European Commission’s DG Communication says, “stay away”

New Europe, 22th of February 2016

The European Commission’s  Directorate-General  Communication has systematically blocked initiatives which aim to make the European emergency number 112 more known in the EU’s member-states.

112 is the European emergency number in all 28 EU member states, as well as other countries of the European continent. People in distress can call 112 to reach the fire brigade, medical assistance and the police 24/7 totally free of charge.

Speaking to New Europe, Gary Machado, the Executive Director of the European Emergency Number Association (EENA), recounted the bizarre events surrounding an EENA initiative that was blocked from functionaries of DG Communication in Brussels.

In order to fulfill its goal of having more Europeans know about 112 so that they may use it if ever there is an emergency, EENA reached out to the Commission Representations in several member states, asking them to help promote 112 in any way they can. The response was overwhelming.

New Europe has seen emails from the European Commission Representations in Italy, Sweden, Spain, Poland and Greece, expressing the desire to include 112 in their social media campaigns, and to help the dissemination of this unquestionably European facility in several different ways. It should be noted that EENA requested no financial element. “The representation … wholeheartedly supports every action aiming at informing the European public about the existence and use of 112 …”,  read one of the letters.  Excited about the response, Machado contacted DG Communication, looking to see if there could be a more centralized approach and hoping to get Brussels to tell the Representation about using 112’s publicity materials on occasion.

DG Communication granted a meeting with a Head of Unit, but when Machado and an intern showed up, excited to discuss the possibilities, they were greeted by seven people. This included three Heads of Unit from DG Communication and three policy officers from DG Connect. “When we entered the room, we knew something was wrong,” Machado recounted.

Their excitement was soon crushed. Without reason, one of the Heads of Unit, told Machado and his colleague, “not to contact the Commission’s Representations,” and that they “will not promote 112”. Machado’s colleague told New Europe that she felt that “for [the European Commission], 112 was clearly not a priority”.

In a patronizing manner, which is often the case with individuals who hold ad hoc discretionary power in the European Commission, the EENA representatives were told that they “should be creative” and try to find a way to influence European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip.

EENA followed orders and never again contacted the Commission Representations. Disappointed at the reality that they had been turned down for a dissemination that would have zero cost, they unwittingly took the advice and veered to other, more creative avenues. This month, 112 announced a mega-cooperation with hospitality giant, AIRBNB, to have all guests using the service informed of the 112 number through guest emergency information cards.

Despite the unusual turn of events, Machado hopes that the European Commission will come around. “I hope that the European Commission will proactively take all necessary steps to promote 112. EENA is always available to work with the European Commission for improving awareness of the common European emergency number.”