During the past years, many stones were thrown at Europe. The success stories however remain untold. Especially in the light of Brexit we have heard many accounts of fake news and exaggerations, while Europe’s positive side remained underexposed. It is not just that Europe is used as a scapegoat for everything that goes wrong. Europe lacks a modern communication strategy that highlights its positive sides.
Jean-Claude Juncker discussed in the State of the Union the importance of the Citizen’s Dialogue’s. Europe by doing, putting experiences in the centre of it. Therefore I have launched the action “Let the Stars Shine”, together with eight fellow EPP Members. It is our goal to engage citizens and find ways to improve communication about and by the EU. We want to encourage citizens to share their experiences with the EU programmes. There are countless of examples: companies who were able to develop innovating new technologies thanks to EU support. Thousands of students who can study in other European countries due to the Erasmus-project.
These personal narratives are our “stars”. With our initiative “Let the Stars Shine”, we want to highlight projects and proposals from our Member States that tell a story to the community. My action started in the Netherlands in the small rural town of Diessen on 30 August together with Commissioner Cretu. The coming months my colleagues will take this action further. We invited beneficiaries of EU funds to step forward and submit their proposals. By the end of this year we will collect the submitted proposals and look at their innovative ways of communication used to involve citizens, cities and regions in the project.
In my booklet ‘Let the Stars Shine: Engaging citizens in the EU’ we invited several communication experts to share their fresh perspectives on how to tackle this communication issue. Their conclusion was clear: not just communicate more, but communicate in a different way. Martijn Groenleer, professor of Law and Governance at Tilburg University: “I believe it is not about better communication on the EU, but about more and better internal communication within the EU. It is expected that this will lead to a more coherent and visible EU policy with a more uniform impact throughout the Union”. Ryan heath, senior EU correspondent at Politici, shares this opinion: “The EU flag and signs attached to EU projects are a good visual clue to the EU’s wide impact. Another way for the EU to have more of its impact felt is to focus on what only it can do well. Instead of having a finger in every pie, the EU could afford to focus more on projects that simply couldn’t happen without it”.
Luckily this view has been gaining momentum lately. The “Let the Stars Shine”-imitative does not stand on its own. The European Commission has recently launched a call for proposal on new communication strategies on EU Cohesion policy.
Moreover, the parliament’s recent proposals on communication in the Omnibus-trilogue are positively received by European Commission and Council. The aim is to enable beneficiaries to communicate on the effects of the EU programmes and measures, also in the years after the project is finished. This is clearly what was missing during and after the Brexit referendum.
The EU flag has 12 stars, a symbol of unity. I believe the EU has many more stars out there, waiting to shine. There is much more to Europe than the talks in Brussels. If we do not tackle these issues seriously, we spoil the support the EU has built. Let the Stars Shine.
MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij, EPP-coordinator for REGI. More info on: www.lambertvannistelrooij.nl.