European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker wants to splash nearly €26 million next year on a vanity project to sell the benefits of EU membership. The push would be the biggest-ever EU corporate communications effort and is built around the theme of “A New Boost for Jobs, Growth and Investment.”
According to a draft plan seen by POLITICO, a budget of €25.75 million is slated to be spent across 2016 on the self-serving project including a full suite of communications ranging from billboards to web advertisements. Travelling exhibitions backed by TV and radio air time have not been ruled out of the ambitious proposal to boost the EU’s own profile.
The planning document prepared by Juncker and his vice president in charge of the EU budget, Kristalina Georgieva, has an overall goal “to achieve a better understanding by European citizens of the EU, its priorities and activities; To inform and engage different target groups of European citizens about the EU’s political priorities.”
This is not the first time the EU has decided to create a lavish PR campaign after its own efforts at diplomacy have comprehensively failed. Breitbart London reported last month that the EU wants to unleash crack teams of media and public relations professionals from offices in Brussels to counter what it considers biased Russian media reports.
The strategic unit, which will include up to 10 Russian-speaking officials and media operatives from member states including the UK, will be fully operational by the end of this month and will be part of the European External Action Service (EEAS).
Now the EU has decided to ramp its own internal PR efforts in a new direction but this time the enemy isn’t Russia – it is disbelieving members. Euroskeptic campaigns are clearly gaining traction and Juncker realises that he may well have a fight on his hands convincing UK voters in the looming In/Out referendum that the EU actually serves a purpose.
The massive spend is bound to cause blow back at a time of budget tightening across the continent, but is billed as part of a “budget focused on results.”
The money is available based on “spontaneous financial contributions by certain Directorates General,” Juncker and Georgieva state in their plan. Currently in consultation between the various Commission departments, the authors hope to achieve approval from their Commission colleagues in coming weeks.
The POLITICO report reveals operational decisions on where to buy media space, for example, will be taken by the Commission’s internal communications department. It will be overseen by a “Steering Committee” composed of representatives of the departments involved in a given policy.
According to the 2014 Annual Activity Report of the Commission’s communications department, contracts have been in place since June 2014 “for a corporate pilot campaign, operationalising for the first time a pooling of financial resources from different programmes.” The goal is to reach 15 million Europeans in 2015 with the pilot messages.
A related ongoing campaign, “EU: Working for You,” tries to simplify the complex ways of the EU into project-based case studies showing how individual communities have made use of EU funds.
The European Commission declined to comment on the new proposal.
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