Since 5 January 2011 I have written a number of blog posts critical of the Hungarian presidency of the (other configurations of the) Council of the European Union. (You find the headlines in the right hand margin of the blog.)
Hope springs eternal, so am I able to find something positive to say in all honesty? Let us take a tour of the website of the Hungarian presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The website is available in four EU languages, the national language Hungarian, the most common second language English, the traditionally strong French and during this presidency also German. This is good news for about 90 million German speakers in the EU, the largest native language. At least with regard to front page level items, the different language versions seem to be more or less complete. (I am going to continue by looking at the English version.)
I do not find the layout beautiful, but it looks clear and functional. The front page offers various headlines and links to more detailed pages. The main options for navigation are News and events, Presidency, Contacts and Press. Further items and links are then on offer, both substance and people to contact.
The presidency trio prepares an 18 month programme, but additionally each six month presidency publishes a work programme. The trio programme is more than a year old, and we live in volatile times. Especially towards the end of one and a half years, the need for an updated road map is obvious.
Since the readers of Grahnlaw tend to be interested in more serious stuff, we note that a few days ago the new programme was published:
The Programme of the Hungarian Presidency of the of the European Union 1 January – 30 June 2011: Strong Europe (about 56 pages)
(This is the first presidency programme I remember seeing with corporate sponsors.)
Update 18 January 2011: Gawain Towler on England Expects turned my discreet remark about corporate sponsorship for government activity into more colourful amazement: The EU Presidency, brought to you by Audi, VW... (17 January 2011).
You can visit the web pages or subscribe to a traditional weekly newsletter, but what I want to mention especially is the choice of eight RSS channels for information practically in real time. I had no problem loading the streams of my choice.
SMS and mobile alerts are available as well.
The social media page offers you access to six Twitter accounts, a fairly touristic fan page on Facebook and two presidency blogs in English.
It is still early days with regard to real (formal) Council meetings, and I have only begun to use the presidency pages of Hungary, so my main suggestion is tentative with regard to the (technical) functionality.
Admittedly, the meeting for ministers and state secretaries for employment 16-18 January 2011 is informal, but the main advance offering is a timetable for journalists, without links to relevant documents or presentations of substantive issues.
Better than any Council presidency I remember, in 2009 Sweden managed to create meaningful thematic pages for each Council configuration, with ministerial statements and interviews before and after, agendas, supporting documents and other news items, as well as links to outside discussion.
Will the Hungarian EU Council presidency be able to create the same functionality, interactivity and feeling of unhindered discussion?
P.S. Valéry-Xavier Lentz combines an engagement for Europe with valuable web skills, so his latest blog post concerns the new design of Taurillon.org. He is also active on Facebook and Twitter, mainly in French, but also in English. One to follow.
P.S. 2: Self-promotion: In addition to writing, I enjoy speaking engagements and invitations to teach EU law and politics in English, Finnish or Swedish, at home or abroad.