Europe needs to communicate what it does better says the European Commission, and it is determined to rise to the challenge. The need has become more urgent with data being published saying seven out of 10 Europeans do not understand how the EU works. The Commission’s action plan envisages an approach based on three principles; listening, communication, and contact with citizens. Margot Wallstrom is Commission Vice President for Communication; “I think the only way to go forward is what I call the plan D. People are expecting dialogue, debates, and democracy, and I must admit that I have always been surprised that democracy and strengthening democracy have never been higher on the EU’s political agenda”, she said. This information gap goes hand in hand with citizen’s loss of confidence in their institutions. According to a Eurobarometer poll conducted between May and June, during the referendum campaigns in France and the Netherlands, the image people have of Europe is deteriorating.
Confidence in the EU has dropped by three percentage points compared to last autumn, with the Finns, British, and Austrians the most sceptical. However confidence is still high in Ireland, Italy, and Luxembourg. Another subject questioned in the poll was people’s opinions on enlargement. Support for this has dropped by three percent since last year, and now stands at 50 percent. Another striking feature is that the older EU members are much more lukewarm in their support, with France, Austria, and Luxembourg the least enthusiastic. Paris and Vienna respectively only have 32 and 31 percent positive opinions on this. The new members want the European Union to grow further, however, with Slovenia, Poland, and Slovakia the keenest to welcome new members. The final major revelation of the report is that it looks unlikely that Turkey will make it into the Union any time soon. 52 percent of people polled reject Turkish membership, with the Austrians and Cypriots the most hostile, followed by the Germans and French.