A few weeks ago, for the third time a group of individuals met in Brussels in a small snack place (Le Break de l’Abbaye) to discuss how the EU institutions could and should approach social media and internet communication.
The starting point for the event was an open letter written by EU Commission webmasters to try to shape the approach the new Commission was taking to Web 2.0. Tony Lockett and Dick Niewenhuis gave an overview of the origin of the letter, inspired by a similar US initiative, and talked about how this was being viewed by officials. The response to the letter was broadly positive but the key issues facing the institutions remained. Much of the discussion that followed revolved around what the Commission really is (not a government said Dick) and its role in communicating to the public.
From the US initiative I shared some comments made by Beth Noveck in an interview with Tim O’Reilly. The main point of their efforts was to use the web to bring more transparency and openness to the process of policy making in Washington. There was also talk of ‘closing the revolving door to lobbyists’.
What seemed to emerge from the discussion is that there is a clear opportunity for the Commission to use the internet as a tool to communicate and share knowledge in more effective ways. The problem however is that they still need to clarify what the communication should be about. The objection made by Wim was that the Commission should not be sharing opinions but should be executing the will of its political masters. However no one objected to the fact that getting ideas on improving policy implementation and communication on its activities was a good thing.
So the discussion continues. Here’s a short video of the event.