Tag: EU (page 1 of 10)

Why Cameron’s case for ‘EU reform’ is a PR stunt

Cameron’s “EU reform” is a PR stunt designed to please the media and his backbenchers. He basically follows the advice of his pollsters that told him that he could win an EU referendum if he convincingly  changes the “UK’s terms of membership”. But it follows a simplistic idea: The man on the street does not know the current membership terms (thanks to a media that is not always helpful in reporting the facts…)  so using this general ignorance Cameron’s pollsters are convinced  that the Prime Minister can deliver “a more favourable deal” simply by getting a few concessions and by constantly emphasising how favourable these new terms would be…

There are several  problems with this approach – not least  the smugness of taking the electorate as fools:

First of all this “renegotiation” of membership terms has already happened. The UK is not part of the eurozone, it did not sign the fiscal compact, it is not part of the Schengen area. Over the years British politicians have negotiated a series of policy opt-outs (the latest being the JHA opt-out). And last but not least the UK still enjoys a “budget rebate”. The UK is effectively a semi-detached EU member state. So the question is: What else can you realistically “renegotiate”? There is also little political will elsewhere in the EU to grant yet another opt-out to the UK.

The second problem is a misunderstanding of what is an institutional – and what is a policy change.  Most things that Cameron usually labels as ‘reform’ are policies which can be implemented without banging on about how this would constitute a ‘new EU deal’ (especially when you think about ‘completing the single market’, trade agreements such as TTIP or establishing a ‘digital single market’)

The third problem is the general lack of ideas. The only evidence so far is an article by David Cameron in the Sunday Times  – not quite the  detailed policy agenda one expects from a new “EU deal”. The government also set up a process, the so-called  Review of the Balance of competences , “an audit of what the EU does and how it affects the UK”. The idea behind it was that it would generate enough ideas for this ambitious ‘new deal with the EU’. Unfortunately (for Cameron) this audit (so far) has found not much that needs to be renegotiated – the balance is broadly acceptable.

It seems to me that it would have been better to wait for the results of this review before announcing the referendum/renegotiation package. The latest idea to remove a largely symbolic (and not legally binding!) reference to  “ever closer union” in a  EU treaty looks like a desperate attempt to appease – once again – the eurosceptic backbenchers. Suffice to say the treaty will not be changed – any political declaration that Cameron could get out of the European Council will just be a piece of paper.

So basically “EU reform” is an empty shell. Cameron uses it all the time without being specific about it with the aim of giving the impression that all is going according to plan. But unfortunately (for him) nothing goes according to plan. There will be no new treaty  (another miscalculation by Cameron’s advisers) and by not framing the issue in a broader context he is set to lose all remaining allies.

Any proper EU reform is usually negotiated by all EU member states – not by one member states making demands and threatening to leave. It is about compromise – but for Cameron everything is a “battle” and it is unlikely that he will change his negotiation tactics in the coming months… If you want treaty change (and this is the only thing Cameron should fight for – forget about Juncker) you basically have to convince all other member states that it is in their interest to change the treaty – and once they want a new treaty you reluctantly also agree to call for an IGC. But this more diplomatic approach is not David Cameron’s cup of tea…

In der Politik geht es immer auch darum, eine Geschichte zu erzählen – und die besten Geschichten kommen offenbar aus dem Umfeld von Merkel. Auch da gibt es ein Muster: Ihre Leute sind sehr gut darin, vor fast jedem EU-Gipfel auf einen vermeintlichen Streitpunkt hinzuweisen: Etwas, wofür die Kanzlerin gerade besonders hart kämpft, oder eine Forderung der anderen Staats- und Regierungschefs, gegen die sich Merkel besonders hart wehrt. Meist ist der Streit aber gar keiner. Oder Merkel hat längst Zugeständnisse gemacht, von denen die Öffentlichkeit aber nichts mitbekommt. In jedem Fall geht Merkel damit auf dem Gipfel selbst als Siegerin vom Feld.

