Monthly Archives: January 2009

The Sun has got her hat on…

If has had all the EU bloggers getting excited, then Rebekah Wade’s appearance giving the Hugh Cudlipp lecture seems to have done the same thing for media blogs: Roy Greenslade and Charlie Beckett to name but two. As this is a media blog as well as an EU one, I shall Wade in (hoho). I’d suggest that those of us involved in EU communication think about some of the points she raises.

1) She talks about campaigning journalism and listening to readers. We need to do the same thing: think about what matters to the people who we ultimately touch with what we do.

2) She talks about the need to be lighthearted sometimes. I don’t think I’m spilling any state secrets when I say that the EU does tend to take itself too seriously sometimes (and I include myself in that. Sometimes you can’t blame us but it’s still true).

3) She talks about living for the scoop. I don’t think the Commission is as bad as some public organisations about trying to manage the news agenda, sometimes it’s as leaky as Henry’s bucket. But we shouldn’t always see that as a bad thing. Just like having internal disagreements made public is not necessarily a bad thing – sometimes it can actively help get interest in a story.

4) She reveals that the Sun editorial team go on the promotional holidays. Get down there among people. In any job, but especially one like ours, getting out, talking to people, seeing what their issues are: that’s incredibly important. The best thing about this job in London has been the public events, like the Thames Festival or the Languages Show, where people are on the whole so constructive and genuinely interested.

The whole thing is here. Read it, let me know what you think.

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A whole load of bloggers are in Brussels today for the launch of Think about It, a blogging competition linked to this year’s European elections. There are a few Brits at the launch, some of them well-known blogs on EU subjects, such as Jon Worth, others up-and-coming. They’ll all go live on the site on 1 February, apparently. It’s also been launch day of, which is an aggregator for EU-related blogs (and given the overlap between its creators and the Think About It project, I suppose that’s somewhere to look for them befoe 1 Feb). I should be clear that this is a project by individuals, nothing official from the EU, but it’s a great idea, and a first stop for anyone interested in seeing what EU issues are being talked about. There’s also a twitter feed going on from the conference, if you’re keen for a blow-by-blow account.

I’ve just got into Twitter and it is pretty addictive, though I’m not as crazy about it as Stephen Fry, who seems to send a tweet every two minutes!

I, like many others, have been perturbed by the decision of Sky and the BBC not to broadcast the appeal for Gaza. Never mind the rights and wrongs of the situation, people need help and it threatens the neutrality of the humanitarian space to bring the political in, no matter how well intentioned. This is from the EU’s consensus on humanitarian aid, and while not the most wonderfully drafted piece of prose, I think it shows why so many people are concerned:

Humanitarian actors today face a number of major challenges. There has been an increasing tendency for International Law, including International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Law and Refugee Law, to be ignored or blatantly violated. The ‘humanitarian space’ that is needed to ensure access to vulnerable populations and the safety and security of humanitarian workers must be preserved as essential preconditions for the delivery of humanitarian aid, and for the European Union (EU) and its partners in the humanitarian field to be able to get assistance including protection to crisis-hit people, based on respect for the principles of neutrality, impartiality, humanity and independence of humanitarian action, enshrined in International Law, in particular International Humanitarian Law.

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Filed under European elections 2009, Media

Thirteen is the magic number

When it comes to rugby it is anyway – tonight I’m off to the “meet the team” session for season tickets of Harlequins Rugby league team. I decided that I needed to get out more at the weekend and going to the rugby would be a great way. I don’t think I’ll tell them that I’m not actually a huge Quins fan – I will be when they play Leeds or Bradford (and especially Bradford after reading this story) but not when they’re up against Catalan Dragons. My parents live in real French rubgy country and in fact the commune of Sauveterre-Comminges which is on the other side of the valley from mine is a divisional champion at what the French call “rugby a treize”.

As you will have seen from the site, I’ve been getting to grips with Twitter. I got the best e-mail today, even I know it’s automatically generated: “Barack Obama is following you on Twitter” With his 144,000 followers, it’s further proof of his ability to mobilise the digital generation. It’s not about age, as such, but openness to innovation and new ideas, and there’s no age limit on that!

We had to say goodbye to our receptionist Elodie today – she’s been an asset to the place, both on the switchboard and the front desk and we wish her all the best in her new career in Paris!

