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Public Diplomacy

Delegations of the Commission

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The Delegations of the European Commission exercise a variety of communication and information activities such as the publication of brochures and newsletters, the organization of information centers, setting up of websites and information portals, and celebrations of Europe Day in each country etc. In particular, within countries applying for accession the delegations develop a wide network of activities aimed at educating about the EU institutions.

Some authors consider the delegations to be much more involved in public diplomacy related activities than are traditional embassies. Michael Bruter in his Diplomacy without a state: The External Delegations of the European Commission describes the delegations’ diplomacy as “consumer-oriented�? in the sense that consumer services are the primary focus of the delegations’ efforts. These services directed towards non-institutional local actors include economic expansion (local businesses), regional development (local actors, NGOs, IGOs) and communication (local media, academia, general public). He notes that in general, as well as in each individual region, people providing services primarily directed towards non-institutional demand are over-represented compared to those working for institutional demand. He contributes this phenomenon to the fact that traditional diplomacy leaves consumer-oriented needs largely unsatisfied. As a result, the delegations found a niche in which to affirm their role and develop their activities. Another reason, according to Bruter, might be that most delegations were established very recently as compared to national embassies. The latter are now starting to consider the necessity of reforming their functions.

The evolution of methods of communication that dramatically limit the need for ambassadors to serve as political ‘messengers’ has naturally restricted the strategic importance of political functions in foreign services. At the same time, the predominance of economic and development-related issues in international negotiations and the globalization of the flow of goods, services and people, have set the stage for the modernization of diplomatic services. Many embassies report a growing demand for information and services from the private sector, and complain about not always being able to meet it, so more embassies have extended access to their information centers or launched their own Internet sites. The type of diplomacy practiced by the delegations appears, therefore, to represent as much a fundamental new trend in diplomatic activities as an individuality of their non-state based status. […] The fact that most of their services are directed towards the private sector is the defining characteristic of the delegations. […] The delegations provide information to the general public and academia via information centers and various media, descriptions of norms and conditions to business, and represent the “voice of Europe�? to the local media. More generally, and in part without being able to control it, delegations generate symbols and images of “Europe�? to the world.

The serious engagement with public diplomacy activities by the EU is visible in the Delegation of the European Commission to the USA . As Philip Fiske de Gouveia and Hester Plumridge point out, the EU delegation to Washington is one of the first to embrace the term “public diplomacy�? in its work . They list four distinct areas of public diplomacy practice at the Delegation: “general perception-oriented public diplomacy (e.g. correcting American public misperceptions of contemporary Europe); specific issue public diplomacy (for instance, lobbying for the extension of the US visa waiver scheme to all 25 EU member states); co-operative EU-US public diplomacy (identifying ways of working with the US government on, for example, public diplomacy strategies in the Middle-East); competitive and conflictual EU-US public diplomacy (relating to issues of dispute between the EU and US such as the Airbus-Boeing rivalry or lifting of the EU-China arms ban).�?

The image of the EU in the US is a responsibility for several divisions within the Delegation to the US. The Communications and Public Affaires section , headed by Stella Zervoudaki, is in charge with promoting awareness of the EU among the American public. This section employs a wide variety of activities such as multimedia tours, speaking tours, public information services and the EUVP. The accurate presentation of the EU in US media is the responsibility of the Press and Media Relations Team , headed by Anthony Gooch. Prior to assuming his current position he taught at the University of Southern California, where he is now appointed a fellow at the Center on Public Diplomacy. Currently, the Head of the Delegation, Ambassador John Bruton himself has embarked upon a public diplomacy mission throughout the US called “Dialogue Tours.�? On his first trip he visited Kentucky, where he held a public speech, met with local farmers and high school students, appeared in a call-in public radio show and visited the editorial board of the Louisville Courier Journal. “It’s important for me to find out what people outside of Washington are saying and thinking about the European Union,�? said Bruton. “I must say, I was surprised by the level of Kentuckians’ awareness of the EU.�?

Another Delegation developing a comprehensive public diplomacy approach is the European Commission’s Delegation to Canada. This commitment is officially stated on the Delegation’s website. “It conducts an active public diplomacy and information service, aimed at informing Canadians about current developments in the European Union.�? In 2004 and 2005 the European Commission has opened calls for proposals on Public Diplomacy, Policy Research and Outreach Devoted to the European Union and EU-Canada Relations and awarded various grants for public diplomacy activities in Canada. Canada, like the US, is a country of “long-standing cultural, linguistic and traditional links�? to Europe. Therefore, public diplomacy efforts have a sound foundation to build on. Special attention is given to exchange programs for young people operated within the Erasmus Mundus program, interparliamentary meetings, and business-to-business contacts as part of the Canada-Europe Round Table (CERT).

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