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June 2005
Round table: “The referendum regarding the European Constitution, France, 29th of May, explanations and conclusions.”

May 2005
Colloquium “From Signing the Treaty to a Successful Integration in the United Europe”

April 2005
Conference in Cluj -“The European Integration, countdown for Romania.”

March 2005
Conference «The future of Europe. What kind of Romania in what kind of Europe?»

October 2004
French - Romanian conference in partnership with the European Movement

September 2004
Ithaka Foundation and the British Council: debate on "Current EU Policy Issues: A UK Perspective", held at the Titulescu Foundation




The debate on the future Europe remains a timely one. It attracts much attention from the side of the public. The tools and the paths of reaching a political union should perhaps be one of the main topics for discussion. Such a dialogue would look at the nerves of policy making in the European Union. It would get down to the essence of the democratic mandate for decisions taken in Brussels..

It is common knowledge that candidate states to the European Union face a challenge that often escapes the attention of EU decision-makers. They are trying to explain European politics to their public. They are trying to ensure that the parliaments are more than mere voting machines, adopting EU legislation without much of a debate. Therefore, it is important to prevent the import of a democratic deficit from the European level.

First, we need to start with bringing European policies closer home. European issues are generally not very different from domestic ones.
We should therefore draw a less rigid distinction to the candidate countries' citizens between the EU level and the home territory. There can not be democracy at EU standards, unless EU policy is debated thoroughly by candidate countries.

Secondly, to ensure public awareness: In one of his latest debates, Romano Prodi stated that "the most difficult problem lying ahead the EU integration process, the only one in reality, is public opinion".
At the level of the EU countries, it further weakens, as in the case of last year's Irish referendum.

The EU Awareness Programme's visible outcome is the creation within two years of a Europa page in the main newspapers in Romania and Bulgaria.

After a thorough research of the media trends in the region, and in line with the Working Table 1's "Media Task Force" objectives of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, we have identified three areas of immediate regional interest: training local journalists in all aspects of European Union affairs, developing `Europa` sections in local newspapers, developing exchanges between Romania, Bulgarian journalists with their Western European and new comers into the EU family. In this respect, we have envisaged a two-year regional communication and dissemination strategy. Based on our "CCC philosophy": coordination, complementarity and communication, our strategy will not represent a sheer public relations exercise, but a sustainable programme, which has a two-sided vision in mind:

a. to promote European Union affairs, in line with the philosophy of regional ownership.
b. to strengthen the regional media and adapt them to European standards.
There is a scarce reservoir of specialized journalists in South Eastern Europe. This is one of the reasons, for which specific international media issues are not communicated and therefore understood by the readers. Up till now, there have been several attempts to reverse this situation, but none of them has been the product of an integrated strategy, nor have these projects been promoted through a unique channel.

The Ithaka Foundation has selected Romania and Bulgaria, as a pilot project …

Following discussions with the EU Commissioner on Enlargement, Mr. Günter Verheugen, and his information interinstitutional relations Director, Mr. Wenceslas de Lobkowicz, the best strategy to implement this project would be starting small, with a two-country approach. We have identified Romania and Bulgaria as a start up.

Building on existing activities in Western European member countries and first wave of candidate countries, as well as on the best practices of the European organizations active in the communication/training field, this EU awareness project aims to better incorporate the education and communication components in the development and reconstruction efforts of Romania and Bulgaria in their road to a United Europe, in accordance with the principle of sustainability.

One of the key factors needed to ensure the success of these initiatives is to develop a thorough understanding of European affairs among the journalists working in the main newspapers in the region, with the aim of creating European affairs sections within these newspapers during the following two years.

We will ensure training programmes for selected journalists in issues concerning EU enlargement and integration.

We propose 12 training workshops: 3/per year in each country, six in Bucharest and six in Sofia. The topics will cover economic, social and political aspects of the EU enlargement, as well as the role of the media in disseminating this information to the wider public.

One of the workshops is to focus on the way the EU-15 media are reflecting the realities in the candidate countries and on `public diplomacy`, namely, how governments and non-governmental organisations interact with the public in the member countries, while aiming to change the public opinion favourably. Using the foreign correspondents to influence positively the target audience is worth exploring. It does not apply to Romanian and Bulgarian journalists, but it would give them, as well as civil servants from MFA and other ministries an insight on how other countries aim to `brand` their image. We aim at coordinating our activities with the UK Foreign Policy Centre, and use Mark Leonard's Public diplomacy`. This seems to produce a `softer` form of lobbying, not on particular issues, but on promoting a certain brand, which, in this case is a positive image of the country.

For Romania and Bulgaria, entry into the EU is delayed by `hard` issues (agriculture, privatisation, the state of the economy, etc.) but also `soft` issues: the marginality of their position, the negative aspects that recur in the Western media, etc.; this is probably the best type of lobbying. The other training sessions will cover economic reporting of the EU, fiscal policy, the EURO, security, enlargement per se., best practices of other newspaers and media groups in the first wave candidate countries (i.e : Lithuania and the Czech Republic) etc.

An exchange of opinions and sharing of experience between Romanian and Bulgarian journalists will be encouraged. The objective of these training sessions will be to create a pool of journalists with a wide understanding of EU affairs capable to engage in a transparent debate of the rights and wrongs of the creation of a United Europe.

The Ithaka Foundation will invite specialists in EU affairs as speakers.
They will come from media, academia, politics and business. We will also invite journalists from the first wave accession countries to share their experience of reporting on the EU in their newspapers.

Project by: Ramona Calin

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