|The development of a European public sphere is often seen as a solution to the manifold problems of the EU instutions in communicating with European citizens. Thus, the advancement of such a forum of exchange between citizens and policy-makers has become a manifest goal of the European Commission. Communication is becoming a policy in its own right. The proclaimed paradigm of this policy is a ‘dialogue with the citizens’. Critics of government public relations efforts do not buy into this claim and conceive the communication attempts by public institutions as propaganda. This article presents a model for the scholarly analysis of communication as a policy and applies this framework to the information policy of the European Commission. Information policy is understood as a set of political decisions which govern the information activities of public institutions. Information policy structures the rules of access to information and sets the goals of institutional PR. Information policy may in fact be able to trigger public debates and thus promote the genesis of a transnational public sphere in Europe. However, the attempts of the European Commission are not successful in this respect. Empirically, the study combines an analysis of of policy-documents and the manifest products of public relations work, semi-standardized interviews with Commission and government officials and two standardized surveys. In contrast to the traditions of EU secrecy, the Commission has made a turn towards more transparency but the desired ‘dialogue with the citizens’ does not carry trough. Going beyond the case of the European Commission, the study explores the potential and the limits of information policy and sheds doubt on the validity of public claims towards ‘dialogue with citizens’. Aloof from this illusionary promise, information policy can nevertheless contribute to the thriving of a democratic public sphere.
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