Sunday, 11 November 2007

Finland: Encouraging but discouraging

Finland encourages the EU to greater transparency, was the main message of a press release by the Finnish government Friday afternoon. I quote:

“Finland has sent on Friday, 9 November, a letter to the Portuguese EU Presidency concerning the overall policy on transparency of the Council of the European Union. In Finland’s view, the promotion of the transparency of the Council’s work is important for the attainment of the principles of good governance and for improving citizens’ access to information and possibilities for participation.”

“Finland is of the opinion that the Member States and the Council Secretariat should improve practices contributing to efficiently informing the public on the availability of webcasts and documents. Attention should also be paid to making the Council website and its webcasts more user-friendly. Links between improving the transparency of the Council and initiatives to better communicate EU issues to the citizens should also be examined.”

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The starting point of the press release is the Council’s overall policy on transparency, which I dealt with earlier (EU Council on transparency, 31 October 2007). It is a commendable choice to address the government’s letter to the Council, since intergovernmental preparation, dealing and oversight is the black hole of transparency within the European Union.

The principles mentioned by the government of Finland are laudable, too. Good governance, citizens’ access to information and participatory rights as well as user-friendly information are core values of modern public communication. All this is encouraging.

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The most important and most urgent communication task of the European Union is to publish correct, abundant and user-friendly information on the Reform Treaty. Because the need is urgent, the consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty should be published on the web, where the text can be easily updated, if needed. Equality for the citizens of the European Union can be attained only if the amalgamated texts of the existing treaties and the amending treaties are made accessible in all the official languages of the EU.

What does the press release of the Finnish government have to say about this most glaring communication deficit of the European Union, the Council’s outright refusal to make available a somewhat more readable and intelligible text?

Nothing.

Keeping quiet about the Union’s most obvious case of communication deficit, the press release raises more questions than it answers.

Do not even the loftiest principles fall flat, if the most important information shortage to remedy is left suspended in thin air? Does not reiterating highfalutin ideals tend to erode trustworthiness and increase alienation, when they are undermined by concrete actions? Does the Finnish government want to enhance its stained image as part of this conspiracy of silence, by drawing our attention to general principles and questions of secondary importance?

Against this background the press release is discouraging.

What does the Finnish government aim to encourage, really?


Ralf Grahn


Source:

Finland encourages the EU for greater transparency; Finnish government, Communications unit; Press release 326/2007, 9 November 2007; http://www.vn.fi => English