Campbell to polish Europe's image

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR'S press secretary Alastair Campbell, fresh from sorting out Nato's media operation, is turning his attention to the European Commission. Downing Street is liaising with Romano Prodi, the incoming president, about drawing up a communications strategy to tackle growing public hostility to Brussels.

Labour's leaders and press advisers are determined that the media operation should be better co-ordinated and more pro-active to get a positive message across, in the wake of the reforms to the commission. Mr Prodi and his press adviser Ricky Levi have agreed there are too many European Union spokesmen and they give out mixed messages, so a more strategic approach needs to be taken with the media machine.

The Labour party's poor result in last month's European elections has shaken the Government. Labour strategists are blaming the low turnout more on frustration with the institutions of Europe and the Brussels "gravy train" than on ideological opposition to the euro.

Planners believe they must do more to help to restore the reputation of the EU and ease their task of persuading the public of the benefits of the single currency when the Government decides to call a referendum.

Peter Mandelson, the former Trade and Industry Secretary and party campaign manager, said in Brussels last week that the EU had to bring together the best communicators from across the continent to help to restore the commission's reputation.

A Downing Street source said: "There's a huge job to be done to restore confidence in the commission and communicate its positive role in the lives of the people of Europe, and the press operation is crucial to that.

"Prodi and Ricky Levi also clearly recognise there's a particular job to be done when it comes to the British press."

Mr Campbell flew to Nato headquarters in Brussels during the Kosovo conflict to shake up the media operation, following a series of blunders.

On Friday, he is lecturing at the Royal United Services Institute about the role of media during war. He will describe how public relations strategists identified a daily message during the Balkans crisis which applied to both sides.