Friday, 24 December 2010

EU communication on EEA and EFTA member Liechtenstein

Our first look at Liechtenstein was the blog post 'EU relations with Liechtenstein (general conclusions)' (22 December 2010), presenting the general remarks including Liechtenstein, but addressed at the EEA or EFTA states as a whole. Then we changed to a Liechtensteinian perspective in 'Principality of Liechtenstein views the European Union' (23 December 2010).

This blog entry tries to look at what a European citizen readily finds about the relations with Liechtenstein on the websites of the EU institutions.

In the background we have the conclusions from the General Affairs Council (GAC):

Council conclusions on EU relations with EFTA countries; 3060th GENERAL AFFAIRS Council meeting Brussels, 14 December 2010

EU materials (EEAS)

Naturally we have to test the newly launched European External Action Service (EEAS) and its recently designed web pages. What can we say about the communication efforts?

I am happy to see that the country page for the Principality of Liechtenstein on the European External Action Service (EEAS) website offers a succinct text about relevant topics. It manges to cram a lot of information and even some forward-looking elements into ten short lines, with links to other pages.

The news links have been updated with the GAC conclusions. There are also 'related links' to websites specific to Liechtenstein (relations).

Among the links in the text, one leads to a page on the European Economic Area (EEA), with a basic description and links to the latest news.

Another text link leads to a fairly comprehensive summary about the Schengen area and cooperation, but not updated since 3 August 2009.

There is also a link to the 2004 agreement with Liechtenstein on taxation of savings.

Liechtenstein treaties

The EU Treaties Office database offers 67 treaties between the European Union and Liechtenstein. Regarding Schengen and the free movement of persons some agreements are not yet in force.

EU delegation to Switzerland and Liechtenstein

Although general news on the front page are posted in English, the web page of the EU delegation for Switzerland and Liechtenstein you land on is in German: Delegation für die Schweiz und Liechtenstein.

In addition to German there are pages in French and Italian, but mainly for Switzerland where these are official languages.

You can find a link to the GAC conclusions on relations with the EFTA members, but only if you look for older news (where the language changes to German). I would expect the EU representations to post these conclusions visibly and permanently on the front page in Iceland, Norway and Switzerland-Liechtenstein.

There is a thematic page (in German): Das Fürstentum Liechtenstein und die EU. The page includes a link to the Europe Day celebration speech by the head of government, Dr Klaus Tschütscher, in Vaduz (11 May 2010).

On the Liechtenstein page I would have hoped for more information about how Schengen implementation advances as well as current aims of the European Union and issues in other policy areas.

Ideally, the new text should offer quality information on the issues the GAC conclusions dealt with in general and sometimes vague terms.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. While the EU institutions still seem to be sleepwalking, Jean Quatremer on Coulisses de Bruxelles takes a stand against the actions by the Fidesz government in Hungary to quell free speech and fundamental freedoms.

Prime minister Viktor Orbán is one of the vice-presidents of the European People's party, so the EPP has a special responsibility to act quickly and decisively to safeguard the founding values of the European Union and protect its own image.