The History of the European Union: Origins of a Trans- and Supranational Polity 1950-72

By Wolfram Kaiser; Brigitte Leucht et al. | Go to book overview

9   The origins of Community
information policy
Educating Europeans

Lise Rye

Spurred by negative votes on a European Constitution in France and the Netherlands as well as by a widely recognized gap between the European Union (EU) and its citizens, the European Commission decided in 2005 to make communication one of its strategic objectives.1 Lack of enthusiasm for the process of integration in general and the proposed constitution in particular was linked to the claim that EU citizens had been kept at a distance from the process of integration for too long and that the result of this was a lack of socialization into the Community.2 This chapter focuses on early efforts to familiarize Europeans with the process of integration.3 It deals with the period 1958 to 1967, when the forerunner of today’s communication policy, the common information policy of the European Communities (EC), was developed and carried into effect.

Like today, the activity in the field of information in the 1950s and 1960s was marked by the awareness of lack of public support for the European construction. The chapter shows how administrative and political actors within the three executives, that is the executives of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), tried to bring people closer to the process of integration by informing as well as educating nationals of the participating member-states into European citizens. Gradually, and through increasing interaction with other actors, these efforts became a defined policy of information.

On a more general level, the emergence of information policy illustrates relations between the executives as well as relations between the representatives of supranational institutions and the representatives of the member-states. The central argument of the chapter is that information policy developed as a result of the supranational executives’ independent action, outside the constitutional framework of the treaties, and that the executives managed to stay in control of the field against the will of member-state representatives. Thus, this account touches upon several of the institutional approaches discussed by Morten Rasmussen in his chapter. Most importantly, however, it illustrates the complexity of the European political system in its early phase as well as the often accidental nature of historical developments, also in EU history.

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