Guest blog post: The European Citizens’ Initiative – the world’s first tool of transnational, participatory and digital democracy

We restart the guest blog post section with a special article from one of our new international partners, Paweł Głogowski, Project Manager of the The ECI Campaign. The ECI Campaign is an organization exclusively working for the successful introduction and implementation of the European Citizens’ Initiative right – the world’s first tool of participatory, transnational and digital democracy.

The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) enables one million EU citizens (coming from at least 7 of the 28 member states) to call directly on the European Commission to propose legislation of interest to them in an area of EU competence. By providing a legal basis for a European Citizens’ Initiative right (Art. 11.4 of the Treaty of Lisbon), Europe is the home of the world’s first tool of transnational, participatory and digital democracy.

Here is Pawel’s message:

”In 2012 the European Union launched the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), the first tool for transnational participatory and digital democracy in world history. EU leaders declared that it would be a powerful new democratic instrument that will change how the EU is run. In practice, the ECI’s burdensome procedures have dissuaded many potential users. With few new ECIs being registered and over 20 ECI campaigns complaining of massive flaws in the ECI rules, this new democratic instrument is under threat. In 2015, the ECI will be up for official review. Join us in telling the European Commission, Council and Parliament: “Tear down the walls blocking participatory democracy: eliminate restrictive ECI rules!”

Specifically we ask the decision makers to:

1.Make the registration procedure less restrictive.

2. Allow ECIs that require treaty amendments to implement.

3. Ensure that the Commission takes successful ECIs seriously.

4. Simplify and harmonise personal data requirements and procedures.

5. Eliminate ID number requirements.

6. Redesign the online signature collection system.

7. Allow the collection of e-mail addresses within the ECI support form and permit ECI organisers to contact signatories.

8. Let ECI campaigns choose their own start date.

9. Lower the age of ECI support to 16.

10. Offer an ECI support infrastructure with legal advice, translation and funding.

11. Provide a legal status to protect citizens’ committee members and allow fundraising.

12. Increase public and media awareness of the ECI.

In September the discussion on the potential ECI reform will move back to the European Parliament. Therefore, we ask all the interested people to support our actions and make the ECI work! Get in touch with us through or visit our website”

Twiplomacy 2015 report: Twitter is the channel of choice for digital diplomacy

The 2015 Twiplomacy study, the only global annual survey of the presence and activity on Twitter of heads of state and government, foreign ministers and their institutions, was launched today with the latest updates.

Just as last year, we contributed to the study, being responsible for the general country reports on Romania and the Republic of Moldova, and the individual executive reports for the selected national accounts.

Twioplomacy 2015

This year’s study analysed 669 government accounts in 166 countries and revealed that 86% of all 193 United Nations (UN) governments have a presence on Twitter, while only 27 countries, mainly in Africa and Asia-Pacific, do not have any Twitter presence.

Twiplomacy 2015 revealed once again that social media is an essential communication tool for governments and that Twitter has become the channel of choice for digital diplomacy. In fact, even real world differences are playing out on Twitter and sometimes end up in hashtag wars between embassies and foreign ministries.

It is clear that governments are putting more and more effort into their social media communication and the ones which put more financial and human resources into their digital communications are often most effective. For example, the report shows that @Elysee Palace is regularly posting six-second Vine videos to summarize state visits, while Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos @JuanManSantos is an early adopter of Twitter’s new live streaming application, Periscope, used for making important live announcements.

“It always amazes me how quickly governments adapt to the ever changing social media landscape,” said Matthias Lüfkens, Burson-Marsteller’s EMEA Digital Practice Leader and author of the report.

Especially European foreign ministries have continued to make mutual Twitter connections with their peers, creating what can be best described as a ‘virtual diplomatic network’. They can and do send each other private direct messages on the platform which are often faster and more effective than traditional diplomatic demarches.

Some of the main findings of the report are:

– U.S. President @BarackObama is still the most followed world leader, with close to 60 million followers, but Pope Francis (@Pontifex) is catching up fast with close to 20 million followers on his nine language accounts.

Most Followed - Twiplomacy 2015

– The UK Prime Minister @Number10gov is the most followed EU leader with more than three million followers.

– Few world leaders are tweeting themselves. Notable exceptions include Estonian President Toomas Henrik Ilves (@IlvesToomas), European Council President @DonaldTusk, Latvian Foreign Minister @EdgarsRinkevics and Norway’s Prime Minister @Erna_Solberg,  who admitted to suffering from dyslexia and makes the occasional spelling mistake.

– As of 24 March 2015, all world leaders combined have sent 2,653,876 tweets, posting on average four tweets each day. The Venezuelan presidency (@PresidencialVen) has sent close to 60,000 tweets, averaging more than 41 tweets each day.

Most active - Twiplomacy 2015

– Rwanda’s President @PaulKagame is also the most conversational world leader with 86% of his tweets being @replies to other Twitter users.

