As a journalist, what sort of help and information can you expect from the EU? How useful are the EU press services for local and national journalists? What is the latest EU reform/legislation? Who will give you a quote to back up recent EU research results? The following information should answer these questions.

What’s the story?

Journalists living outside Brussels sometimes find it difficult to locate – and understand – the mass of information coming from the many different institutions and organisations under the EU umbrella.

The key to covering the EU successfully is knowing how to sift through this mountain of information quickly and learning how to separate the ‘spin’ from those essential facts needed to piece together a good story.

The Commission’s midday briefing

The European Commission (see ‘The main actors’ for explanations of the institutions’ roles) is usually the first port of call for journalists wanting to find out what is happening in the EU. Not only does the Commission run the EU’s Europa web server, but it also hosts the midday briefing for accredited members of the Brussels’ press corps. Journalists based outside Brussels who have a national press pass can gain entry by showing their card – plus ID – at the press conference reception desk. If in doubt, contact the Commission’s press team (see ‘Who can I talk to?’ for contact details). The midday briefing usually sees Commission spokespeople presenting the latest proposals or decisions adopted by the Commission and then fielding questions on them. Commissioners themselves will make an appearance when they have a major proposal to announce.

Journalists outside Brussels

For journalists based outside Brussels, the daily briefing can be followed in one of four ways:

1. On Europe by Satellite (EbS) live streaming of the daily briefing for journalists with high-speed internet access and standard multimedia software. It also covers sessions of the European Parliament and some Council of Ministers’ press conferences. TV companies can obtain live feeds and stock shots of events from EbS free of charge. You can get the weekly schedule sent to you by completing a simple on-line form.

2. On the web press releases and background material are posted on the Commission’s ‘virtual press room’ less than an hour after they are given to journalists in the Berlaymont building in Brussels.

3. By phone: listen in to the midday briefing by dialling (Brussels) +32 2 296 11 00

4. You can also keep informed about EU affairs by subscribing to the Europa Newsletter which appears more or less monthly on-line and in your mailbox.

Spokespeople

Each of the EU institutions has a spokesperson who, in the case of the Commission, is backed up by a team of official spokespeople responsible for certain policy areas – i.e. health and consumer affairs, trade competition policy, transport, etc.
Generally speaking, the spokespeople are the only officials – apart from Commissioners and Directors-General (of Commission departments) in the Commission – allowed to speak ‘on the record’ on behalf of the institution.

For example, civil servants working in the Commission’s Directorates-General (DGs) are not supposed to speak to the press. Nevertheless, once a working relationship has been established with an official, they can usually be quoted 'off the record' (see ‘Tips for journalists’ for more information about ‘building relationships’ and quoting officials).

For quotes and assistance from EU spokespeople, see ‘Who can I talk to?’

Virtual library

The Commission also runs a virtual media library stocked with audio, video and photo clips which can be accessed free of charge.
It is also worth looking on the individual websites of the Commission’s DGs which often stock their own selection of pictures to download. See ‘Who can I talk to?’ for details on how to gain access to these services.

How to get permanent EU accreditation

Although any journalist with national accreditation can attend EU press events by presenting their press card and ID at the press reception, those wishing to apply for permanent accreditation to the EU should contact the Accreditation Office.

Tel: +32 2 295 63 47 or
E-mail: Press-accreditment-radio-tv@cec.eu.int

The Euromed Info Centre

The EuroMed Information Centre is an EC Initiative and is financed by the MEDA Regional Information and Communication programme. It aims to make the MEDA Regional Programme and the EU's partnership with the Mediterranean more visible.

It is mainly dealing with requests from EC Delegations, support MEDA journalists and help MEDA-funded civil society campaign managers seeking to disseminate information on their work.

Apart from European Commissioners and Director-Generals that head the different sections, the Spokespersons are the only other EU officials that can speak to the press on behalf of the Commission, giving on the record quotes and background information.
They hold midday daily briefings for Brussels-based correspondents to present the latest news. These briefings can be followed live on Europe by Satellite (EBS). Go to the schedule and click on the event.

To get the EU news of the day, add RAPID to your favourites. It is the European Commission's press release website going back to 1985. The day's press releases are posted here within hours of release to the Brussels press.

Visiting non-EU member state journalists can also access these services. But take care, due to the high demand, journalists wanting to use these services are advised to make arrangements well in advance.
The Commission also provides up to the minute video, photo and sound coverage of European news and can deliver unique archive on the history of the EU. You can access this via the Internet and via Europe by Satellite (EbS).

