Czech government opts for a broader EU information campaign

After the rejection of the European constitution by the public in France and the Netherlands the last EU summit criticized the general lack of information on European issues in most of the EU member states. In response to that criticism, the Czech government has now decided to change the framework of its planned EU informational campaign. Instead of focusing solely on the EU Constitution, it aims for a broader scope, explaining how the European Union works and how the Czech Republic may benefit from EU membership. Martin Mikule called Petra Masinova from the Office of the Government and asked her what would be the main thrust of the new campaign.

"The government has decided that for this year there will be four priorities to present to the public. The first one would be the membership of the Czech Republic in the EU and its evaluation; advantages, disadvantages etcetera. The other one would be a project called 'EU to Schools' which would help students, teachers as well as their parents to understand the European Union better. The third one is a topic called 'The future of Europe'. There you can find also the European constitution explanation but also the Lisbon Agenda, for example. The last one is called 'European Funds and Programs'. This is a help to the Czech citizens how to orient themselves in the funds and programs of the EU."

According to the last opinion polls the support to the European Constitution has substantially declined after the Dutch and French voters had rejected the document. Does the new campaign also reflect the changing attitudes towards the Constitution in the Czech society?

"Of course, we are going to present the Constitution in the state at which it is at the moment. That means there will be a part of a short description of what the Constitution means. But we will especially explain what would mean a situation when there would be no European Constitution. We also have to work on the Niece Treaty to explain the citizens what would be the difference, what would be the advantages or the disadvantages for the Czech Republic if the Constitution was adopted."

Before the Czech Republic joined the European Union there was a campaign the government organized before the respective referendum. That campaign was a kind persuasive. Can you compare these two campaigns? Is this campaign going to be different?

"Our campaign is not supposed to be persuasive at all. It is supposed to be objective and very transparent. Objective means that we are going to call for tenders, we are going to set a grant system for different NGOs and other organizations (private sector, etc.) to ask for grants for different European projects and we are not going to lustrate the political membership of the people who would ask for the grants. What we will evaluate, will be the quality of the projects."

So I understand the government is determined to organize the referendum on the European Constitution. Has it been already decided when the referendum should take place?

"Well, it's difficult to say. It actually hasn't been yet decided if there will be the referendum. And if yes, we don't know under what bill it would be organized. I know the referendum might take place during the elections 2006 but we've also heard the prime minister saying it might be organized in 2007."