White paper with holes like Swiss cheese
1st February 2006, for immediate distribution
The Young European Federalists welcome the White Paper on a European Communication Policy adopted by the European Commission today. It is a good first step towards improving the communication of the EU institutions. Sadly, it raises false expectations by indicating proposals for a more democratic Union.
"The actions put forward in the White Paper constitute some constructive ideas to decrease the worrying distance between the people and the project of European integration", said Jan Seifert, president of the Young European Federalists (JEF-Europe), in a first reaction.
For many years, JEF-Europe has called for more involvement of the citizens and for concrete action to encourage the creation of a European political sphere.
Jan Seifert explained: "We support the main features of the document and especially welcome the decision to broaden the existing programmes concerned with involving European citizens in Europe, e.g. Youth in Action, Citizens for Europe and Culture. Also, the proposal to widen the PRINCE programme into a "European Public Sphere Programme" is to be welcomed. However, given the financial restraints of the proposed Financial Perspectives for 2007-2013 it is highly questionable if these announcements will not remain as further wholes in the cheese."
Regrettably, the Commission did not dare to address some crucial points.
"While talking a lot about the «principle of inclusiveness» and the right of equal access to information about matters of public concern, the White Paper remains vague on transparency issues, especially on demanding the complete opening of Council debates to the public", Jan Seifert criticized.
Furthermore, the paper fails to draw up a concrete strategy to include the civil society into the framework of the European Communication Policy.
In conclusion, Jan Seifert inserted the Commission's plan into the big picture: "The European Union is in urgent need of institutional reform and the worrying democratic deficit will not be tackled by the creation of new websites. All the communication and advertisement in the world is useless if the product itself is suboptimal. We are calling on the European institutions - and in particular the Council - to accompany their communications by appropriate actions."