Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Improving EU Public Diplomacy

Submitted by Christian, aalep.eu

image (not from article) from

The key question to address is what the European Union is capable of achieving in the field of public diplomacy, and what is appropriate for EU actors and representatives to do. There is no question that the European Union has enormous public diplomacy potential – the combined ‘infopolitik’ might of the 27 member states and the Commission are formidable.
It is true that political and administrative obstacles to a unified and integrated EU public diplomacy remain but policymakers can and should work to remove such obstacles. An invigorated public diplomacy has much to offer the Union in its approach to a host of issues including relations with the USA, China, Russia etc. the effective management of migration into the EU, and increased economic partnership with Africa. In today’s world the distinction between domestic and foreign public diplomacy has become increasingly blurred. Member states particularly need to consider these possibilities – to assess the value of the EU institutions developing and improving their own international public profile, mindful of the fact that improved EU public diplomacy will not necessarily weaken member state public diplomacy. Indeed, cooperative public diplomacy may be better suited,  its practice by, and through, the EU will limit the ability of unsympathetic voices abroad to decry conventional member state public diplomacy initiatives as foreign propaganda, particularly at a time of reported ‘civilizational’ tension. Policymakers need to be aware that the future design of effective EU public diplomacy will be complicated by two major factors: the evolving nature of the EU itself, and the changing global context against which the EU is developing. As member states, the Council, the Parliament, and the Commission continue to debate the future direction of the EU, so the world around them is changing. The shifting sands of political, economic and cultural globalisation, the perceived rise of China and India, the ongoing ‘war on terrorism’, are all factors which European policymakers must take into account as they seek to improve EU public diplomacy strategy. As the EU improves its own brand of public diplomacy, it must also ensure it applies the principle of two-way communication. In the field of international communications, listening is a much more difficult process than talking but it is one Europe can, and should, strive towards. To date, the way that Europe and the EU communicate with third-country publics has been atomised and disjointed. There is arguably not enough co-operation between EU member states’ own public diplomacy organisations – and the capacity of the EU institutions to engage in public diplomacy activities is limited by a lack of resources and political will. Both faults are possible to remedy.
  1. Acknowledge that external public diplomacy and third country communications are a priority for the EU
  2. Harmonise all Commission terminology relating to public diplomacy and third-country communications; and publish a short, internal document outlining and explaining this terminology
  3. Create an EU Public Diplomacy Strategy Committee to centrally review and co-ordinate strategy
  4. Present a single face of the Commission, making Commission staff more aware of the importance of communications, strategic communications planning and co-ordination, better research and feedback, better listening and targeting in target countries, increasing Commissioners’ profile, and better use of multimedia tools.
  5. Increase support for public diplomacy and communications activity of EC delegations; make more financial and human resources available; increase recruitment of local, communication-aware staff; increase language training for delegations staff; ensure delegations have capacity to work closely with local government and media
  6. Conduct a comprehensive survey of EU Public Diplomacy and related activities; create an easily accessible database of all EU public diplomacy and external communications activity; include in the database contact names and details of all delegation information officers and units to facilitate networking; encourage mutual exchange of best practice between EU delegations; research and publish an ‘EU Public Diplomacy Handbook’ to be made available to EU officials There is significant room for improved contact and networking between EU officials and institutions working on public diplomacy and third-country communications. A database and ‘EU Public Diplomacy handbook’ based on best practice around the world would aid refinement of strategy and implementation.
  7. Learn from experiences of member states; recruit communications and public diplomacy experts from both public and private sectors Among the 27 member states, the Commission has access to considerable public diplomacy expertise. The Commission should seek to take greater advantage of this expertise.
  8. Improve ability to work within the 24 hour global news cycle; ensure that delegations have adequate rapid-reaction media capability The EU institutions must ensure they can respond to media interest as required.
  9. Work to encourage more high-profile visits of foreign leaders to the European Commission and other EU institutions, Foreign media coverage of high-profile visits to EU institutions does much to improve the Union’s profile in third-countries. The Commission should increase such visits, as possible and appropriate, and work to ensure positive coverage of those visits in third-countries.
  10. Increase research into how the EU is perceived in third countries through the use of more polling, surveying, and media monitoring
  11. Investigate means of improving EU public diplomacy with, and through, EU-resident diasporic networks
  12. Facilitate greater ‘parliamentary diplomacy’ between European parliament and third-country political and civil society groups
  13. Continue to improve commissioners’ visibility outside the EU including foreign tours and interviews to foreign newspapers . Extra efforts should be made to increase contact with Brussel-based third-country media correspondents.
  14. Expand EU-foreign journalist training programmes A key communications obstacle for the European Union remains third-country media and publics’ lack of understanding of the structure of the Union itself and the role of the various institutions. Journalist training seminars are one means of remedying this misunderstanding.
  15. Investigate the possibility of supporting television channels like Arte and EuroNews in efforts to reach third-country audiences Previous co-operative initiatives between member state public diplomacy broadcasters have foundered. Technological advances may now facilitate such initiatives.
  16. Increase Eu funding for third-country educational exchange schemes Although the EU, like the member states, already runs some scholarship and exchange programmes there are strong arguments in favour of increasing them. Such programmes are an established means of conducting long-term public diplomacy with foreign publics, and facilitating two-way intercultural dialogue.

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