europa.eu is the main website of the European Commission and is a vast cyber environment that covers all of the Commissions departments (Directorate Generals) and agencies. This is the primary method that the EC uses to deliver information on policy and its workings. Although the entire EC is under the banner of europa.eu, each department within its structure has direct control over its space in the online environment, this means that there is no consistency in the way information is available or delivered. In fact, it amounts to almost 40 different channels for the information to flow through.
If you have never tried to navigate around it before, it can cause unnecessary frustration and confusion.
To add to the frustration of the navigation, you will often find information that looks current but is out of date. The Commission will keep the results of a closed programme and old policy in the public domain, in most of these cases you will pointed to the new source of information, but that is not always the case. You may have been directed by Google directly to a PDF document.
The irony is that because of the European Commission’s policy on the freedom of information, you can easily find the contact details of who you need to speak to and even the Commissioners themselves (a task you would find very difficult on most company/institutions websites).
If you do fancy a bit digital orienteering or have the need to visit the European Commission’s website you should take note of the following survival tips to help take the pain out of finding the information you require:
Use Google to locate the department/subject you require:
The best way to enter europa.eu is via Google, it will throw back the most accurate search results to begin your European journey.
Vary your search terms:
The europa.eu search tool can be useful but you have to understand that the site contains 1000’s of articles both new and old. Once you are within one department it will give you department specific search results.
Beware of using a google search to find documents:
Google will often have old Programme or policy documents cached, with the speed at which the EU funding moves. It is essential that you are looking at the correct document. Old documents can be very useful for research.
Finding the person you are looking for:
Each Directorate general or Agencies will have a detailed ‘Organigram’ that contains all the important department heads in one PDF document. This can be found within each DG/Agency using the search tool. You can use the Commissions Directory obtain their contact information.
Check that the area of the website you are looking at is the current one:
Nine times out of ten, if you are looking at an old section of the site it will contain a yellow “achieved on XXXX date” stamp and a redirection to the new one, however this not always the case.
Be on the lookout for “Franglais”:
Yes, the English translations are to a very high standard, but you still get the odd term or phrase that does not quite translate correctly or is completely lost in translation. This has been a problem since the dawn of time, not just one of the European Commission.
Check all the drop downs menus for what you are looking for:
Whilst each section of the site may contain exactly the same information, it will be found in completely different places within the interface, so a bit of exploration, experimentation and patience goes a long, long way.
Never use the Europa.eu home page to start your digital journey:
The home page does offer many links, but is not user friendly in the slightest and only contains a fraction of the information on offer.
On the bright side… The information (once you find it) is good. It’s almost hard to believe they have time to translate it into the 24 official languages of the EU.
You may need to visit europa.eu if you are interested in obtaining EU funding, require information on European Policy, Programmes, or Calls for Proposals. In all cases the information is there, it is just a case of finding it first.
So, Good luck on your journey into the European Commission!