The oldest exchange program of the European Union is the European Union Visitors Program (EUVP). It was instituted in 1974 with the US and later included Canada , Latin America, Australia and New Zealand , Japan, and candidate-countries. The program’s initial goal was to promote understanding of the EU and form influential contacts with the political elites in the US. Therefore, a considerable influence on its development played the practice gained by American public diplomacy itself (for instance, as a model was used the International Visitors Program). The EUVP originated as an initiative of the European Parliament but responsibility was then shared in a joint steering Committee between the Parliament and the European Commission. In addition, the program differs from most of the Commission’s exchange programs in that it is not academically focused. It is directed towards young professionals who are in a position of becoming influential in the political life of a particular country, such as governmental officials, journalists, trade unionists, educators, officials of non-profit and non-governmental organizations. Today the program is playing an important role in the EU enlargement and regional cooperation strategies. Nevertheless, despite the well-developed concept, this public diplomacy mechanism of the EU remains underused. In a comprehensive study of the Program Giles Scott-Smith concludes that “the EUVP … is a flexible tool for establishing significant contacts and providing a means to discuss matters of mutual interest, as well as being a prestigious ‘calling card’ to project the EU’s presence abroad. Yet the inability of the Commission to match the original ambition of the Parliament with enough resources and infrastructural support confirms the view that the EU remains unsure of its use of public diplomacy and unwilling to sufficiently project its ‘soft power’ abroad. […] Unless the Union asserts its international identity more, the EUVP will remain an under-utilized model for potential public diplomacy program.�?
Such criticism remains common among authors who have researched the EU public diplomacy strategies. According to Philip Fiske de Gouveia and Hester Plumridge, for example, “to date, the way that Europe and the EU communicate with third-country publics has been atomized and disjointed. There is arguably not enough co-operation between EU member states’ own public diplomacy organizations – and the capacity of the EU institutions to engage in public diplomacy activities is limited by a lack of resources ad political will.�? (Continue to EU Soft Power)