The role of the Internet in the European Union's public communication strategy and the emerging European public sphere
2007-11-08T09:23:59Z (GMT) by
The focus of this thesis is on the vertical Europeanisation of the online public debate and more specifically on the EU’s online public communication strategy, i.e. the top-down process of the unmediated, direct, online communication between the EU and the general public. The empirical data has been collected in four stages, namely public communication policy-making; public communication policy implementation online; online public communication policy impact on key Internet audiences; and interviews with key senior Commission officials. The review of the EU public communication documents has shown that the Commission has unambiguously committed to facilitate direct communication with the EU public as part of the process of building the EU citizens’ trust towards its institutions and in addressing the issues of transparency and democratic legitimation of the EU’s decision-making process, while the Internet is seen as a key tool in facilitating direct communication. However, after monitoring three of the EU’s official websites for a year and analyzing the views of 221 Internet users on the EU’s Information and Communication strategy online, it has become evident that the Commission has not yet fulfilled these commitments. The interviews with key Commission officials have revealed that behind this gap between policy and online implementation lie: a) an institutional culture which conflicts with the aims of the Commission’s public communication strategy; and b) constant institutional restructuring in the last six years. Very recently the Commission has begun to address some of the shortfalls in the online implementation of its public communication strategy, yet there is no indication that the results of the online debate regarding the EU’s future will be incorporated in the decision-making process, while further study is required in the future in order to assess any change in the institutional culture in relation to its public communication strategy.