This article was first published on page 6 of The Cyprus Weekly (8 June).
It’s very rare that conversations in the blogosphere make into the mainstream media so we thought that, as the auspicious date of 1 July draws ever closer, it might be worth merging media ahead of the start of the Cyprus Presidency of the European Council. Much to our surprise, in the past few weeks a call from the Permanent Representation in Brussels has been circulated amongst bloggers across Europe to organise a meeting on 12 July within the framework of the Presidency. As yet no format or agenda has been ascribed to the meeting, with the Cypriot delegation apparently looking for suggestions from bloggers themselves about how the discussion should shape up and what the relationship between government and the digital community should be.
Having surveyed the blogosphere in the last few days, we have noticed that the call has been picked up by a number of European bloggers and portals. The influential bloggingportal.eu/, a pan-European blogging platform, published a call for involvement in the meeting, while Waltzing Matilda, a blog linked to the European Commission, sees the Cyprus Presidency as a chance to build bridges. “They seek collaboration and to help connect existing networks”, is Matilda’s view. “Bloggers who like to collaborate can establish the agenda in co-creation, instead of being confronted with a fait accompli. The aim is to shape an open dialogue that reaches beyond the Brussels Bubble.”
The call however has not been picked up by many Cypriot bloggers. The Open Cyprus Europe 2012 blog, which aims to strengthen national social media conversations during the Presidency, as well as myriaswords, are some of the few calling for a more coordinated response amongst Cypriot bloggers. This suggestion has found support from blogger Ron Patz who writes on the ideasoneurope.eu/. Basing his assessment on a similar initiative during the Hungarian Presidency he says that “this event should be mainly for them. If they are political bloggers, they may learn how they can find real stories, and the presidency may be able to tell them how they can provide them with background while other European bloggers present may give hints how they interact with the Brussels sphere in order to generate stories or attention.”
This initiative on behalf of the authorities could break the mould of government communication with its citizens facilitating their participation, to the extent possible, in the decision-making process. Having organised the highly successful “Buffer-Zone Bloggers (BZB)” event in April 2011 which brought together bloggers from across the whole of Cyprus, CCMC fully supports a coordinated Cyprus response. Our message, based on the experience of BZB, is that this opportunity should be used in order to maximise the potential of social media to involve bloggers from communities marginalised from mainstream dialogue; empowering them to become active and have their voices heard during the Presidency period. In this way the potential of social media can be harnessed to its fullest extent, and actually contribute to one of the Presidency’s stated aims which is to promote social cohesion at home and abroad.