Engage the Public in Bulgaria with the European Parliament

February 2009 - January 2010
Georgy Ganev and

While Bulgarians exhibit a very high degree of trust in European Institutions, and in the European Parliament in particular, they seem to lack sufficient information and knowledge about their activities and issues. This lack may be partly responsible for some specific positions of Bulgarians concerning the priority themes for the 2009 EP elections. Thus fight against crime, the priority for Bulgarians, is not the most important issue for most of the EU citizens, giving way to unemployment, inflation and climate change as the most serious pan-European concerns.

In giving priority to national concerns Bulgaria is not unique among the New member states, yet this trend is more pronounced in the Bulgarian case. As a logical consequence of giving priority to national over EU issues, Bulgarians consider the position of the MEP candidates on nationally important issues, their personality and their experience in national politics as much more relevant for their choice. The focus on domestic politics is in contrast with the major criterion for the choice of MEP of the average EU citizen- experience in EU affairs and their EU-related opinions.

All these data strongly support the need for a focused information campaign, aimed at raising the awareness of the general public, and particularly the young Bulgarians about EU politics, and the role and the place of the European Parliament in the decision-making process. Without sufficient and adequate information the existing high trust in the European Parliament could not be sustained in the long run.

One additional fact motivates the need for raising EP awareness: 2009 will be the year for the Parliamentary elections in Bulgaria which will certainly threaten the visibility of the EP elections. Their significance and specificity may be lost in the partisan struggle around the Parliamentary elections. A targeted EP awareness and active civic engagement campaign is absolutely necessary if the 2009 EP elections momentum is to be used for strengthening the knowledge of Bulgarian citizens about the role of MEPs, the role of the EP in the decision-making process and the importance of EP's decisions for ordinary citizens.

Deepening the knowledge on the European Parliament is the first necessary step towards up-holding the high trust of Bulgarians towards it. Yet to be successful, the information campaign should be followed by a second major step of actively ‘Engaging the Bulgarian public' in the activities of the European Parliament. Such engagement will be achieved mainly through the envisaged innovative internet-based activities. The momentum created by the 2009 EP elections should not be lost.

The project will channel the public attention accumulated in the EP elections into higher awareness about the EP as a decision-making institution with specific competencies. Furthermore, it will create conditions for maintaining the awareness through a constant interactive exchange with the public. This strategy will be centred on two specific interactive internet-based tools, and will be aided by internet-based activities related to informing the general public both about the basic role, functions and issues facing the European Parliament, and about the specific events, results and people during the 2009 election year.

The project is entirely internet-based. It involves an up-grading of http://www.evropa.dnevnik.bg/ - currently the most popular Bulgarian web-site devoted solely to EU-issues. Rich information on the EP in general, raising the public awareness about its specific place in EU decision-making, its competencies and its role and impact upon the lives of the EU citizens, will be constantly published there. The site aims to be the main venue for day-to-day coverage of EP, with profiles of the new Bulgarian MEPs, EP's composition and priorities, the major decisions taken, their impact, etc.

The active engagement of the public will be guaranteed by two innovative interactive tools at http://www.evropa.dnevnik.bg/.

The first is an on-line voting test - Glasovoditel for 2009 EP elections. Modelled after IPP's StemWijzer and the EP's 2005 VoteMatch, the Glasovoditel online voting test presents the participants with a set of positions on specific policy proposals, with which they can agree or disagree. The outcome is a match between the participant's preferences over policy options, and the respective positions of the parties in the election. The test will encourage the citizens to learn more about the specific competences and the scope of activities of the EP and provoke a rational understanding of issues and options facing the EU public in the process of selection of MEPs.

The second interactive internet-based activity is the "Be a MEP" tool. Combining the momentum achieved through the previous activities, it will allow the Bulgarian public to both constantly follow and continuously express its positions on the agenda, issues and decisions of the 2009-2013 EP. It will be anchored by the launching of "Be a MEP" online game. The game will allow participants to vote online on the very same proposals, on which the EP is voting. Once developed and popularized, this tool will remain with the EP-focused website beyond the duration of the project, allowing the Bulgarian public a constant channel for staying informed and involved in the activities of the EP

Target Groups:

The target group is the general public in Bulgaria, using internet as one of the main channels of information and communication on politics. Being internet-based, the project naturally targets especially the young audience, who have the highest rate of internet access in the country, yet are predominantly not politically active. The challenge is to bring these young people closer to and engage them with democratic politics, specifically with EP politics.

The strategy is to promote among young Bulgarians the EP-related web-site and its interactive tools through targeted campaigns. They will involve teasing campaign, public lectures and other publicity events in the top 6 universities in the country, ads in the print media and on the public radio, in on-line social networks, distribution of fliers, etc., aimed at popularizing the Glasovoditel on-line test and the ‘Be a MEP" game prior to their respective start.

The concrete target is 100 000 unique visitors filling-in the Glasovoditel on-line voting test, and 10 000 users registered to participate in the "Be a MEP" game.

A further aim is a 30% increase in the number of visitors of the up-graded http://www.evropa.dnevnik.bg/, reaching an average of 143 000 unique visitors per month.

Expected results and their use:

The overarching goal of the proposed action is to engage the public in Bulgaria with the activities of the European Parliament. On a more specific level, the project targets the internet-using audience in Bulgaria, which means mostly younger, educated and professional people, to provide knowledge about the EP, its agenda and topics, and to develop interactive channels through which the target audience can get informed and express its positions on the issues tackled by the EP.

As a result of the completion of the proposed action, at the end-date of the project, the Bulgarian public will have at its disposal the following concrete things:

  • - 30 in-depth articles about the EP and its activities
    - 100 engaging "did you know that...?" materials about the EP
    - 9 videos highlighting specific items of the EP agenda
    - 150+ articles on topics concerning the new EP's agenda
    - 8 sets of information and analytical materials on issues voted on in the EP
    - The EP 2009 Glasovoditel online tool, with an analysis of its results
    - The "Be a MEP" interactive online game, allowing users to vote on EP issues

These results will be publicized through the envisaged outreach channels, which make use of the internet - online media, social networks and blogs, adwords. More traditional channels will also be used (in a more limited fashion) to inform the potential audience about the website and the various enabling opportunities it offers: print media, radio, city lights, flyers, brochures.


European Union expansion from evropa.dnevnik.bg
http://www.dnevnik.bg/rss/?rubrid=2106

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