Foreign Affairs article by Clear Europe Managing Director Gareth Harding on how to win over euroskeptics and win back the trust of European voters.
The European Union’s democratic deficit has rarely been on clearer display than on May 26, the day after polls closed for elections to the European Parliament. Despite the fact that forces hostile to the EU had made enormous gains, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced that the pro-austerity status quo had “won once again.” In a narrow sense, Barroso was correct: pro-Europeans did manage to win more than three-quarters of the seats in the parliament, the EU’s only directly elected body. In four of the union’s six largest member states — Germany, Italy, Poland, and Spain — the country’s ruling party topped the poll. And the motley crew of europhobes who were elected to the next parliament are united only in their disunity. Read More
In an article for Foreign Policy, Clear Europe Managing Director Gareth Harding argues that the European Commission presidential campaign might not be riveting but is a step forward for EU democracy.
Imagine a presidential campaign in which the leading contenders are unknown to the vast majority of the public, voters cannot directly cast their ballots for the candidate of their choice, and the eventual winner can be struck down in favor of a more palatable politician by ruling elites. This may sound like a sham election in a post-Soviet dictatorship. But in fact, it is the slightly surreal circumstances of the world’s first transnational presidential campaign. Read More
A couple of months ago I wrote a blog piece puncturing the myth of the shrinking EU press corps. Far from dwindling, I showed how the number of correspondents in Brussels has risen constantly over the last four decades – and continues to grow despite the crisis. According to the latest official figures, there were 1022 journalists accredited to the European Commission in September 2013. However, Lorenzo Consoli, the former president of the Foreign Press Association in Brussels, recently informed me this figure had jumped to 1095 by the end of 2013.
Clear Europe has just wrapped up an online training course on ‘Reporting the EU’ for young Czech journalists and students. The three-month programme was funded by the European Commission’s representation in Prague and co-organised with Transitions, a Prague-based non-profit aimed at strengthening the media in central and eastern Europe.
Despite many years of experience teaching journalism classes, this was my first foray into online training and I was nervous about its limitations – which makes the mainly positive feedback we received from participants all the more pleasing. One wrote: “That was a unique and greatly useful experience, and also very inspiring personally for me…what I received from the programme is simply priceless.” Another said she gained “valuable insight about writing and being a journalist.” Read More
Remember all those scary stories about dwindling press numbers in Brussels a few years ago? Well, turns out they were wrong. Far from falling, the number of journalists accredited to the EU has actually risen over the past decade – from 929 in June 2004 to 1022 in September 2013, according to unpublished European Commission figures.
The error seems to have arisen when several journalists reported that the number of accredited correspondents had fallen to 752 in March 2010, prompting a spate of lurid headlines. “The media is deserting Brussels,” shouted the normally reliable ‘Coulisses de Bruxelles’ blog. “The incredible shrinking EU press corps,” screamed The Economist’s Charlemagne column, noting that the EU press pack was in “free fall.” And in an article entitled “As the EU does more, fewer tell about it,” The New York Times claimed the number of accredited reporters in Brussels had dropped by more than one-third since 2005. Read More
The Brussels press corps is the biggest in the world, right? Wrong. Washington D.C. and London are far larger.
Surely this shows that journalist numbers in Brussels are in constant decline, right? Again wrong. Data shows numbers have been fairly constant over the past decade.
There is a lot of misinformation about the Brussels press corps, which can lead to misunderstandings about how to deal with the 1,000 or so influential correspondents based in the EU capital. In our next open course on February 20 we will analyse previously unpublished data to look at how the press corps has changed over the last 20 years, the challenges reporters face covering the EU and how this affects the way you do business with Brussels-based journalists.
Our aim is to make you more comfortable dealing with EU reporters. So we will practice how to pitch stories and give you insider tips on the most influential outlets in the Brussels media bubble and how to approach them.
For a more detailed description of the day’s program click here.
The cost of the day course will be €285. Cava is included, VAT is not! If you are interested in taking part, please contact us.
We are busy planning our programme of open courses for the first half of next year. We aim to have at least one, day-long paid class a month. We promise to keep prices as low as possible because we are aware many participants pay to skill up from their own pocket, rather than the company account.
In addition, we plan to offer a two-hour evening masterclass every month. These will be free, cava included!
Arriving late for an interview with Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller – pictured below – I apologised by blaming a European Commissioner for keeping me waiting.
“You sound like Shaggy,” said a chilled-looking Simpson-Miller.
Feeling immediately more at ease I replied: “Wow, that’s the first time a prime minister has quoted Scooby-Doo to me.”
“I wasn’t referring to the cartoon character,” said Simpson-Miller. “I meant the singer.” At which point, the PM launched into her own rendition of the Jamaican-American’s smash hit “It Wasn’t Me,” prompting fits of laughter all round.
A few lessons here for anyone nervous about doing interviews:
Humour helps break the ice
Make the interviewer relaxed and you will be more relaxed as an interviewee
(Top photo of Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou courtesy of Michael Chia)
Every language reflects the character of the people who speak it. Those from the Francophonie revel in elegant vagueness; Germans are determined that the sentence will be comprehensive, no matter how long or awkward. For their part, those who write English well admire and prioritise two things. The first is economy of expression. That is not the same thing as just writing short sentences. Like this. Rather, it is the ability to communicate the most in the simplest way. The second is courtesy: it is the job of the writer to do the difficult work of creating excellent analysis. The reader should not have to struggle to understand or re-read sentences. All should be self-evident.