Digital Comms Conference in Sofia: Defending European values on the Web

Around 80 leading communication experts of state institutions from 25 countries met in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 26 and 27 March, to discuss the most pressing challenges and opportunities of online communications.

The Conference on Digital Communication received high level political support and was co-organized by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Media Program South East Europe and the Club of Venice, in partnership with the Brussels-based Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies and SEECOM. Top of the agenda was defence of European values on the Web.

“While the dawn and initial excitement of the digital era are behind us and we have all become quite used to its convenience and benefits, we are increasingly faced with the task of better harnessing the opportunities it provides and responding more swiftly to the challenges it presents,” said the conference keynote speaker, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov.

The minister noted that digital communication helped rejuvenate modern democracies, while also contributing to more vibrant civil societies and allowing citizens to pressure institutions and demand redress and action.

Web as a medium of engagement

The panel on encouraging online citizen participation, chaired by the Dutch Government’s Director of Communications Erik den Hoedt, discussed best practices of national governments and EU institutions in fostering meaningful dialogue and collaboration with citizens.  German Government’s Deputy Spokesman Georg Streiter presented his government’s latest efforts to engage citizens online.

Counter-propaganda or countering propaganda?

Another major topic was the role of online government communications in times of geopolitical conflicts, with special reference to the case study of Ukraine. In this panel, strategic communication experts from NATO, EU institutions and national governments discussed ethical, political and practical aspects of countering government propaganda. The discussion, chaired by director of KAS Media Program South East Europe Christian Spahr, featured a keynote address by Sanda Svetoka, senior expert at the NATO Centre of Excellence in Riga.

Promoting European values in a digital world

The conference closed with a debate on the use of digital tools to promote European values, where a panel of prominent experts from EU institutions and national governments called for clearer messages and integrated narratives for the EU. The keynote address was delivered by Assistant Director of the Serbian Government’s European Integration Office Ivana Djuric and the discussion was chaired by Club of Venice Secretary General Vincenzo Le Voci.

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