Commission to downsize Brussels press room and go native

Aware of the dire need to improve its
communications efforts, the Commission has unveiled a plan to
delegate the bulk of its press operation to EU offices in
Member State capitals, says chief spokesperson in exclusive
interview with EURACTIV. (April Fools Day
story)

In an unexpected policy move the European Commission
has decided on 1 April to dramatically downsize the
central press room in Brussels. The planned transfer of
the international press room from the Breydel building to
larger premises in the reconstructed Berlaymont building
later this year will thus be given up. Instead, the
future communication efforts of the institution will be
mainly internet- based or dealt with at national level by
the Commissions many offices in Member States from Athens
to Helsinki.

The new policy will also mean limiting the number of
EU-accredited journalists in Brussels, currently more
than a thousand, to only 5 – 10 trusted journalists per
country according to the size of respective countries.
Depending on the subject matter selected, journalists
would then be invited to occasional smaller briefings in
Brussels.

Commission chief spokesman Reijo Kemppinen, known for
his frankness, justifies the new two tier approach this
way: Lets face it, we are not really getting the message
across from Brussels. The ambition to create a common
space for a European public opinion has always been a
hopeless idea. The reality is that most people outside
government corridors only care about EU news when it
affects someone or something in their home country. Food,
cars, whatever, but not all the policy stuff. Plus we
could not cope really with thousands of journalists. It
already wasn’t easy for us, but the event of the
enlargement is the last straw. Now is the right moment
for us to face reality and decentralise our
communication, says Kemppinen in an exclusive interview
with euractiv.com.

API, the Association de la Presse Internationale, has
not yet had time to agree on an official reaction. But a
French API member says: Voila enfin une bonne nouvelle!
This means we will be able to do Brussels scoops again.
EBS-transmission of the Brussels point de presse and all
the internet transparency business had made life
unbearably difficult for many of us.

Chairman of the International Federation of
Journalists, IFJ, Aidan White is not entirely unhappy
with the idea either: We have seen too much undue
pressure and manipulation of journalists in Brussels in
recent years by the fonctionnaires. This is also a
welcome blow to big business that has rallied to set up
lobbying shops in Brussels to work the press. The
decentralisation of the EU press operation will hopefully
allow for more ethical standards to prevail, says
White.

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