Zagreb - Croatia in the EU

Communicating EU Enlargement Isn’t Just About Spam

It’s day two of the ‘Croatia in the EU: Strengthening Ties in Youth Cooperation’ conference in Zagreb. Twenty-two young participants are working furiously to develop creative media projects demonstrating key themes and benefits of European Union enlargement.

By Austin Fast

Two of the conference’s 12 working groups are positioned in breakout room one and they are coming at the task from very different angles. Group One has a large white sheet on the table between them as they brainstorm and write down bright red words describing the beauty of European diversity.

At Group Two’s table, Antonis Triantafyllakis from Greece is sketching out a borderless European map using a laptop as a guide as the others jokingly toss around ideas about using the mystery meat “spam” as a different concept of European enlargement.

“I think sometimes the other group has been mad at us for being loud,” admits Dimitar Nikolovski from Macedonia, as his Group One laughs heartily about the spam idea.

Group one is admittedly more serious. German Silke Voigt reminds her group that they want to demonstrate the objective of EU enlargement for their audience.

“Let’s find one easy thing that everyone understands,” Silke says. “We need one phrase.”

They settle upon the themes of cultural exchange, international solidarity, common vision, equal opportunities and increasing life quality as their five key phrases for the benefits of European enlargement.

“We had so many ideas and overlapping aspects that it was hard to decide what to focus on and how we were to present it,” Silke says. “When different people from different countries are coming together it’s difficult to find a common position sometimes, just like in the European Union.”

Back in Group Two, the map of Europe has taken shape and the group members are vigorously debating how to best present the concepts related to enlargement. They have written words such as support, diversity, joy, friendship and conflict prevention on small slips of paper that they will place upon the map as the camera films. Once the 11 ideas are presented, they each place one letter from the word “enlargement” around the map.

“Many of the groups are using videos showing themselves with papers, but we want to show the idea, not the persons,” says Dutch member Carsten Zwaaneveld, adding that the silence of their short film allows the viewer more time for reflection.

Two separate groups and two very different approaches, but they both arrived at the same result: a short film with a positive message promoting the benefits of EU enlargement.
Claus Giering, head of unit of the information and communication at the European Commission’s directorate general for enlargement, says the main objective of this workshop is to get people thinking about how to communicate about enlargement, especially to younger generations.

“As there’s limited time, we don’t expect fully fledged projects, but it’s more an experiment. What we want to get out of it is the idea, the spirit, the concept and thinking behind it,” Giering says. “That’s what we will learn from.”

The groups have two hours to produce their two-minute project using any media: it could use anything from songs, drama, sketches, websites, posters or photos to present the message.

The final projects are to be presented before the entire conference on the final morning of 26 June, and conference participants will vote for their favourite projects. Giering says the best ones will be published online at the Croatia in the EU website.

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