Saturday, 29 January 2011

An energetic and innovative European Council?

The European Council has a rendezvous with energy and innovation 4 February 2011 in Brussels, but can we expect the institution to become energetic and innovative? The meeting web page only reiterates the information contained in the annotated draft agenda, dated 7 December 2010, without offering added wisdom (Council document 17163/10).

Before the European Council, the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) and the coordinating General Affairs Council (GAC) are going to meet, both Monday 31 January 2011.

Let us take a look at the quality of the advance information for the coordinating GAC meeting.

GAC background

The background note prepared by the Council press office for the General Affairs Council 31 January 2011 offers a summary on the first page and more detail on the following three pages.

The draft conclusions for the European Council are kept under wraps, but the texts tells us something about the items to be discussed.

Much real world interest hangs on the eurozone, but here little is on offer.

However, if the Council had wanted to be really service minded, it could have provided journalists and other interested people with direct and clear references and links to perhaps ten or twelve of the relevant documents.

Some things are better done once centrally, than hundreds of times in a dispersed manner.

Hungarian Council presidency

The Hungarian presidency of the Council of the European Union offers a brief page with the main items of the General Affairs Council.

In addition, the GAC page links to related news and pages, such as a description of the GAC and the priorities of the Hungarian presidency, the recent meeting of ministers and state secretaries for EU affairs, the launch of the first ”European Semester” for synchronised economic policy coordination, the development of European Roma policy and the strategy for the Danube Region (with further links leading to the communication from the Commission COM(2010) 715 final). Of course, it might be a good idea to link to the Eur-Lex page with all the available language versions.

There is a link to a GAC agenda dated 27 January 2011 and to the Council background note I mentioned earlier.

On the whole, the Hungarian presidency presents the advance information in a structured and fairly detailed manner, although using generic texts. Until now the General Affairs Council has been treated as a step-child, so this is still pretty good in comparison. Better presentation and preparation at the GAC stage should improve communication (including reception) at the European Council meeting, although energetic and innovative may be a lot to ask for.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Do you think that there are differences between how Members of the European Parliament and domestic politicians use the web? Fleishman-Hillard's second European Parliament Digital Trends Survey reports on MEPs. You can discuss #epdigitrends on Twitter.

P.S. 2: I am happy if you want to read my blogs. The internal market and the Europe 2020 strategy (flagship initiatives) are going to be among the main themes on Grahnlaw (in English), Grahnblawg (in Swedish) and Eurooppaoikeus (in Finnish), as well as the trilingual Grahnlaw Suomi Finland. We can get acquainted on Facebook and on Twitter @RalfGrahn, too.