My Communication Projects in the EU
Presentation to my 8 main EU projects

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. J  

 

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  

 

EUROPE 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.

 

 

 

  1. EMM (Europe Media Monitor)

 

      See:  http://press.jrc.it/NewsBrief/worldedition/en/en.html 

 

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!

 

 

  1. Dialogue on Europe

 

See:  http://ec.europa.eu/comm/igc2000/dialogue/index_en.htm

 

       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.

Myself included!

 

 

Niels Jørgen Thøgersen

 

November 2006
EU's Offices strengthend from 1988

THE COMMISSION’s OFFICES

Initiatives from 1988 and onwards

One of president Jacques Delors’ priorities during his ten years in the Commission (1985-95) was clearly to strengthen the Offices. They existed in all the capitals and in a couple of regions of the member states and had until now been called Press and Information Offices. Their most important task was to serve the local media, the political parties, the organisations and civil society with information about that was happening in the EU.

President Delors wanted to upgrade them to a more political role.  He wanted to ensure that they could act as very well-informed representatives of the Commission on the spot. And also that they would become more useful with feed-back to the Commission.

He and his cabinet, therefore, took the initiative – together with the responsible Commissioner, Mr. Carlo Ripa di Meana, to strengthen the structures for the back up to the Offices.  A special directorate for dealing with the Offices was created inside the DG Information, Communication and Culture, DG X. And I was happy to be appointed to be the first director for the new directorate.  My experience as head of the Copenhagen Office for 15 years gave me a good experience for the task.

We took a number of concrete initiatives from autumn 1988 and onwards:

  1. ECCO was created.  It meant “European Commission’s Communication Office”. This was a service section particularly at the disposal of the Offices.  Its work was to dispatch information quickly and even more to be the entry point for requests from the Offices.  ECCO was in principle operational from 08.30-18.00 Mon-Fri.
  2. European Councils :  It was decided that DG X should be present at all meetings of the European Councils.  The purpose was to be on the spot to inform the Offices during the meeting on what was going on.  This made the Offices much more valuable for the national and local press during the meetings.  And at the end of the meeting our task was to fax the Presidency Conclusions to all offices, if possible in their language.  The Offices were instructed to ensure that the media got them – and also that a nice copy was brought to the Prime Minister’s office as quickly as possible.

Another important function was to provide information to the Commission’s president in the meeting on how the meeting and different initiatives were reported in the capitals during the meeting.  Some prime ministers and foreign ministers said different things in the meeting and to their national media.  It was important to be aware of that.

I was myself present at all European Council meetings between autumn 1988 (in Greece) until 1994.  The work was very interesting and hectic – in close cooperation with the Spokesman’s Service on the spot. And as Conclusions often were very long and the fax machines very slow it could last a good part of the night.  

Some Offices were more operational in this European Council project than others.  I believe our Office in Bonn was the most efficient dealing with that.

It is evident that the arrival of the internet and e-mails made a good part this work different.

  1. Countries holding the EU Presidency :  It was also very important that our Heads of Offices were fully up to date with what incoming presidencies were planning. Therefore, we started already in December 1988 with a special meeting for all Heads of Offices in Madrid. Spain would hold the presidency in spring 1989. This initiative was a great success from the very beginning.  The governments saw this as very important also for them.  One or more ministers always came to brief the meetings on their plans. And we also met a range of high officials, who would be running the daily work in the coming presidency.

These pre-presidency heads of offices meetings have been arranged ever since 1988.

  1. Weekly briefing of the offices by teleconference:  Following the Commission’s meeting on Wednesdays we started a weekly briefing by teleconference of the heads of offices – normally on Thursday afternoon.  DG X was always present in all Commission meetings (either by its director-general or by one of us directors). This gave us first-hand information on the discussions and decisions. And in the case of very important dossiers we invited heads of cabinets or directors-generals to come to the teleconference (in my office) to contribute to the debriefing.  This also gave the Offices the possibility to put questions, of course.
  2. TEAM 1992   (later TEAM EUROPE):  Lots of EU initiatives were launched during that period, not least the count-down to the single market from 1992, and also from 1989 the huge task of assisting the newly independent democracies in Central and Eastern Europe (incl. the TACIS programme).  At the same time the “law of the day” was decentralized information – to adapt the information and communication to local needs and circumstances.  At the same time it was evident that the Offices could not manage the increasing demand for information themselves. That was the main reason for the creation of Speakers’ Teams in all member states. The Offices in Bonn and in Copenhagen had already launched such teams some years ago.  They were given the name TEAM 1992  (as the 1992 deadline for the start of the single market was the key target). And when it was done and implemented we changed the name in 1993 to TEAM EUROPE.  These speakers’ teams counted many hundred people throughout the EU.  Back-up and regular briefings from Brussels were organized, and the Offices were, of course, also at their disposal.  President Delors wanted to speak to them himself, when they met in Brussels.
  3. Commission decision about the Role of the Offices in 1989:  As things developed fast around the Offices and their tasks it was decided to prepare a Commission Communication about their role.  It set out the details of their present and future role, incl. how the college of Commissioners could and should use and support them.  The point was a B-point on the Commission’s agenda – meaning that a debate took place under the leadership of president Delors.  All points in the draft were agreed and in some cases improved and strengthened.  A discussion on the name of the Offices took some time. Some Commissioners preferred to continue with the name Offices. Others insisted on called them Representations (in view of their new role).  At the end Delors suggested a compromise:  Let us call them:  Bureaux de Representation.  This was agreed.

 

Niels Jørgen Thøgersen

niels4europe@gmail.com

March 2016