Most conversational - Twiplomacy 2015

– Quite a few politicians use social media in general, and Twitter in particular, only during election campaigns. Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo (@Jokowi_do2) was very active on Twitter during the election campaign in 2014 but has abandoned his 2.7 million Twitter followers since 21 August 2014.

– Among the Foreign Ministries the State Department (@StateDept) is the most followed with 1,7 million followers ahead of the Turkish (@TC_Disisleri), the Russian (@MID_RF) and the French (@francediplo) foreign ministries all with less than a million followers.

– More than 4,100 embassies and ambassadors are now active on Twitter and the list is growing daily.The UK @ForeignOffice has probably the largest ‘twiplomatic’ network and maintains a public Twitter list with a record 237 ambassadors, embassies and missions on Twitter. Canada’s is second with 184 missions and heads of missions on Twitter, followed by the Russian Foreign Ministry (160), the Polish Foreign Ministry (157) and Israel (146).

– World leaders tweet in 54 different languages, and English is by far the lingua franca of digital diplomacy. However, the 74 Spanish language accounts are far more prolific, making Spanish the most tweeted language among world leaders.

– All 669 accounts combined have an audience of 212,283,753 followers.

For Romania, the report identifies the following: 

– President of Romania Klaus Iohannis @KlausIohannis

@KlausIohannis is the personal Twitter account of the new Romania president, launched on 2 September 2014, a few months before the presidential elections. During the election campaign, as well as after his election, on 24 November 2014, the Twitter feed is mostly automatically generated from his personal Facebook page. The president’s Facebook page, which is currently the most followed of any European leader, with over 1.5 million fans gathered in less than a year, is also the main communication tool of the presidential administration. In contrast to the very active and interactive Facebook presence, on Twitter the president has had little direct activity and only limited interactions with other users. Nevertheless, @KlausIohannis continues to attract followers, which show considerable interest to all the messages shared by the account.


– Prime Minister of Romania Victor Ponta @Victor_Ponta

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta started tweeting on 27 September 2010, but until mid-October 2013 the feed was mostly automatically generated from his personal Facebook page and his blog. Since then, the account, run by the Prime Minister’s staff, has gradually intensified its use of images, videos, and links, as well as its level of engagement with other accounts, from foreign government officials, to diplomatic missions in Romania, journalists etc. @Victor_Ponta also occasionally posts messages in other languages besides Romanian. However, the most remarkable change has been the decision to make important announcements on Twitter before doing so through any other official channel, becoming an important source for breaking news for the Romanian media.


– Government of Romania @guv_ro

The Romanian Government joined Twitter in 2009, but only started tweeting on February 20, 2013. Until recent months, the government’s Twitter was linked to the institution’s Facebook and YouTube accounts. Now its feed is a mix of messages, from the Government’s posts on other digital platforms, to the tweets of national, European or global accounts from various sectors, which @guv_ro promotes mainly by retweets or by favouriting them. The account regularly announces the live feed of the weekly government session, it tweets live from special events, and actively engages with other users. Despite the heterogeneous mix, the three most used hashtags by @guv_ro (#odd15, #datedeschise, #opendataday) indicate that open data is a priority of the Government’s own messages on Twitter.


– Foreign Ministry of Romania @MAERomania

The Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched its Twitter account on 1 November 2009, and after two years of daily tweets, two other years of occasional posts followed. However, 2014 was a turning point in the Ministry’s activity on Twitter. @MAERomania gradually became a very active, dynamic and interactive user and it is currently Romania’s main digital diplomacy channel, tweeting mostly in English, but also in other foreign languages, on occasion. The constant activity of the account includes the use of images, videos, hashtags, and interactions with representatives of national and international institutions, of non-government organisations, and civil society. @MAERomania is very well connected to his peers, mutually following 37 other world leaders.


Access the full 2015 Twiplomacy study.

A very interesting feature of this year’s report is the additional 10 guest blog posts from the foreign ministries of Israel, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Slovenia, Peru, the Croatian government and the European External Action Service on the Twiplomacy blog

Twiplomacy is conducted by leading global public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller, and in the words of Donald A. Baer, Worldwide Chair and CEO, “This fourth annual Burson-Marsteller Twiplomacy Study provides critically valuable insights about the communications practices and needs of leaders around the world.”

Infographics – how complex data can become attractive

The February meeting of the DigiGov networking club had a special and particularly useful topic of discussion for public institutions in Romania. This time we talked about “Data Visualisation”, a concept that designates the visual representation of data in a concise format and in an efficient manner.

The guest who presented this field, with focus on infographics as a subset of data visualisation was Gabriel Frăsineanu, Managing Partner Krogen Creative Studios.

Gabriel revealed the main reasons why the transposition of data in a visual format is a more effective dissemination of complex information that can be difficult to decipher not only for the general public without specific knowledge in the respective fields, but also for  partners in project or even for own colleagues / leaders in the institution. And infographics can be both attractive and spectacular through its forms: static infographics, video infographics, interactive infographics etc.

