The debate on the future Europe remains a timely one. It attracts
much attention from the side of the public. The tools and the
paths of reaching a political union should perhaps be one of the
main topics for discussion. Such a dialogue would look at the
nerves of policy making in the European Union. It would get down
to the essence of the democratic mandate for decisions taken in
It is common knowledge that candidate states to the European
Union face a challenge that often escapes the attention of EU
decision-makers. They are trying to explain European politics
to their public. They are trying to ensure that the parliaments
are more than mere voting machines, adopting EU legislation without
much of a debate. Therefore, it is important to prevent the import
of a democratic deficit from the European level.
First, we need to start with bringing European policies closer
home. European issues are generally not very different from domestic
We should therefore draw a less rigid distinction to the candidate
countries' citizens between the EU level and the home territory.
There can not be democracy at EU standards, unless EU policy is
debated thoroughly by candidate countries.
Secondly, to ensure public awareness: In one of his latest
debates, Romano Prodi stated that "the most difficult
problem lying ahead the EU integration process, the only one in
reality, is public opinion".
At the level of the EU countries, it further weakens, as in the
case of last year's Irish referendum.
The EU Awareness Programme's visible
outcome is the creation within two years of a Europa page in the
main newspapers in Romania and Bulgaria.
After a thorough research of the media trends in the region,
and in line with the Working Table 1's "Media Task Force"
objectives of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, we
have identified three areas of immediate regional interest: training
local journalists in all aspects of European Union affairs, developing
`Europa` sections in local newspapers, developing exchanges between
Romania, Bulgarian journalists with their Western European and
new comers into the EU family. In this respect, we have
envisaged a two-year regional communication and dissemination
strategy. Based on our "CCC philosophy": coordination,
complementarity and communication, our strategy will not represent
a sheer public relations exercise, but a sustainable programme,
which has a two-sided vision in mind:
a. to promote European Union affairs, in line with the
philosophy of regional ownership.
b. to strengthen the regional media and adapt them to European
There is a scarce reservoir of specialized journalists in South
Eastern Europe. This is one of the reasons, for which specific
international media issues are not communicated and therefore
understood by the readers. Up till now, there have been several
attempts to reverse this situation, but none of them has been
the product of an integrated strategy, nor have these projects
been promoted through a unique channel.
The Ithaka Foundation has selected Romania and
Bulgaria, as a pilot project
Following discussions with the EU Commissioner on Enlargement,
Mr. Günter Verheugen, and his information interinstitutional
relations Director, Mr. Wenceslas de Lobkowicz, the best strategy
to implement this project would be starting small, with a two-country
approach. We have identified Romania and Bulgaria as a start up.
Building on existing activities in Western European member countries
and first wave of candidate countries, as well as on the best
practices of the European organizations active in the communication/training
field, this EU awareness project aims to better incorporate the
education and communication components in the development and
reconstruction efforts of Romania and Bulgaria in their road to
a United Europe, in accordance with the principle of sustainability.
One of the key factors needed to ensure the success of these
initiatives is to develop a thorough understanding of European
affairs among the journalists working in the main newspapers in
the region, with the aim of creating European affairs sections
within these newspapers during the following two years.
We will ensure training programmes for selected
journalists in issues concerning EU enlargement and integration.
We propose 12 training workshops: 3/per year in each country,
six in Bucharest and six in Sofia. The topics will cover economic,
social and political aspects of the EU enlargement, as well as
the role of the media in disseminating this information to the
One of the workshops is to focus on the way the EU-15 media are
reflecting the realities in the candidate countries and on `public
diplomacy`, namely, how governments and non-governmental organisations
interact with the public in the member countries, while aiming
to change the public opinion favourably. Using the foreign correspondents
to influence positively the target audience is worth exploring.
It does not apply to Romanian and Bulgarian journalists, but it
would give them, as well as civil servants from MFA and other
ministries an insight on how other countries aim to `brand` their
image. We aim at coordinating our activities with the UK Foreign
Policy Centre, and use Mark Leonard's Public diplomacy`. This
seems to produce a `softer` form of lobbying, not on particular
issues, but on promoting a certain brand, which, in this case
is a positive image of the country.
For Romania and Bulgaria, entry into the EU is delayed by `hard`
issues (agriculture, privatisation, the state of the economy,
etc.) but also `soft` issues: the marginality of their position,
the negative aspects that recur in the Western media, etc.; this
is probably the best type of lobbying. The other training sessions
will cover economic reporting of the EU, fiscal policy, the EURO,
security, enlargement per se., best practices of other newspaers
and media groups in the first wave candidate countries (i.e :
Lithuania and the Czech Republic) etc.
An exchange of opinions and sharing of experience between
Romanian and Bulgarian journalists will be encouraged. The objective
of these training sessions will be to create a pool of journalists
with a wide understanding of EU affairs capable to engage in a
transparent debate of the rights and wrongs of the creation of
a United Europe.
The Ithaka Foundation will invite specialists in EU affairs
They will come from media, academia, politics and business. We
will also invite journalists from the first wave accession countries
to share their experience of reporting on the EU in their newspapers.
Project by: Ramona Calin