The European Commission policy on brining information closer to citizens
Dr. M. Irene Paolino
Europe Direct Puglia
EU Information Office
University of Bari "Aldo Moro"
Dear Ms. Paolino, why the EU information offices are open in Italy and what is their role?
Bearing in mind the above-mentioned considerations, citizens and businesses must be informed effectively about their rights and the opportunities arising from the EU. In order to do this in the most direct and efficient possible way, over the time the Commission has set up a series of services in partnership with various actors in the Member States.
The services interact with the public at national, regional and local levels, responding to requests for information or assistance. They play an important role in communicating with citizens and businesses, but also in listening to their feedback and learning from their needs.
The fundamental objective of an EU Information Desk is to empower citizens to be better informed on the EU in order to voice their opinions on European affairs. Following the will of Mr Juncker, President of the EC, “all our activities are organized in order that citizens will perceive that the EU is working to improve their lives and that they engage with the EU, that they feel their concerns are taken into consideration in European decision making and that they know about their EU rights. In that sense, our objective is a shared objective”.
At the moment we can bring about 22 different EU services currently operating in the Member States, where citizens and businesses can get answers to their queries. Each service offers tailor-made support in a particular area, ranging from general information about the EU to more specific topics such as how to find a job, a business partner or a grant.
In practice, there is a contact point for everyone, for different needs, for various stakeholders. With these information services, the Commission tries not to be too far from people and to guide citizens and businesses to the most appropriate services for their enquiry.
When the Commission adopted this new approach of brining the information to and offer it tailored to citizens?
A gradual implementation of the information and communication strategy, tailored to citizen needs, settled with the full cooperation of the MS started around 2000 (COM(2002) 350). Within this strategy, gradually over time, many EU information and documentation relays and networks were developed incorporating over 700 centres, which provide a physical presence in all Member States,
These relays and networks, coordinated by the EC, in detail DG PRESS was responsible, were designed to bring information to people. In addition to them, there were also some 550 "Team Europe" experts. However, the networks and relays were mostly the result of a partnerships with Member States and, above all, with local authorities. Their experience, flexibility and immediate proximity to the civil society and the general public make them a favored instrument to translate into practice the principle of the decentralization of information. Their potential was great and effective.
Before 2005, these networks were the following:
- 3 major national centres for information and documentation in Paris, Lisbon and Rome;
- 3 interregional centres for information and documentation in Thessaloniki, Naples and Berlin;
- 142 Info-Points Europe (IPE);
- 134 Rural information and animation Carrefours;
- 328 European Documentation Centres (EDC).
These relays and networks were independent centres run by host structures which provided the location and the main source of funding. The Commission signed an agreement with the host structure – a university, local authority, etc. - undertaking to provide it with the services and support needed to enable it to develop its activities and, in certain cases, an annual grant.
What are the Europe Direct Information Relays and what is their role?
After the adoption of the communication on the implementation of the information and communication strategy for the European Union (COM(2004) 196), a new generation of grassroots information services for general public, networked under the name Europe Direct Information Relays, was created, by the EC, in 2005. Nowadays, the Europe Direct Information Relays are selected, at national level, through a call for proposals, by EC Representation and then approved by the EC, that is entitled to monitor and supervise these relays.
The structures, hosting about 500 Europe Direct Centre disseminated in all MS, were chosen on the base of similar eligibility, selection and award criteria and the relevant financial provisions within the Financial Regulation in force (now EU Regulation n. 1268/2012). The selected host structure has been provided with an action grant per year, that is awarded on the basis of an annual work programme and provisional budget, submitted every year by the Europe Direct Centre to EC for the approval.
For the stability and continuity of the information and communication activities, planned by each Europe Direct in their work programme, the grant is covered by a multiannual framework agreement and implemented every year by a specific annual agreement.
The decentralization of the EU information Relays aims at developing a policy of proximity communication, that can promote and contribute to the creation of a European public sphere. In fact, considering the limited financial resources and capacity of the EU Institutions to going local, without the active support from this new Information Network, the spreading of messages or the effective engagement with the general public would not be possible. The geographical coverage of the network in all MS ensures an adequate representativeness and distribution across the EU based on the democratic density and takes into account the different situations which exist in such an enlarged Union.
Europe Direct Information Relays represent many different kinds of host structures, non-profit bodies active in the Member States promoting principles, values and policies consistent with the objectives of the Treaties.
Thank you for sharing this important information with us! Wishing you success!