Examples of the use of infographics exist also from the public sector in Romania, but there great potential for projects using in this activity. For more information on this topic, please contact us here.

We thank American Corner Bucharest for supporting and hosting this month’s edition!

Anthony Simon: The greatest challenges are for our communication to remain relevant, interesting and useful

The Government of the United Kingdom has revolutionised the way it communicates online. In only a few years a single government domain was launched, GOV.UK, and the use of social media for communicating news and information about the Cabinet’s activity transformed.

Other governments around Europe, including from Romania, are looking at effective use of social media for communicating key Government messages to different types of audiences, both internally and externally, and are keen to learn.

After having Sean Larkins (@SeanLarkins1), Deputy Director of Government Communications at the Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office for an interview on government communications from a strategic perspective, now we have a special interview focusing on the digital aspect of government communications.

Anthony Simon(@anthonysimon), Head of Digital Communications (@ukgovcomms) for 10 Downing Street (@number10gov) and the UK Cabinet Office(@cabinetofficeuk), was open to share with us his thoughts on the challenges and benefits of the digital medium for public administration in general, and on the success story of the British Government.

1. How do you see the evolution of the social media engagement of 10 Downing Street and the UK Cabinet Office in the last few years?

We have made some considerable changes to social media engagement. We’ve created  content which is more interesting, such as by using graphics and photos. This has had the result that our content has been shared more frequently than ever before.

We’ve also done more to encourage our public servants to use social media to engage with the public. We can no longer be seen as faceless bureaucrats; we need to be listening, contributing and interacting with the people we serve. But we do it in a supportive environment, providing social media guidelines, so our staff have a better understanding of the benefits and risk of this approach.

2. What were the greatest challenges for the transition of Government communication into the digital age to be successful? And were the benefits of using digital channels for your institution’s communication?

The greatest challenges are for our communication to remain relevant, interesting and useful. A few years ago, we were not doing well against any of those points. The UK Government used to have hundreds of separate websites, which only served to confuse the user. We now have a single website for UK Government (GOV.UK). This provides a single place for all government content, services and transactions. It leads to a more seamless experience and means users get the information they need more quickly. Digital channels are now frequently the place where people go to first to get information. Government has risen to the challenge of using social media and websites to reach our audiences. The main challenges have been to ensure that our communicators are prepared for the digital age. In late 2013, we carried out a capability review of our digital communication. A panel of external experts told us that whilst government was doing better at digital communication; this was offset by the capability of our audiences rising at an even faster rate. We are now giving our communicators the support, guidance and training they need to improve their skills further.

3. What do you consider to be the three events, offline or online, during/for which the social media presence had a significant impact?

We have been part of several events which we have given a major boost with our digital presence. They include:

– London Olympics, 2012 – Government had its specialist comms unit responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the Games from a government perspective. This included a social media team who responded to questions from the media and public.

– G8 Summit, Northern Ireland 2013 – Cabinet Office and Downing Street led a social media team from the event. It had the objective in engaging with NGOs and charities – and it also achieved in its goal in making it the most talked about G8 summit online in history.

– NATO Summit, Wales 2014 – Cabinet Office and Downing Street were integrated into the main comms operation. Again, it achieved its ambition of being the most talked about NATO summit online in history.

4. How important do you consider having and regularly updating a social media strategy for Government communication? How did the social media policy take shape and what type of messages, post or replies determine a greater engagement from the accounts you and your team manage?

The strategy is deliberately uncomplicated to make it as accessible as possible for all staff. The social media policy was developed in collaboration with colleagues across government, including Government Digital Service, Human Resources and Propriety and Ethics. The extent to which the level of engagement takes place is the responsibility for the department or team that runs it.

5. What do you think is the impact of digital communication on the relationship with traditional media? Is mainstream media following and using your digital accounts to get their information?

We are definitely now using social media to shape the traditional news agenda. There are now many announcements made that go via a digital first. For example, when the Prime Minister announces new ministers, the announcements are now made via the @Number10gov account. This reaches nearly 3 million accounts, rather than just a narrow group of stakeholders.

6. What is, in your opinion, the next frontier for Government communication on social media? And what does 2015 bring in terms of opportunities for 10 Downing Street and the UK Cabinet Office?

Visualisation will probably be the main theme for 2015. It’s about creating content which is engaging and visually interesting. This is often difficult to get right, but when done properly it really drives up levels of engagement. This is the next frontier but also a strong opportunity for us during the year.

7. What is, in your opinion, the single most important factor for any Government communication, including that of Romania, to be effective on social media?

I would say that it’s all about the content. Remember on social media that Government is competing for space on people’s Twitter and Facebook feeds with their friends and other high profile accounts. Our content needs to be interesting, reliable and of the highest quality.