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The Europe roundup: Petition Your Council. Easily.

BY Antonella Napolitano | Wednesday, July 6 2011

  • UK | Petition Your Council. Easily.
    Yesterday mySociety.org launched a new project called PetitionYourCouncil.com: the website has been built to make it easy to petition your local council using their official online petitions system (if they have one). Here’s a post where mySociety folks tell more about the motivation for their (self-explanatory, in fact) most recent initiative:

    Our original motivation for building the site was that we, along with other suppliers, have supplied online e-petitioning sites to numerous councils ourselves – it’s one of the ways in which we fund our charitable activities. Having delivered these sites, we later noticed that many of them are left under-used and in some cases, not used at all: only because people don’t know about them. We hate to think of councils spending money on a splendid resource that could be improving democratic processes for their citizens – and those citizens never knowing that they exist.

    PetitionYourCouncil.com can be also used to browse local petitions around Britain.

  • EU | Myths and facts on the EU budget: a critical (and political) approach
    Behind every myth lies a political truth, it’s been said. But what happens when it comes to numbers?
    The EU Commission has produced a website on “Myths and facts” about the EU budget.
    Euroblogger Ron Patz isn’t convinced by the effort; in fact he considers it misleading: “While some of the myths and facts corrections are just simple detail provisions, others – [he says] - are simple spin or a misunderstanding of politics”. Many things in the EU are subject to political debate and are not only a matter of technical details that just need to be clarified, argues Patz, providing several examples.
    Here’s one:

    Patz concludes: Some of the myths may be kind-of-myths, but maybe behind every myth lies a political truth, a truth that the Commission doesn’t address because this would mean to engage in a more meaningful political debate about what is actually useful and what is unnecessary instead of giving simple and self-defensive answers which can be agreed within the bureaucracy.

  • EU | The many mistakes of a (former) spokesperson
    As the Hungarian EU presidency ended on June 30th, Márton Hajdú and Gergely Polner finished their job as spokespeople. On their blog Kovács & Kováts, they try to point out the main mistakes they made during their six-month job.

    Kovács & Kováts started a slow process of communication with many audiences and invoving many actors in the EU context. The process was hard, they write: “Especially in the beginning, we held back and offered only background information because we wanted to play it safe, or wait for the actual decision to take place. What then happened was that the media ran our stories without us being quoted. Happened more than once, and difficult to avoid even with a full speaking mandate that we thankfully have.”
    To their credit, they weren’t afraid to build new forms of engagement with the Brussels blogosphere. But they didn’t do the same with their national online audience, as they acknowledge:

    We had no energy and no plan to connect with the national blogospheres. Our lack of engagement with Hungarian bloggers is a special shame. We have only thought about it at the end of the Presidency after some discussion with the Bloggingportal editors, but by then it was too late.
    We know that the Holy Grail in Brussels is to connect the Brussels blogosphere to the national blogospheres. (Something that seems to be starting with the UK blogosphere thanks to committed people like Jon Worth and Joe Litobarski.) The presidency has offered us a golden opportunity to connect with Hungarian bloggers and we missed it.

    Read more in their list – there’s a useful reminder to who is coming next (namely, the Polish presidency) and an example of self-critical analysis for spokespeople in the institutions willing to be more open and reach out to more people.
    In a job like that, communications and engagement with opinion leaders is something you should work on in many directions. Any advice? Maybe, as one of their commenters said, “Next time, just contact the blogosphere - we are open for news & debate!

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