- Marc Brost in einem sehr lesenswerten Kommentar in der Wochenzeitung Die Zeit

Differentiated EU integration

Good overview of the state of EU integration – from a new CEPS report on EU reform. (click here for additional complexity

CEPSdifferentiated

Why Miliband’s ‘EU referendum policy’ is dangerous for Britain and the EU

Well, it finally happened: Today, Brexit has become a real possibility – maybe not in the next couple of years but possibly in the long term. Under a Labour government and in the unlikely event of a new EU treaty Ed Miliband promised an in/out referendum in the UK – if “new powers are transferred to the EU”. There are few problems with this:

1) I don’t think any Labour government can ever win an in/out referendum in the UK. It will be impossible for Labour to win against the Tories in opposition and the anti-EU media in the UK.

2) One can only hope that Miliband will never have to implement his “in/out referendum policy”. It’s a recipe for disaster. What does it mean to ‘transfer new powers to the EU’? Even if it’s a treaty for the eurozone only, public opinion in the UK will perceive it as another “broken promise” if he decides not to go for the referendum.

3) Ed Miliband’s referendum lock is a new level of how to blackmail the rest of the EU. Under a Labour government any new EU treaty negotiation will always be linked to “Brexit” – not the best starting point for any negotiation over a new EU treaty.

4) It is one thing to promise a referendum over a new EU treaty. Indeed, this can be perceived as a good thing (although I disagree with the idea of having referendums on these things) but linking an in/out referendum to a new treaty that transfers ‘new powers’ is utter bollocks. There are bad treaties but the in/out question will always overshadow specific treaty issues. This is neither democratic nor strategically clever. Basically you blackmail your own population: “Accept this treaty or we leave the EU” – hardly a democratic approach! (or are we talking about 2 referendums in the case of a new treaty?)

Of course this policy can pay off in the short term (= until the next general election that is) but is it a viable strategy? Yes, it keeps Britain in the EU as long as there is no new EU treaty (and chances of it happening are minimal, except for a eurozone treaty). Miliband may manage to keep the ‘Europe question’ off the agenda in the years ahead (which is a good thing!) The “EU question” is also not one of the main concerns of the British public so everything that makes Europe a boring topic is a positive development. Plus the British and international media seem to buy the line that “Miliband rejects EU referendum in 2017″. Fair enough, but what will happen in the unlikely event of a new treaty? If this becomes part of the British approach to the EU it is likely that we will never see another EU-wide treaty again. Expect more agreements that legally resemble Schengen, the Euro and the Fiscal compact. It is clear that Miliband does not want to have a in/out referendum – but why did he not say it like this? Opposing an in/out referendum and defending EU membership – this would have been a clear policy. (And, remember: there is still the ‘normal’ referendum lock on power transfers/new treaties that has been passed by the present government a few years ago)

So, what is the lesson here? Politicians always think they can ‘match’ a policy with something that sounds similar to the policy of their main rival . But this race to the bottom never works. You can’t beat the original. On the EU, the Conservatives can’t beat UKIP and Labour can’t beat the Conservatives.

[PS: I thought I'd never say this but I think I prefer the 'in/out referendum policy' of the Tories. Hmm...]

Some ideas for EU reform that would *really* make a difference

In the UK there is too much talk about ill-defined “EU reform” that will not make any difference. Who needs a complex new “red card” procedure when you  a) never exhausted the existing “yellow card procedure” and b) could just copy the Danish approach to control your ministers in the Council? Why do we need to talk about “benefit tourism” if it does not even exist?  How can we cut down all this red tape without knowing what laws  you are actually talking about? Do we really need treaty change just because you want your doctors and nurses to have less rights? Here are a few ideas that would *really* make a difference in how we talk about the EU:

  • EU member states: Stop blaming the EU for your own ideas. Ministers in the Council often suggest stuff but once they are back in their countries they seem surprised that anyone took them seriously. And one more thing:  if it is an idea that was previously rejected in your country – well, you know, maybe it is a bad idea?
  • European Commission: Start blaming others by putting colourful banners on the front page of all Commission proposals that reveal the origin of the proposal: “This regulation was requested by a joint initiative of the British and German governments” / “This is follow-up from the Environment Council” / “This Commission directive is the result of an intense lobbying campaign by French energy companies” / “This Commission directive was inspired by the Tobacco industry”. Call it a new “transparency initiative” – trust me, it would fundamentally transform the EU discourse.
  • European Commission: Hire a couple of journalists and create a “Bullshit Detection Unit (BTU)”: Each Commission proposal needs to pass the BTU test. This will reduce the amount of formulations that could be misinterpreted by other journalists.
  • European Parliament: Stop talking about things you can’t change.  Nobody needs your own initiative reports. They only get picked up by the tabloids as proof for some new “EU law”. Similar point about the upcoming European Parliament elections – focus on policies that you can actually influence and be frank about things you will not be able to change under the current treaties.
  • Journalists: Just stop following this guide. It was not supposed to be a manual.
  • Everybody: Every time you criticise the EU for being not bold enough/ too soft/not speaking with one voice/ too business friendly / not business friendly enough  – try and suggest an actual policy. But first try and think for one moment whether it is an EU competence and if you could get all 28 countries to agree on it.

…to be continued…

Reporting Europe Prize 2014

Reporting Europe Prize!

A promising start for @FactCheckEU

A warm welcome to FactCheckEU – the first crowdsourced fact-checking website for EU topics. It launched a few weeks ago and – so far – it is looking rather promising. It probably has the potential to become one of the most useful EU related websites. Go check it out and – more importantly – help them!

It is crowdsourced so everyone can contribute. And we also should remember that the quality of factchecking websites pretty much depends on the community and its ethics. Obviously both things need time to develop (so critising aspects of the website today would indeed be a bit premature) So, let’s hope FactCheckEU succeed in attracting enough contributors who are also able to do some high quality fact-checking. It is much needed – especially ahead of this year’s European Parliament elections.

The Apathetics


via Amnesty International

The Renegotiation

One of the most puzzling questions in the referendum/re-negotiation debate in the UK is what the British actually want to “re-negotiate” (it’s questionable whether there will be any opportunity to do it – but this is another story).  Anyway, so far we’ve had to do quite a bit of guesswork to answer this question. A couple of weeks ago, openeurope (the think tank/advocacy group that is pretty close to the Conservative EU policy agenda – to say the least) published a survey that  found  that most people support Cameron’s re-negotiation strategy. It also included a very interesting list of re-negotiation priorities.  Or to put it more accurately: 14 policy areas (pre-formulated by openeurope) were ranked by survey respondents.  It would have been interesting to see what an “open question” would have produced in this context. Now I am sure Downing Street does this sort of polling as well  – or, what is more likely, use some of the results of this survey. Anyway it is quite a safe bet that all these issues  are the areas in which the UK will try to do “something” – and William Hague’s “red card” proposal  a few weeks ago was already part of it!

Before I discuss the top 4 priorities (or everything over 30% approval) in more detail it is interesting to note two issues that explain the findings:  First of all the ranking confirms the low level of EU knowledge among  people: policy areas with exclusive EU competence and/or EU policy areas where you could bring back powers (in theory at least) tend to be at the bottom of the list:  regional policy, agriculture, fisheries. And secondly: the top priorities for re- negotiation are exactly the topics that correspond with the eurosceptic agenda and the discourse in the media:  immigration, EU budget and overall costs. (with some outliers)

renegotiation

A methodological note: Formulating statements in surveys is always a bit tricky. However, it seems to me that the  phrase  “allowing the UK to have control/own policy x”  also assumes that the UK has somehow lost control over the particular policy area – and if you look at the table of issues – this is simply not true for policy areas that do  not fall under “exclusive EU competence“. So most of the statements are – at least slightly – misleading. Plus if you have a list like this everyone will tick a couple of boxes which gives you high percentages and long list of “demands” – just imagine an open question in comparison! Of course openeurope chose – and formulated  those 15 policy areas which does explain the framing.  However, let’s look at the four main issues in more detail:

1. Allowing the UK to have its own immigration policy

Immigration is – not surprisingly – the “top priority” with more than 50% approval. Never mind that the numbers have gone down recently – and that generally immigration has brought some economic benefits to the UK. But there is another problem: The EU has hardly any competence in immigration policy. Now I know most people perceive intra-EU migration as part of the problem – but to change this you need to re-negotiate the EU’s four freedoms which is basically a non-starter. Obviously the problem are not the German or French “ex-pats” in the UK (nor the British pensioners buying property in Spain) – the problem are the  Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian “immigrants” and “benefit tourists” (as if the UK had a generous welfare state) And interestingly, EU “immigrants” are  less likely to claim benefit than UK citizens.

But even in the policy area of immigration it was the UK’s decision (after being the champion of EU enlargement!) not to impose transitional measures after the 2004 enlargement (as most other EU countries did!) – so at the end  it was a national decision that led to increased  levels of immigration. So what can the Britain do to “please” the right-wing media/ potential UKIP voters? Introduce some new hurdles for Romanian and Bulgarians to come to the UK next year? Promise automatic transitional measures for all future enlargements? Or make life more burdensome for all EU citizens in the country (and risk a few court cases in Luxembourg – which will conveniently happen after the referendum)? Last year openeurope published a paper on this issue and proposed a reform of the  EU’s Free Movement Directive. It is a rather complicated legal issue  – but the direction is clear: instead of strengthening  EU citizenship the debate will be framed around access to benefits. The recent announcement of the Commission to take the UK to the ECJ  over its  “right to residue test” is part of this “battle”.

2. Giving UK parliament more powers to block unwanted EU laws

This is a very interesting one – and I wonder where it is  coming from (did the government thought of the red card procedure and wanted to have some data to back it up?). But again there are problems:  The proposed  “red card” procedure would be based on the” yellow card” procedure (apparently this procedure – introduced by the Lisbon Treaty – has been  so successful that it was only used once! And the government claims that is because the EP is in charge of it… but again this is another story) – anyway, you need 2/3 of parliaments in Europe to coordinate a joint position, which is a rather difficult exercise – to say the least.

Instead of opening the treaties for a procedure that is complex and not very effective – why not give the parliament the power to hold ministers to account. Maybe the UK government should visit Denmark to see how it can be done, and how the European Scrutiny committee would become the de-facto center of EU policy- making (Maybe David Cameron now regrets the decision to put  Bill Cash in charge … ) In addition the “scrap the European Parliament” idea (not part of the current debate at all – so why is it in there?) has to be seen in this context. The idea of openeurope/UK government is that democracy can only work on the national level – only here you can have increased legitimacy. Theoretically,  this undermines the European Parliament and gives national governments another veto possibility through their parliaments/chief whips.

3. Reducing Britain’s contribution to the EU

The UK  has a  permanent “budget rebate” and pays less in GDP % than some  of the poorer  member states.  The fact that significant part of the population thinks that the EU is expensive and the UK should pay less is clearly a success for UKIP.  But in this year’s budget negotiations David Cameron claimed a “victory” so the government could make the case that its “renegotiation” was successful . However, people tend to believe UKIP and the Daily Mail when it comes to costs – a problem that can probably not be solved.

4. Allowing the UK to have control over police and criminal justice laws.

Again, not an exclusive EU competence – and a reflection of the hysterical media debate. Most people probably put European Court of Human Rights  in Strassbourg into the equation (which is not an EU institution).  At the same time this is something the government can deliver.  David Cameron can use the nuclear JHA opt-out while  hoping to manage some  opt-ins at a later stage. Probably the most likely area where the government can really deliver – the problem here is what to do afterwards as the government is eager to opt-in  some selective JHA measures…

5. The rest

The top four priorities would not suggest that a full blown treaty renegotiation is required  (so do we really need an ICG?): The JHA opt-out will be the most visible action – all other things can be achieved through mixture of some changes in directives and some significant changes in the UK system itself.  The real “problematic” policy areas in terms of renegotiation are buried further down the list:  allowing the UK to negotiate trade deals with third countries (a surprising fifth place though!), regional policy, fisheries, agriculture – even employment legislation (better known as the WTD ;)  are not part of the top priorities.