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Filed under Living in London, Media

Cod only knows

Reports are flying around that the European Commission is planning to bring all anglers under the Common Fisheries Policy. This is not the case. Anglers fishing in freshwater or on the shore will be free to continue as they always have done. Across Europe, there are some recreational anglers who do large-scale deep sea fishing and catch types of fish that are threatened due to low stocks, such as cod. In Germany anglers catch the equivalent of about 50% of Germany’s cod quota in the North Sea. So for certain types of fish caught in certain circumstances, then there will be a need to register those catches. But if we look at the types of fish caught recreationally in the UK, particularly South-West England, where this has got a lot of attention, and those that are subject to the sort of management plans we are talking about, we see that there is little overlap. The fish targeted by anglers are on the whole not the same as those targeted by commercial fisherman (hake, cod, plaice, eel, sole all have long-term management plans in the UK).

Just made a small change to be more accurate about the maths of the German quota.


Filed under Euromyths

Hail to the chief

Can anyone be blogging about anything else today but the inauguration in Washington of the man now clearly known as Barack H Obama? It really has felt like a momentous day, maybe more for what it represents than what actually went on. I went to a very interesting event this morning on this subject, discussing what the Obama Presidency could mean for EU-US relations. It had some very good speakers, including a great speech from Denis McShane, and several of them talked about the importance of Europe engaging actively with the Obama administration, and coming to them with ideas, rather than waiting to see what he wants us to do (and then letting him down…!) He has been very clear about his interest in working with the EU. I’m just watching the BBC coverage. They are at a party in Tottenham, and a television in the background had a woman who really looked like Floella Benjamin talking. I hope it was her – she’s a real personality from my youth!

Talking of interesting people, I met Baroness Perry last night at the Lords. She was Chairman of the Education and Training Sector Group that I worked on when I was at the Department of Trade and Industry all those many years ago. I contacted her before Christmas and it was lovely to see her. What goes around comes around: she’s now on the European Union Committee of the House of Lords, so we had a lot of current affairs to talk about, not just all stuff from the past. Especially with Ken Clarke’s appointment!

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Filed under UK politics

That’s Not My Name Chasing Pavements

I read today (picked up by Google Reader) that the Ting Tings and Adele have won a European Border Breakers Award, which is given to artists whose debut album has the biggest sales outside their own country. I don’t suppose it’s a great surprise that UK bands are among the winners, given the prevalence of English-language music and the vibrancy of the UK music scene. But still, congrats to them, because it’s a tough world out there commercially and they have done well. Maybe more of a surprise is that there are only two out of 10 – I’d love to hear Kraak and Smaak, another winner – what a great name. The award ceremony is today, hosted by Jools Holland. How much fun would that have been!

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Filed under Culture

Back in the saddle again

So, I’m back from leave, and it’s not too bad, though I could stay in my little house in the Pyrenees forever if allowed to! It snowed, which was lovely. Pics attached. We had lots of fun with the new puppy Bailey the Beagledor, who is a handful, though a very sweet one!

Anyway, back here there’s a few things to set straight. I guess the main one is that there are no plans to ban plasma TV screens. There are plans to set energy requirements for them and bring in an energy label like you have already for fridges, but as there are quite a few TVs on the market already that meet our proposed standard, that wouldn’t take effect until at least mid-2010, we can say with a lot of confidence that there’s no question of a ban. When we brought out the strategic energy technology plan in 2007 there was a lot of criticism that it didn’t include energy efficiency and our argument was that it was dealt with elsewhere. We’re showing that now. The most immediate way we can tackle not just climate change, but our energy security issues (top of the agenda at the moment!) is through energy efficiency. Habits are not going to change through nice ad campaigns – carrots and sticks are required, through legislation and taxes (either levying or giving breaks).

And another thing – we’re not planning an EU takeover of North Sea oil and gas. Even the UK government said “there is no proposal or prospect of the EU taking control over Britain’s gas supplies”. The Lisbon treaty doesn’t allow this in any way, shape or form and we wouldn’t want to if it did. We do want to make it easier for supplies to move around Europe – ie for the UK to furnish gas against payment to other parts of the EU, especially in situations like now where their supplier has let them down. There’s already a gas coordination group that looks at these interconnections.

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Filed under Euromyths, Personal