accountability right and better communications will follow. Until that happens all we’re doing is messing around at the edges.


  1. Hi Jon,

    I guess you’ve seen Ronny Patz’ recent blog post where he talks about a new study named ‘Information Flow and Communication Deficit: Perceptions of Brussels-Based Correspondents and EU Officials’? Might be an interesting backgrounder! http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07036337.2011.584345

  2. Dear Jon, I agree to some degree with your analysis, i.e. that there is structural poroblem with EU communication. However, it is not that people dealing with communication in the EU are too far away from reality. Most of them are vey dedicated and very well rooted into society. The real problem is that the institutions – structures, procedures, etc – are not adapted to communication, conversations, let alone engagement. That is the real crux of the matter. They would need a flatter organisation, shorter decision lines, more trust in staff to reply, … Question is then: how could make an institution change? That would be an interesting debate.

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