Event report: Moving EU enlargement forwards – Why better communication matters

The Library and Research Sector attended the policy dialogue “Moving EU enlargement forward: why better communications matters” organised in the framework of the Dutch-Slovak-Maltese Trio Presidency and under the auspices of the EPC’s European Policy and Institutions Programme.

enlargement_2The panel discussion started with opening remarks by Ivan Korčok, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic. He reminded the panel that, even at a time when the European Union is facing other challenges and enlargement is not on the immediate agenda, the future of the Union remains linked to those countries that seek partnership. He expressed his belief that the European Union can only pursue its global ambitions by achieving stability in the neighbouring states.

Simon Mordue, Director “Strategy and Turkey”, Directorate General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations at the European Commission, presented the strategies in communicating the issue of enlargement to both the general public and member states. The key to a good strategy, he explained, is to have one brand and one message directed at the right audience. In his view, the enlargement process was very much alive and tangible.

Miodrag Radović, Acting Director General for European Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration in Montenegro, spoke about his country’s efforts to join the European Union. For Montenegro, accession to the EU is a priority, and the question of accession enjoys 70% support among the population. Radović predicts that public support will not drop as Montenegrins see more advantages than disadvantages in joining the Union. The key to the successful communication strategy in Montenegro is the involvement of civil society in the process, and raising awareness about the different issues related to the accession process.

Dušan Reljić, Head of the Brussels Office of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, insisted that the EU enlargement policy needed to be restructured. According to him, the Union is not delivering what it has promised. He suggested that reform should start with a conceptual change. We should not talk about neighbouring countries, as they are already physically and geographically in Europe. The European Union encircles them. It is not a case of these countries  encircling the European Union. He recommended an extension of the cohesion policy and the use of structural funds without the requirement to wait for accession.

Tomáš Strážay, Senior Fellow at the Research Centre of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association in Bratislava, spoke about the Slovakian experience from a candidate-member to a state holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union. He encouraged the EU to look at the projects that have been already implemented in neighbouring countries, to take account of progress made and to draw the lessons learnt. He reminded those present that it is not only the EU that is experiencing “an enlargement fatigue”. The countries in the Western Balkans are also tired of waiting.

Finally, Aled Williams, Senior Director, Strategic Communications at FTI Consulting provided insights into how a successful communication campaign could be implemented. He explained that when choosing a strategy, one should ask the questions “What am I trying to achieve?”, “How can communication help me achieve this goal?”, “Who are the partners who will help me to deliver?”. In his opinion, the message is important but it should be in line with the political objective of the campaign.

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