Information is a key instrument of any policy making, let alone multinational policy-making. Citizens rightly distrust the common policies, which they do not understand for lack of proper information. The role of information has been underestimated and largely neglected in the EC/EU, with the result of a growing estrangement of the European public from European policies, which become ever more complicated as they advance and, hence, increasingly difficult to understand. As we saw above, three fourths of European citizens believe that they are ill informed about European affairs. This information deficit is endangering European unification. The more ignorant the citizens are about the institutions, the goals and the mechanisms of the integration process, the more easily public opinion may be misled about particular issues or the general thrust of the process.
The lack of objective information (by European institutions, governments and big political parties) combined with a sharp disinformation on the part of eurosceptic media is an explosive mixture placed under the foundations of European unification, because it separates citizens in two categories: the apathetics and the dogmatics. The vast silent majority is indifferent, because it finds living and working conditions generally acceptable in Europe, compared with other parts of the world, but does not credit the EC/EU with a significant role in shaping those conditions. On the other hand, a minority, which is systematically irritated against the deeds or supposed misdeeds of the European institutions (notably that of usurping national sovereignty), underestimates or even denies all the achievements of the Union in terms of peace, relative prosperity and unobstructed movement of goods, services, labour and capital. This situation is harmful, not only to the progress of European integration, but also to the good functioning of its democratic institutions [see section 4.3] that are debased in the eyes of the citizens by some activists with dubious motives.
The states which participate in the integration process have, consequently, a common interest in developing a common information and communication policy about this process. This means using simple language, which can be used by the mass media, to put forward the reasons for European policies, the consequences of inertia and the benefits of common action in the interests of all participants. This would not be propaganda, but information necessary in a democratic community concerned with encouraging participation of all its members in communal life. This factual information is necessary in order to bring the citizens closer to the institutions of the Union and thus bridge the information and the democratic gaps. Priority should be given to information on issues close to the daily lives of citizens, such as price stability and employment as well as on issues of major political interest, such as the future of Europe and the place of the Union in the world. The Commission should take the initiative to propose a common communication policy with common goals, common means and multi-level implementation: European, national, regional and local.
Likewise, the European institutions - the Commission, the Council and the Parliament - should encourage the Member States to introduce the teaching of the history, the institutions and the goals of European integration in the high schools. This, again, would not be indoctrination dangerous for the democracy, but rather a civic education, necessary for the correct functioning of the democratic institutions at European level. The proper functioning of democratic institutions depends on well-informed and educated citizens. As revealed by public opinion surveys, practically all the citizens in all the Member States demand with insistence better information for themselves and better education for their children. They are right, because the two go together. The civic education of the young about the basic facts of European unification should, indeed, be the trunk on which would grow and be constantly developed, by the institutions and the Member States, the branches and leaves of the European information tree relating to all common policies and activities.
The cultural activities of the Union rightly emphasise the cultural diversity of the nations that make it up rather than trying to promote a common culture; but the national cultural identities should not overshadow the common cultural heritage of European peoples. Consciousness of a common cultural heritage is part of the process of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe. The proper historical dimension, in particular, could contribute to a better mutual understanding of the cultures of European peoples. History lessons taught from the national angle, accentuate the divisions, the wars and the hatreds among European nations rather than their common cultural heritage. The Ministers of Education should one day agree on a textbook of European history and culture, which could make young Europeans understand that the national cultural particularities, which make up Europe's cultural wealth, are all parts of the same European civilisation of Greek-Roman origin.
In this respect, an effective European audiovisual policy, which is still in its inception phase, can enhance not only the common European cultural identity, but also the various national identities that enrich it. Certain European measures could improve the industry's competitiveness, such as support systems for the distribution of non-domestic European works, the encouragement of private investment in European audiovisual production on foreign markets, the organisation of a pan-European prize-giving ceremony by the audiovisual profession and, last but not least, the launching of digital television in a competitive environment. Digital cinema, facilitating the circulation of European audiovisual works, could promote European cinema, which is in constant decline in recent years.
Information, audiovisual and cultural policies are important for the European integration process, because once the citizens understand better the significance of this process for their wellbeing and their liberties, they may become active supporters (rather than apathetic onlookers) of the unification of Europe. They may thus tend to participate more eagerly at European elections and oppose extremist anti-European parties at national elections. They may also lodge more complaints with the Commission when they regard a measure taken by a national, regional or local authority as contravening European law [see section 9.3]. They may thus make them comply more fully with that law and be more prepared to provide their bricks for the further construction of the European edifice.