Commission's UK base to launch EU awareness drive

The European Commission's UK base is to launch a fresh public affairs push next year in a bid to raise awareness of European Union enlargement.

Commission's UK base to launch EU awareness drive

Ian Barber, policy head at European Commission Representation in the UK, says creating a better understanding of enlargement was 'the number one priority' of public affairs work next year.

Barber added this was especially vital to reverse a widespread ignorance of all 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 out of 15 Britons believe the US is a EU members state and a quarter of those surveyed did not even 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 enlargement, another focus will be to relate EU policy to people's lives. Barber added that the recent coverage gained by EU internal market commissioner Fritz Bolkstein during the debate over booze cruises was a good example of this.

The current contract is handled by Relay Europe, which has held the account since 1994.

Key target audiences for the campaign are those who are most likely to communicate with the public over EU issues such as business advisers and librarians.

Other targets for stakeholder relations include UK government departments.

Additional work will be online and publication work as well as event management.

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

Entry is seen as vital for regeneration projects as new members will receive £14.6 bn in structural aid over the first three years.

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