Barcelona, Spain. 18 October 2019. Isabel works as a franchise business coordinator for a food delivery company. She needs to adapt to the plastic challenge: how can she green the packaging for her food delivery service? She has heard about the European Union decision’s to phase out 10 single-use plastics, but when would the rules on single-use plastics come into effect? In the jungle of contradictory information available online, she needs a reliable answer.
Europe has a phone number! Isabel discovers this online, surfing the web looking for an answer. She dials 00800 6 7 8 9 10 11. She could also have written: there is an online web contact form.
The best thing is: you can talk to the European Union in any of the 24 EU languages. Isabel first thinks she has to communicate in English. She is getting ready for the challenge. But what a relief: someone picks up in Spanish: “The experience is really individual — it’s almost like talking to a friend!”
Brussels, Belgium. 18 October 2019–14:41 CET. “Europa Direct, buenos días!” Adriana takes an incoming call — it could be on any topic. She answers EU-related questions on the Spanish, Dutch and English lines. She enjoys working for the EU in this international, atypical contact centre named ‘Europe Direct’. The average age of her colleagues is 27 and every one holds a master’s degree in EU affairs or similar.
The call is about plastic packaging: what is allowed and what is banned for food and drinks under EU legislation. When will it become law in Spain? “It is my third day working in the Europe Direct Contact Centre as a communication officer. With my answers, I need to make sure citizens have all the information they need,” Adriana says.
Third working day and ready to take calls on any EU-related subject? Would you be up to the challenge? Thanks to a comprehensive training and coaching programme, all the 32 communication officers of the EU contact centre are hands-on and ready to tackle any question, even difficult ones. And they do so in 86% of the cases.
And what if not? Well, if it gets tricky, they can count on their “mentors”, a team of six highly experienced supervisors in the Europe Direct Contact Centre. But for really difficult questions, the contact centre relies on a network of experts in the European Commission.
18 October was a milestone. The incoming call was a special one: it was the 100,000th citizen to contact the centre in 2019. And the call from Isabel to Adriana was not the end of the story. On 3 December, Isabel visited the Europe direct centre in Brussels, a short walk from the Commission headquarters, Berlaymont. She got a chance to go behind the scenes to discover how the EU direct line works. She spoke to one of the experts who contributed to the writing of the European legislation on single-use plastics and met Adriana, the voice at the other end of the line.
Like Isabel, some 120,000 people each year, from the EU and beyond, contact Europe Direct looking for answers. Will you be our next caller?