Bridging the gap between citizens and institutions : Is the Europe Direct Network a competent means to reconcile the trust of Europeans for the Europe of the 28? The Spanish case
Abstract: Information has always been strategically relevant for the European Commission, especially during the last thirty years with discussions about a gap in communication and the possible democratic deficit propagating. For that reason, communication was introduced as a policy after 2000. In order to reach specific interests in the Union, the Commission highlighted the importance of the partnership with civil society in 2005 through the “Plan D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate” and its “going local” approach. The purpose of this thesis is to analyze the communication strategy of the EU through the lens of one of its regional communication instruments, the Europe Direct relays of information. The relays are a first-hand portal for the citizens to enter into the Union not only by acquiring information but also by transferring their comments and suggestions to Brussels. They form, therefore, a debate platform between citizens and institutions under a European “public sphere.” Nevertheless, research has identified two critical points in their function: the host structure, which intervenes in their administration role, and the European Commission, which provides them with financial support and information services. This thesis seeks to ascertain the success or not of the relays in relation to those two variables. In order to achieve that, the Spanish study case is examined. It will be finally verified if, according to the guidance of the European Commission, the relays fulfill their role in fostering national involvement in supranational activities.
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