ANALYSIS: THIS WEEK’S BIG QUESTION - Should there be a single on-the-record spokesperson for the EC?

EC president-elect Romano Prodi plans to reform the commission’s PR operation

EC president-elect Romano Prodi plans to reform the commission’s PR



’There are times when you want one highly focused view from the

commission. On the other hand, a bit of anarchy in the PR service can be

an advantage. Banning all the other spokesmen from speaking would close

off existing avenues to finding stories. If they choose someone like

Jamie Shea, who is a model of clarity and availability, that will be

good for us all. A lot will depend on how available the new spokesperson

wants to make himself.’


’The single spokesperson’s statements will be authoritative and

represent the commission as a whole. The individual commissioners’

spokespeople should be able to amplify and clarify details either on or

off the record. They will be part of a more tightly controlled group,

avoiding the mixed messages you get at the moment, when you see turf

battles fought out between individual spokespeople.’


’It does make sense. The commission is a college and its decisions are

collegiate, and if it is to work effectively it needs strong leadership

The job of the spokesmen’s office is to reconcile the differences there

might be higher up. That was Delors’ original idea for the spokespeople

in 1985, but it drifted, especially in the last commission.’


’The commission needs to improve its communications. Anything to improve

communication with the public and put things in simple terms is good.

But the effectiveness depends on who the spokesperson is and what his or

her personality is. In an organisation as large and multilingual as the

commission, it’s difficult for one spokesperson to rule the roost.’


’The idea of a single spokesman is a welcome step in right direction. On

the record a la White House is obviously the appropriate model for the

commission. The logic is clear: to avoid the empire-building of the

past, with the designated spokesmen competing for media coverage for

their commissioners. The test will be in ensuring the largest accredited

international press corps in the world has sufficient access to

information beyond the daily briefings.’

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