It is ironic that people apparently want a “significant return of powers” but when given the choice they don’t really choose the options that would also involve a “significant return of power”.

How the EU works

Here is a great infographic of the “Ordinary legislative procedure” (formerly known as “co-decision procedure”) – the basic policy-making mode in the EU.  And another one for the budgetary procedure – only used for the EU budget (and quite different from the OLP).

via European Parliament

Europe according to the British

europe-according-to-britain

via @alphadesigner

Back

Ok, I am back. Not sure for how long, let’s see… expect some short stuff – maybe I should get into mobile blogging (to use the daily commute in London a bit more efficiently).

Just to reiterate my general problem with EU blogging this year: I work for a think tank in London on European affairs so I get a fair share of geeky EU stuff on a daily basis. And writing blog posts on EU affairs is somehow not my preferred evening activity. So what has changed? Nothing really. Just thought I should give it another try.

Anyway, I am in Zagreb this week at the EFB community conference – if anyone wants to go for a drink – drop me an email.

3loggingportal.eu

Three years of bloggingportal. And what a journey it has been. I remember sitting around a huge table in a flat in Brussels – with a certain Jon Worth and the (back then) mysterious Brusselsblogger – dreaming up something that is now known as bloggingportal. Well, resources were scarce and it took us only another year to launch the actual website in January 2009.  As I said at a conference a few years ago: “Three people, one idea, no money” (hey – I always wanted to quote myself in a blog post!)

Ironically I am blogging this while sitting at exactly the same (and now truly) legendary table in a flat in London… Well, in many ways I would not be here without bloggingportal and all the people I met through the project. So thanks a lot for all your help and support!

We have learnt a lot over the last three years – especially how not to do things. But I guess this is how it has to be. The problem is still the same: We are a bunch of enthusiastic people without a real structure, without money and without much time on our hands. It is a bit like herding anarchist and hungry cats…

So what does the future hold for bloggingportal? I  blogged about our problems in the past and called for a bigger EU blogosphere. As you can imagine not much has been solved – although EU blogging has arguably grown somehwat. To get an idea about the debate on the future of bloggingportal head over to BrusselsbloggerRonny Patz  and Mathew Lowry’s Tagsmanian Devil who all have written more substantial blog posts on the issue.

If you are reading this and you are thinking “well this blogginportal stuff may be a fun thing to do…” – why not get in touch ?  I think we do need people with fresh ideas who are motivated to invest some time in developing the website as well as the bloggingportal concept (whatever that is…). Because it is simple: The media landscape has changed, blogging has changed – even the EU has changed (well, ok this is  debatable!). So maybe bloggingportal needs to change too!

PS. I am not dead – honest. Pseudo-regular blogging resumes as soon as possible… (Reason: new job in London & flat-hunting)

Dear Neelie Kroes…

… let me begin like this. I generally appreciate your work on the Digital Agenda. (although there are still a lot of obstacles in Europe that need to be tackled!) Your team is doing a great job in  developing this important policy. You seem to take interactions with citizens seriously and you have shown that Commissioners can indeed be innovative. The Digital Agenda is one of these rare EU policies that could really make a difference across Europe – and even worldwide.

So why ruin everything  by appointing Karl Theodor Maria Georg Achaz Eberhardt Josef Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg as your special/personal advisor?

