Vienna, 23 November 2006 - "Building confidence - for me, this was a priority goal of the Austrian Presidency. My concern was and still is to bring the European project closer to the people. In this sense the "Politics Award 2006" is also an acknowledgement of the Austrian Federal Government's efforts to intensify the dialogue with the citizens and to strengthen their confidence in the EU. We are grateful for this encouragement to continue our public relations work with imagination and commitment," commented Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on yesterday's bestowal of the prize for the EU information campaign "Europe is listening". The Foreign Minister regretted that it had not been possible for her to be personally present at the award ceremony due to a technical delay of her scheduled flight to Berlin.
The "Politics Award", which is presented in Germany once a year, is the most distinguished of its kind for work in the field of political communication. This is the fourth time the prize has paid tribute to the most outstanding campaigns and forward-looking works in this field. Every year, the award ceremony marks the end of the high-ranking Berlin Days of Politics, a central get-together and ideas forum for the media business organised by Helios Media.
The information campaign "Europe is listening", which lasted from September 2005 to June 2006 and was designed by the agency PKP proximity, received this year's "Politics Award" in the "Campaigns by Public Institutions" category. A core element of the campaign is the interactive website www.zukunfteuropa.at, which is still on-line and has recently been expanded. Part of the website is the "Europe is listening" platform which asks users for their opinion on themes relevant to the EU. Moreover, www.zukunfteuropa.at also contains a number of games on the theme of Europe: a European quiz and "Eurodoku", a European version of the popular sudoku, are additional website offers.
The website and the free European telephone hotline were advertised in TV ads and on info screens and posters. Moreover, within the framework of a country-wide road show Austrians were invited to participate in discussions on Europe. One component of the campaign was the logo of the Austrian EU Presidency designed by Rem Koolhaas, a creative and attractive symbol of the togetherness and diversity of Europe that featured in all communication measures and advertising media.
"Europe is listening" did not rely on classical advertising media alone, however, but also tried to give Europe a presence in the public space. The arrival hall of Vienna International Airport, for instance, welcomed all guests, domestic and foreign, with the design of Austria's EU Presidency, while an Austrian Federal Railways Taurus locomotive liveried in the many colours of the Presidency logo travelled the European rail networks as an "ambassador" of the country holding the Presidency.
"Last but not least, the campaign kicked off a positive awareness-raising process. Its objective was to involve the citizens in a dialogue and address their worries and concerns in connection with the European Union. At the same time it was necessary to remind people of the EU's achievements and the benefits it brings," stated the Foreign Minister. "The campaign was not designed to lecture people in a top-down approach, but to motivate citizens to participate, to contribute their ideas and to actively engage with the subject of Europe," emphasised Plassnik.
A number of polls had shown that approval of and confidence in the European Union had indeed been strengthened. "People's interest in the EU and their understanding of the advantages of EU membership have clearly risen. It is particularly encouraging that as many as 69% of young Austrians aged between 15 and 20 support Austria's EU membership, and that a clear majority among them increasingly feel themselves to be both Austrians and Europeans," concluded Plassnik.
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