The EuroMed Info Centre can also offer media support to journalists from MEDA countries when visiting Brussels. Get in touch with us or contact the press officers of the Commission Delegation in your country.

For more information, visit the EuroMed Info Centre website: http://press.euromedinfo.eu/

Press at the Parliament

Working with the European Parliament (EP) can be a joy for journalists! It is the most open and accessible of the EU's main institutions all its meetings are held in public and members (or MEPs) are usually eager to speak on the record to reporters, as it provides them with often valuable exposure among their electorates. The EP also makes available a well-equipped press room for visiting reporters. However, its press services may be less accessible than the Commission's to journalists from outlying areas.

Unlike the Commission, the EP does not hold daily press briefings, but it does have a pre-session press conference in its Brussels headquarters at 11.30am on the Friday before the monthly meetings in Strasbourg. These run from Monday evening until Thursday afternoon, roughly every fourth week – the EP’s calendar of meetings gives dates for all sessions. There is also a final briefing on the Monday afternoon before the start of the Strasbourg session (see ‘The main actors’ for an explanation of the institutions’ roles).

Most MEPs are very knowledgeable, particularly in their fields of expertise. They are able to speak in ‘sound-bites’ and are willing to be quoted ‘on the record’. However, if you cannot get hold of a politician, or he/she is unfamiliar with the legislation in question, try one of the Parliament’s press officers (see ‘Who can I talk to?’ for contact details).

Useful EP publications

The Parliament’s press division produces a number of publications that journalists may find useful. As well as finding them on the web, you can receive these publications by e-mail by contacting the press officers in the different language sectors (see ‘Who can I talk to?’ for contact details) or simply by phoning the Head of the Press Division or Editor-in-chief of the News Report.

There are three main publications – in all EU official languages dealing with parliamentary sessions:

  • The Briefing
    Published during the week before the plenary session, The Briefing summarises reports and other items on the agenda.
  • The Daily Notebook
    This publication reports daily on debates and votes as they take place during plenary sessions.
  • The Week
    This newsletter reviews the plenary debates and votes once a session has ended.

There are also three publications – in English and French – providing information about committee meetings:

  • News Report
    This daily news bulletin reports on parliamentary committee meetings and public hearings.
  • News Alert
    Published every Friday, News Alert is a news-sheet listing the upcoming week’s parliamentary activities, including committee meetings, press conferences, hearings, etc.
  • Background Notes
    This occasional publication provides detailed information about specific topics, such as the Convention (on the Future of Europe). Like the Commission, the European Parliament has information offices in every EU capital, as well as in a few other major cities, and candidate country capitals. These offices are often a first port of call for journalists operating outside Brussels.

Press at the Council

The Council of Ministers, which groups together EU governments, is arguably the most powerful of the Union’s three major institutions, but tends to attract only sporadic media attention. This may be due in part to the fact that there are no regular briefings by Council press officers, and they do not speak on the record. However, since the national governments which make up the Council all have their own interdepartmental press offices which are well in tune with journalists from their national press, they tend to be the main source of information. Inevitably, these sources put their own national spin on the work and decisions of the Council. Spokespeople from the country holding the rotating presidency of the EU will also generally speak on the record about their plans and results in Council during their six months’ term in office.

As a one-stop-shop for finding out what is happening in the traditionally ‘secretive’ Council, its press service is a good place to start. Its spokesperson speaks on behalf of the Council and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana – who is also secretary-general of the Council. Most of the other Council press officers, except the head of the service, are responsible for specific Council configurations – such as the environment council or foreign affairs (see ‘Who can I talk to?’ for all contact details).

Press at the other EU institutions

Although the Parliament, Commission and Council are the most important EU institutions and provide the bulk of raw news material for journalists, it would be a mistake to neglect the other EU bodies – many of which are based outside Brussels (see also ‘Who speaks for my country?’ and ‘Where can I get info on line?’).

The Court of Justice, in particular, is a treasure trove of good stories for reporters willing to invest the time and energy in covering the EU’s ‘Supreme Court’. The European Central Bank has also become increasingly powerful since the introduction of the euro. Other institutions to look into are the Committee of the Regions, the Economic and Social Committee, and the Court of Auditors (see ‘Who can I talk to?’ for all contact details).

Europa newsletter

Europa is one of the world’s largest websites, representing all institutions of the European Union. The Europa newsletter, which is sent to subscribers biweekly, features information on the latest issues, new developments on the website, and forthcoming EU events and activities (see also ‘Tips for journalists’ on registering for newsletters).

Visit the European Commission’s Press and Communication DG for information on how to register for the newsletter.