Thursday, 14 January 2010

Better EU communication: Council presidency Sweden and Spain

Substance and communication are both necessary ingredients in the European information society, and the European Union has an important role to play with regard to both aspects.

Besides doing a good job on the political side, the Swedish presidency of the Council of the European Union was the best to date in terms of communication.

The Swedish website was structured clearly according to Council configuration. It was usually easy to navigate from brief press releases to more detailed documents through the links on offer. The officials responsible for media contacts were announced on the web pages. Press officers communicated through Twitter. Blog posts by journalists and citizens were not only monitored through Twingly, but posted on the relevant pages, giving access to real life reactions, positive and critical.

I recorded my first impressions of the Spanish presidency’s web communications on the first days: European Digital Agenda in 2010 on first day of Spanish Council presidency (1 January 2010) and Spain’s EU Council presidency website: New treaty – old communications (Updated) (2 January 2010).

Two weeks into the rotating Council presidency it is time to return to the Spanish website with a few observations.

As a matter of opinion, the Spanish website is not as well structured or as easy to navigate as the Swedish one. The overall impression is more old-fashioned.

As an improvement, links to social networks have now been established, but they only led to the “sign in” pages of these services, not to contents.

Press releases and announcements of meetings rarely offer links to additional information in a progressive fashion. Although we are at the beginning of six months, it would be an exaggeration to call the website rich in content.

The mishap when someone manipulated a link which landed visitors on a spoof page with Mr Bean brought a certain amount of unwelcome publicity, and resulted in the crash of the Spanish website due to great numbers of visitors. The site has been down occasionally later as well.

I have been wondering about the RSS feed for news displayed on my blog. Despite various press releases from the Spanish presidency, the items displayed have been practically frozen for days. Should I blame the presidency, or is there a problem on my blog?

Earlier I wondered that the Spanish presidency offered only a summary of its political programme, which raised the question where the full programme was (if any). A few days ago a link appeared, which seemed to promise the programme in full, but repeatedly it led to an error page.

Yesterday was the first time I finally stumbled upon the full document: The Programme for the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union 1 January – 30 June 2010: Innovating Europe.

The presidency programme exists in Spanish as well: Programa de la Presidencia Española del Consejo de la Unión Europea 1 de enero a 30 de junio 2010: Innovando Europa.

The English and the Spanish version of the presidency website seem to offer the same information. There is no French version of the presidency programme, but generally the press releases seem to be available in French as well.

Two weeks into the Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union, the interim report card shows some improvement, but leaves us hoping for a significant rise on the learning curve towards the knowledge society, the European Digital Agenda.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Mount EUlympus, by Andre Feldhof, offers a citizen’s perspective on EU affairs. Mount EUlympus is one of the more than 500 great euroblogs on steadily growing multilingual, a useful one-stop-shop for fact, opinion and gossip on European affairs, i.a. politics, policies, communication, economics, finance and law.