My most important communication projects in the EU
During my 32 years in managerial post in the communication work of the European Commission I had the pleasure to take the initiative to and develop a number of projects, which I am still today very proud of. They not only still exist. They have been further developed and continue to play a very important role in EU communications.
I am very happy to recommend to you, that you not only read about them. But that you use them.
1. TEAM EUROPE See: http://ec.europa.eu/comm/relays/te_en.htm
This is a team of independent speakers, who all are very knowledgeable about European affairs, and who are at the disposal as speakers for conferences, seminars, educational institutions, etc. The very first TEAM started in Denmark in the mid 80’ies. We called it TEAM 92, because its main purpose at that moment was to present and explain the work to create a European single market. When it was in place by the end of 1992 the TEAM naturally got a new name: TEAM EUROPA. And it also got new tasks such as explaining enlargement (with Sweden, Finland and Austria) and also presenting the €. Today TEAM EUROPE has hundreds of dedicated members all over Europe, and they make thousands of speeches and presentations every year.
2. EUROPA See: http://ec.europa.eu/
This is the official Internet portal of the European Union. Today the largest public web portal in the world. It operates in each of the 20 official languages of the EU and contains information from all EU institutions and their many departments.
We started EUROPA already in 1995. It was in the very beginning of the public Internet, and though we had some scepticism and resistance we had the necessary strong support from our political masters. With a small team – very professional, very dedicated and very hard working – we managed to get the site running within a very short time. The largest portal at that moment had 200.000 hits per month. We had from the beginning 100.000. We decided to take the lead very quickly. And so we did within a couple of months. And who was the No. 1 portal in the very beginning? It was Playboy!
3. Europe by Satellite (EbS) See: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/ebs/schedule.cfm
We decided very quickly that we should not only make all documents and all other written information available on the Internet. Everybody talked about the need for more openness and transparency from public authorities. Therefore, we decided to transmit all important events in the EU Commission and in other EU institutions live – giving everybody in Europe the possibility to follow directly what was happening. We rented space on a TV satellite covering the whole of geographical Europe, the Middle East and the north of Africa. Then we started broadcasting live the daily press conferences and press briefings, the public debates in the European Parliament, many statements and interviews, etc. Soon people could also watch EbS live and recorded on the Internet (on the above web address). So wherever you were – or are – in Europe ( for the web: in the whole world) you are able to watch and listen, when Commissioners, MEPs and many others have things to say. This is indeed Openness.
In the beginning we also in this project encountered some resistance. Not from inside the Commission. But from the accredited journalists in Brussels. Why? They claimed that by transmitting the daily press events live their editors back home would very soon decide that their costly presence in Brussels were no longer needed, as it was now possible to follow events from anywhere. Our reply to this criticism was that our press events took place in “the public space”, and consequently they could not be reserved to any specific group. By the way, it was often the very same journalists who publicly criticised the EU for not being open enough!! At more relaxed occasions I remember often to tell my friends, the journalists that if I were their editor back home and if they did nothing else in Brussels than going to the daily press briefings I would certainly call them back home. In that case they did not do their work properly.
By the way, all journalists later agreed that it is a great advantage to them that EbS ensures the transmission of the important events. Then they can concentrate on doing the editing of the raw material from EbS – and do the comments and analysis. Happy ending for everybody!
4. EUROPE DIRECT See: http://ec.europa.eu/europedirect/index_en.htm
The EUROPA web site was a great step forward in our communication. EbS was an equally important initiative for TV and radio. But we also wanted to do something for the individual European citizen. He and she should be given the possibility to call the EU directly and get answers to any question about the EU. And to get them in his or her own language, of course.
Therefore, we started in 1998 EUROPE DIRECT. Any citizen in any EU country could from then on free of charge call a special phone number (the same in all member states):
00800 6 7 8 9 10 11
DIRECT very quickly became a clear success. But not without internal resistance. Many colleagues predicted all sorts of problems, if ED gave a wrong reply to a question. One argument was that many media with negative intentions would call EUROPE DIRECT with very difficult questions. Why? In order to be able to write or say that our new service was useless or even misleading. It is possible that some journalists actually did that. But I am very proud to say that we passed the test.
Today nobody can see the EU without EUROPE DIRECT. The service has even been enlarged and linked to other services to the citizens. The link above explains that.
Our old motto for ED is still valid: “The EU is never further away than the nearest telephone!”
5. europa.GO See: http://europa.eu/europago
We also wanted to do something special for children and the very young people. Like everybody else we knew that they were – and are – very active on the web. And that they love competitions and entertaining ways to do and see things.
The result was: europa.GO Try it yourself. Even we adults can surely learn something. And be entertained for a short while.
EMM (Europe Media Monitor)
One of our important tasks in the EU Commission wastofollow and report what was written and said in all the main media. As more and more media also became accessible on the Internet it was obvious to make an important part of the media monitoring directly on the web. Therefore, we constructed EMM.
EMM “reads” automatically the public websites of more than 700 different media every 10 minutes. Around the clock. And all days of the week. The users can click on the abovementioned link and see all the news. In all 20 official languages of the EU. For free. And if you want to know more you just click on the link and you will immediately arrive at the full article concerned.
When all copyright questions were solved we could make part of EMM accessible to the general public. This is the part you see behind the link above. As you see you can also in the column to the left of the website subscribe on-line (and also un-subscribe) to free e-mails, which will bring you news in areas of special interest to you.
Have a good look at the different parts of EMM. I think you will be surprised. And perhaps even impressed!
Dialogue on Europe
In 2000 the EU Commission decided to start stimulating an open and active public
discussion about the future of Europe. It worked closely together with the EU member
states and with thousands of political parties, associations, NGOs, media, schools and
many others. Under the leadership of Commissioner Michel Barnier and with a very small
and very dedicated team I had the pleasure to coordinate all that. We could fortunately use
all the new communication instruments, which I have presented above – not least
EUROPA, EbS and EUROPE DIRECT. And we also initiated a lot of local activities.
Our website ( which is no longer active or up-to-date ) presents many interesting
initiatives, which we launched in 2000-2001. Many of them can certainly give
inspiration to communication activities also today.
8. EU for Journalists See: http://www.eu4journalists.com/
This is not an EU website. It belongs to the European Journalists Centre in Maastricht in
The Netherlands. But still I feel a special and a personal co-responsibility for this site,
because it was initiated and planned years back as part of a contract with my directorate in
the Commission. We wanted to ensure that journalists all over Europe – and in the rest of
the world for that matter – had easy and free access to anything concerning the EU of
special interest to independent journalists. What the EU is. How it works. And where to
find information and sources. I was personally involved in creating the concept and the
way it should be made available to journalists. But all the writing and updating was done
by the EJC and their independent journalists under the Centre’s full responsibility. Today
the site exists in 19 different languages. It is my impression that journalists throughout
Europe and beyond consider the site to be very useful indeed.
These projects were some of the exciting initiatives and operations, which I had the pleasure in
being personally and directly involved in over the years. This gives me a GREAT feeling.
And this happy and proud feeling becomes even greater when I hear and see that all these
Modern communication instruments continue to be used actively by more and more people.
Niels Jørgen Thøgersen