EU to step up PR efforts in the face of voters' apathy

The European Union is set to beef up its PR work across the continent in advance of next year's European elections.

MEPs have overwhelmingly backed a report by Spanish MEP Juan Jose Bayona de Perogordo that describes citizens' apathy towards the EU as a 'serious problem', and recommends that the institutions of the union should give greater 'weight and character' to its PR work.

Proposals backed by 320 MEPs, with 37 voting against and 48 abstaining, also include a TV information blitz to promote the forthcoming elections and more hands-on involvement of member states in PR activities. This includes not only national parliaments but also local authorities.

The report says: 'The union's information activities should be better coordinated at central level, and more decentralised.'

MEPs are particularly concerned by low turnout in European elections.

In 1999 turnout across Europe averaged 49 per cent, and in the UK it was just 24 per cent.

In adopting the report MEPs called upon all EU institutions, member states and applicant countries to launch an 'exceptional information effort' for the next European Parliament elections in June 2004.

MEPs also urged EU institutions to boost PROs' training and called for an annual debate on EU 'information policy' to be held in plenary sitting, in advance of annual budget allocations.

EU Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs Antonio Vitorino - who is in charge of information strategy - is now looking at the details of the proposals and how best they can be implemented in coordination with member states.

Meanwhile, Jorge de Oliveira e Sousa has been appointed as director-general of the European Commission press and communication team.

He effectively replaces Jonathan Faull, who quit for a non-PR job at the EC in March (PRWeek, 14 February).

Oliveira e Sousa will work alongside Commission spokesman Reijo Kemppinen who was appointed at the same time as Faull's departure.

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