EC seeks awareness ahead of expansion

LONDON: The European Commission's UK base will launch a public affairs push next year in a bid to raise awareness of European Union expansion.

LONDON: The European Commission's UK base will launch a public affairs push next year in a bid to raise awareness of European Union expansion.

Ian Barber, policy head at European Commission Representation in the UK, said creating a better understanding of the expansion was "the number-one priority" of public affairs work next year.

Barber added that this was especially vital to reverse a widespread ignorance of EU matters among the British public: "We have one of the best information networks, but if the polls are to be believed, one of the lowest levels of awareness."

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office survey in December last year found that one of every 15 Britons believes the US is an EU member, and 25% of those surveyed did not know that Britain was a member.

The EC representation in the UK has announced that as early as the end of the year, a fresh public affairs brief will go out to tender as it reviews its contract for external support.

Aside from raising awareness of EU expansion, another focus will be to relate EU policy to people's lives. Barber added that recent coverage gained by EU internal market commissioner Fritz Bolkstein during a debate over so-called "booze cruises" - when Britons take ferries to the continent to buy cheap alcohol - was a good example of this.

The contract is handled by Relay Europe, which has held the account since 1994. The campaign will target those who are likely to communicate with the public about EU issues, such as business advisers and librarians.

Other targets include UK government departments, as well as online and publication work, and event management.

Cyprus, Malta, and eight Eastern European countries have applied for EU membership. Formal invitations are expected to be issued at a mid-December EU summit.

Entry is seen as vital for regeneration projects, as new members will receive ?14.6 billion ($22.7 billion) in structural aid over the first three years.

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