Being U.S. citizens we really don’t think about the fact that all of our states are united as one nation with one currency, while Europe is trying get to this point. Traveling from Atlanta to Hawaii we can use one currency, while traveling from Brussels to London you are forced to use different currencies (might I also add with different values, OUCH!). Imagine the type of market that would create in the U.S. if each state had a separate agenda and its own economy, the development of the U.S. would be at a disadvantage.
Image from Pinterest.
The European Union (EU) was founded after World War II with the purpose of uniting the countries of Europe by peacefully addressing the affairs of its member institutions diplomatically. There are currently 27 countries that are members of the EU, with Croatia scheduled to become #28 in July. As I learned from the Parliamentary Visitor’s Center, countries interested in joining the EU must participate in social and economic reforms that prove their willingness to be a participating member of the EU. The European Union is comprised of three parts: the commission (proposes legislation, policies, and initiatives); the parliament (elected members voted on across the EU); and the council (heads of states from the 27 member countries).
The Council is the final step in the EU decision making processes and gathers experts from each member state to serve as representatives and subject matter experts on topics applicable across the EU. Some examples of topics include: general and foreign affairs; economic and social affairs; justice and home affairs; agriculture; and transportation, telecommunication and energy. These topics go through three levels, with the subject matter experts and ambassadors proposing ideas and the ministers making the final decisions regarding the proposals. In a nutshell, important work is being done at the European Union to advance its mission of unifying European countries as one nation. The Council has a large role in this unification process through the 27 heads of states all working together diplomatically to advance the EU. To ensure this diplomacy, each country has its turn to lead the presidency of the council.
Siting in the seats at the EU Council. Today you may call me P.M. of Belgique.
Practicing diplomacy and talking policy with DJ.
The work being done by the European Union is so important, its press corp rivals the one in Washington. Actually, its the second largest press corp in the world, next to Washington. Global media outlets gather in the council building atrium three to four times a year to report on the EU Concil’s summits. The Press Office of the European Council coordinates the press visits for the summit and to ensure communication is impartial. They also provide all the facts and background information the media needs for reliable reporting on EU Council matters.
The Press office has recently started using social media to aid in their communication with the media. Admittedly they claimed to initially take the approach of joining every platform, without being strategically aligned to their core audience. Since hiring a full time social media expert, their approach has begun to change. Currently the Press Office engages in the social media sites that are used most frequently by journalists including Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Flickr. According to the head of the office, using social media allows the press office to communicate faster and in better concert with journalists, instead of having more reactive responses. While the Press Office is most concerned with reaching journalists, I see how their approach can work for other purposes as well. Simply put, when communicating and especially when delivering messages that are more agenda oriented: go where your audience goes, use the platforms that your audience uses, and make it easy for them to get what they need. Accessibility and availability go far in building and maintaining relationships.
To learn more about the EU in comparison to the U.S. check out this info-graphic. Pinterest.