Technology can support human rights, but we must also ensure it is not used against those struggling for freedom. I want Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg to champion this cause with governments and NGOs and ensure it gets the attention, focus and support it deserves. - Neelie Kroes

During your press conference you said you wanted “talent and not saints”. Fair enough, but are you sure that he has the necessary talent? His political achievements in Germany are mediocre at best. His rethoric has always trumped his policies. He is a master of blaming others for his failures. He is unable to admit mistakes. Very frankly, he is an aristocratic snob who could not care less about the problems of online activists and the rights of bloggers. I  have never heard of any achievement that would qualify him to work on these issues. Mr zu Guttenberg has never been an advocate for the freedom of the internet. In fact he has been in favour of net censorhip and supported the German government in introducing a more restrictive net surveillance policy. He has no track record whatsover.

The question is why did you not appoint someone with a more substantive track record in online human rights policy? And more importantely, since this advisory role is about the international impact of the digital agenda, why did you not involve the EEAS in your decision? (Update: The EEAS was involved. – see comments)

Moreover, online activists were responsible for his resignation when they revealed  hat Mr zu Guttenberg plagiarised his PhD thesis.  He is not a credible choice for the job in question. You say that  ‘if anyone understands the power of the internet, and its power to hold authorities to account, it is Karl-Theodor.‘  This may be true. However, the problem is that Mr zu Guttenberg never gave the impression that he shares this assessment. He never said anything positive about the ‘power of the internet’. Until this day he argues that this whole PhD affair has been some sort of misunderstanding and can be explained by some bad referencing. If you look at the GuttePlag wiki you will be surprised to learn how much of his thesis was plagiarised!  He claims that he lost the overview and could not distinguish between his own ideas and the ideas of others.  Is that the sort of intellectual property or ‘open data’ policy you want to advocate with the Digital Agenda?

You have created a very interesting online community which is generally supportive of the Digital Agenda. You have an excellent social media strategy and there have been great debates online – and offline. Why did you not ask people for their opinion or listen what they have to say about Mr zu Guttenberg? Who advised you to give Mr zu Guttenberg the opportunity for another political comeback?

Well, you see, Mr zu Guttenberg is a rather controversial politican as you may have noticed if you followed the recent debates in Germany. Unfortunately, these controversies will overshadow your policy.  Not all publicity is also good publicity! I am wondering whether you considered that this decision might have an affect on your own reputation – especially among your key online  stakeholders?

And this brings me to my last point. His appointment  is exactly the sort of EU behaviour that people hate. The EU as the  exile  for failed politicians that are not wanted on the national level anymore – but are desperate for some sort of important sounding job. Jobs for the boys. It is indeed sad that the Digital Agenda has become the latest example in this category.

Yours Sincerely,

Kosmopolit

Update 14/12/12:  A response by Neelie Kroes can be found here.

The new European Parliament website: a journey of discovery

Who would have thought that if you want to learn some useful tips about website (re)design you have to search no further than the new European Parliament website? And who would have thought that, in the age where, thankfully, the various EU websites are becoming more user friendly, there is one website that, well, has a slightly “out of the box” design? But the EU (and its web universe)  is full of surprises, so here we are, being offered a brand new European Parliament website. And since it seems to be quite different (in look and logic)  than the new websites of the other EU institutions (European CommissionCouncil of the EU and European Council), maybe we can learn a few lessons in website design:

1. Place a large banner on the homepage; the bigger the better. You have to make sure that people who have netbooks *only* see the banner when they land there and those with a normal/big laptop screen have at least half of the screen covered by your banner. They are on your website –> they are interested –> they are eager to scroll down to actually see content. Bullet-proof logic, can’t fault it really.

2. You have a website with a lot of information. You also have a mandate to ensure “transparency”. Now, what is your main concern when designing the website? Form or function? For those of you who answer function, I suggest you think again. Or try to learn something from this guide. Form is, of course, the key. The page has to look cool. Full stop. So try to make it as similar to the magazines and social network pages people are used to. If that means making some compromises on its actual use, be bald and go for it.

