The European Commission's action plan to improve communication with Europe's citizens is welcome. But against a background of wide disenchantment with the EU, this much-vaunted and long-awaited plan appears to be a case of too little, too late.

There is nothing wrong with the content, as far as it goes. But its limitations are all too clear. No amount of audiovisual aids and high-quality press releases will make a crucial difference. As the Commission itself recognises in the introduction to its plan, "This is a task that goes beyond the Commissions remit".

The EU faces two major handicaps in any exercise to improve its image. One is institutional: no-one speaks for the EU as a whole. And the necessary partnership among EU institutions and member states is far from guaranteed. The Commission plan's well-meaning admonitions to its partners to play their part in gaining the public's trust are inadequate.

The other even more fundamental handicap is the EU's own manifest incapacity to act in areas that command public support, or with a vision that inspires confidence. How can the EU hope to convince Europeans - or anyone else - of its merits as long as it continues to behave as it has been doing for the last decade?

It has made countless pronouncements on the urgency of creating jobs - but unemployment figures remain scandalously...

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