EU enlargement – challenges for public communication

SEECOM and DG NEAR round table

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The South East Europe Public Sector Communication Association (SEECOM), co-founded by the KAS Media Program, together with the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission (DG NEAR), hosted a round table discussion on communication challenges of the EU enlargement on 31st March in Brussels.

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The round table took place on 31st March in Brussels

The round table took place on 31st March in Brussels

Panellists were Ognian Zlatev, SEECOM Chairman and Head of the EC Representation in Bulgaria, Christian Spahr, Head of the KAS Media Program South East Europe and SEECOM board member, and Aleksandar Andrija Pejović, Minister of European Affairs of Montenegro. The Director for the Western Balkans at DG NEAR Genoveva Ruiz Calavera and Claus Giering, DG NEAR Head of Unit "Inter-institutional relations and Communication", also took part in the discussion. The debate was moderated by Dušan Reljić, Head of the Brussels Office of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).

SEECOM Chairman Ognian Zlatev indicated that a better coordination and a common communication strategy of the enlargement are needed, involving the institutions, civil society and media, as well as the Western Balkan countries and the EU member states.

The Head of KAS Media Program South East Europe, Christian Spahr, addressed the challenges of Southeast European governments. "New EU member states and candidates need to be seen as professional partners for EU," he said. Spahr emphasised that there are too many negative headlines in Western media such as cases of corruption, rule of law deficits and poor reforms. He concluded that EU candidates should overcome this negative trend by developing new narratives in their communication towards EU. In addition, Spahr commented on the perception of the EU in South East Europe and geopolitical communication challenges like fake news and propaganda from political opponents of the EU. In this context, the EU needs to develop simpler and clearer narratives, he said.

"The European Union has secured peace, prosperity and solidarity for its members for the longest period in European history. The enlargement policy is a key element of this success," said Minister Pejović. In his note he emphasised that the political messages for a united Europe need to be louder and address both the enlargement countries and the EU member states. Moreover, Minister Pejović said that the EU accession process is a strong motivational power for reforms in the countries of the Western Balkans.

The Director for Western Balkans at the EU Commission's Directorate General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Genoveva Ruiz Calavera gave Montenegro as a good example for the communication of the European values and the concrete advantages that the citizens are gaining through the integration process. Nevertheless, she added that the dialogue with citizens must be further strengthened.


Manuela Zlateva

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Brüssel, March 31, 2017