Mistrust harms positive image, admits Vitorino

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Series Details Vol.8, No.19, 16.5.02, p9
Publication Date 16/05/2002
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Date: 23/05/02

By Dennis Abbott

A CULTURE of 'mutual mistrust' between member states is undermining efforts to project a positive image of the EU, according to the commissioner in charge of selling the Union to the public.

The price of this mistrust is evident in the flow of ultra-complex laws from Brussels caused by too many member states wanting to leave their mark on directives and regulations, admits António Vitorino.

The result is 'confusion and too much detail', he told a conference in Lisbon organised by the Portuguese journalists' union, Sindicato dos Jornalistas.

The commissioner, also responsible for justice and home affairs, accused member states of double standards.

When a Commission policy suits them, they claim the credit for it; when it does not, the 'blame Brussels culture' sets in and the Commission is forced to play the 'scapegoat role' again.

However, Vitorino conceded that the institutions' arcane processes - almost impossible for most people to understand - did not help the EU in its efforts to win over public opinion.

'[Negative] perceptions about the EU do not derive from bad communications policy,' he said. 'The most efficient spin-doctor cannot explain 'comitology'. The nature of our system prevents us from making it understandable to the public.'

The former MEP said the European Convention had a crucial role to play in addressing the challenge of explaining the EU. He expressed hope that the body would push for a simplification of the Treaties which provide the legal basis for the EU's institutional structure.

'I myself find it extremely difficult to read the Treaties and extremely boring. It's a punish-ment, not a pleasure,' he said.

The EU needed to create a communication policy that is decentralised, inter-institutional and in partnership with civil society to get across its core values of 'opportunity, security and prosperity', he added.

A culture of 'mutual mistrust' between Member States is undermining efforts to project a positive image of the EU, according to European Commissioner António Vitorino.

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