3. You’ve decided to go for the *cool look*. Good. This makes things easier. You don’t actually need to care about navigation. Why try to design menus that actually help people go through your page? Menus are there to look cool, who said they actually need to also have a function? Gather some random words (thinking of categories is really a waste of precious effort and time), add sleek icons to them and there you go: you have your main menu. Does it capture the essence of your activity? This should really be the least of your concerns. It is the main (and sometimes the only) thing people see when coming to your page and you made it look cool. Ah, and if you feel it’s not sleek enough, add a slow-moving (but cool looking) arrow that is, by chance, the only means of navigation  through the menu. Now you’re all set.

4. You have one main menu, on top. Really, no matter how cool that looks, you simply cannot rely on only one menu. This would be really careless of you. The more menus, the better. It shows the complexity of your activities. You think that’s difficult to achieve? Think twice. Who said the menus should look the same or be linked in any way? In fact, it’s just the opposite: the more diverse, the better. It won’t confuse people, it will simply make them stay longer on your site, searching for the information they need. After all, isn’t that what you actually want?

5. When designing your various menus, be creative and come up with new ideas. Drop-down menus are out of fashion. So is the left side menu. Place all your menus and sub-menus on top. The viewers will be confronted with a sea of words and ever-foldable menus that will push the actual information even lower on the page. Same as in lesson 1: if they are really interested, they’ll find their way. And don’t give them any help, by streamlining the categories or putting them in an order that makes sense. This would make it far too easy and not challenging.

6. Since we’ve established already in lesson 2 that navigation and usability are rather low on your agenda, you only have to make sure of one basic thing: the viewers should *never* be able to come back to the exact point of their search where they were before. This is, after all, a journey of discovery and you wouldn’t want to spoil the fun, would you?

7. Let’s go now a step further, to the actual content. I know, this is drifting a bit away from the coolness factor, but believe me, there are a few things you can do with the content to keep the viewers’ excitement alive. Firstly, you can put the same information in various places, therefore allowing for various paths of discovery (don’t worry, you don’t have to think of any logic behind it). Alternatively, you can split the information on one topic in different parts of the website (obviously each one with a different look). It would be too boring if everything was grouped and the readers could actually find what they need immediately. A good example here is the information on EP committees. You can find the list of committees here, under the item “Policies” on the main menu; general  information about committees can be found here, under “Organisation”, some 3 clicks later, through the labyrinth of menus; and the latest news about Committee activities are here, on the top right menu of the main page, under “Committees”. There you go. This type of structure (!) opens many opportunities: you can, for instance, create quizzes asking people to find all the information on a certain topic. And no worries, this is just for fun. No one will actually find every single item, you can always hide something so well that it might even take you a couple of hours to locate it. The fun of searching! Ah, I almost forgot, it might seem like a detail but it’s quite important: if you link on your page to a very specific item (like a treaty article, for example), do not create a new page dealing specifically with that, but have the readers download hundreds of pages of PDF documents. It will certainly enrich their knowledge of the topic and give them the context to understand the specific item. Remember, it’s all about the readers and offering them the best online learning experience.

8. What is a website nowadays without a matching social media presence? In fact, sometimes, social media presence is even more important. Therefore, why not pay more attention to the Facebook page than to website itself? After all, that’s where your fans are. Compared to that, coolness-wise, your website will anyway be just a boring repository where die heart geeks go to find more information. Or try. Oops…that’s a small lapse of logic there, but never mind….

9.Designing a new website, or redesigning the old one, can be a daunting task. That’s why the best thing is to try to involve all departments; share the fun, give them ownership of their section. Why not even create a  competition and thus encourage them to keep their work secret from the others. Coherence is overrated. Who (apart from few geeks) will have an overview of the entire website anyway? If in the end some pieces really don’t fit together, blame complexity. It always works.

10. Your page is almost ready. You’ve worked so hard on it and are eager to show it to the world. Just go ahead! Really, don’t bother with testing its usability (or if you’ve done that already, don’t bother with incorporating the changes suggested). This will only delay your launch and you really don’t want that. And if, on the very first day, your page crashes and it’s  not accessible for most of the day, well, bad luck for whoever needed it then, for you it’s simply a sign of popularity. Be happy that so many people (much more than you could ever anticipate!) are checking the new look.

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