10th Dec 2023


Weekly digest: The comfort of spreadsheets

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I started this section to 1) have a place to share essential articles we publish and 2) to provide some insight into the decisions that go into sustaining a publication like ours in the long run.

Personally, I believe in transparency, and have pretty much always had better experiences with sharing too much rather than too little about considerations on editorial and business strategy — or personal issues, but I won't bother you with those.

Read and decide

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Sharing information can lead to unexpected and unsolicited advice or thoughts I might not otherwise have heard, from people I wouldn't have thought of asking for advice in the first place.

Over the past few weeks, we've been working on securing funding for EUobserver to make a change that I believe will help us maintain independence and keep providing citizens with news and analysis about policy that affects the way they live their lives.

In short, the plan is to become a fully member-supported publication. And even though we added memberships about a decade ago, the organisation has never pulled the trigger on placing our fate in the hands of our readers.

I completely understand why. Reducing income streams is the opposite of diversifying, which is normally how businesses grow. It's risky. And with a team of people who rely on EUobserver to pay their salaries to meet their needs, this riskiness is scary.

To be quite frank, it scares me as well. In two ways, in fact. First, there's my fear that we won't be able to attract enough supporting members to pay everyone and, hopefully, eventually grow to cover more topics. Second, we have to invest quite some capital into making a change like this.

Unlike for a traditional business, as a non-profit, certain avenues of finding capital to invest in growth or change are inaccessible to us. We can't sell shares in the company, because the organisation effectively owns itself. We can't get traditional bank loans, because we own no tangible collateral.

So we're looking into a so-called 'impact investment', which in our case is basically a loan coming from individual or institutional investors for organisations like ours that "generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return."

The loans normally have better terms than bank loans, but still have to be repaid, with interest. Which is risky.

Depending on how much I've slept (or how much our youngest son has allowed me to sleep), my appetite for risk varies. On days when I've slept well, I truly believe we can take on the world and become the premier destination for independent journalism for a better European Union. On lesser days, like today, I sit on clenched cheeks.

Luckily (and I had never in my life suspected I'd say this) spreadsheets exist. Spreadsheets with numbers that can reassure me that this might not be crazy.

As a small organisation, we don't need all that much to survive. The spreadsheet tells me that with 10,000 members, we'd be able to finance ourselves and actually grow. Now 10,000 sounds like a lot, but if you divide it over 27 EU member states, it's less than 400 paying members per country. Not a lot!

I mean, there should be at least 400 people per country who care about independent coverage of EU affairs from a pan-European (not national) perspective.

Especially if you compare us to publications like Follow the Money (NL) or Tortoise Media (UK), with respectively 40,000 and 110,000 paying members, and a similar commitment to producing good journalism that holds power to account.

So thank you, spreadsheet, for making me feel better.

And thanks to all readers who are already supporting members. And if you're not, please consider it.

I promise to keep you up to date on how we're doing and what we're doing behind the scenes. If you're interested, that is. My inbox is open.

In other news, this week we published a piece by investigative journalist Bianca Carrera, who wrote about the 100th anniversary of a largely forgotten, yet atrocious colonial crimes committed by Spain against the people of the Moroccan Rif.

In the 1920s, the Spanish army used a plethora of chemical weapons on various targets, including civilians, in retaliation to a humiliating defeat.

But unlike France, Germany and to some extent Belgium, Spain refuses to recognise its crimes committed under colonial expansionism — which would be a first step towards reparations — even under international and EU pressure.

This article, by the way, is part of our brand new Africa section, in which we explore the relationship between the EU and African nations.

Also, don't neglect to read Caroline De Gruyter's fantastic column this week on how to look at 'power' in the EU. It provides, I think, a powerful counter-narrative to populists shifting blame to 'the EU' when convenient.

Onwards to the news you should not have missed this week.


Morocco victims of Spain's 1920s chemical bombs demand a voice

This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most terrible colonial crimes in history — one which still has not been recognised nor whose people have ever been compensated for: Spain's chemical bombing of the Moroccan Rif.

Read it.

Russia poised to exploit Sudan coup as EU looks on

The violent chaos in Sudan might well end with Russia building a strategic naval base there as warlords court foreign sponsors, experts warn.

Read it.


EU minimum income schemes leaving young people behind

High rates of unemployment and risk of poverty and social exclusion are rife among young Europeans. Yet, in some member states, they are excluded from the minimum income protection.

Read it.

Tackling 'healthcare drain': lessons from Eastern Europe

For years, doctors and nurses from countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Latvia have been leaving for other European countries with better working conditions. Here are some of the measures their authorities have taken to address this 'healthcare drain'.

Read it.

Austria's 'Job Guarantee' — same price, better outcomes

What if anyone who wanted a good job could get it? And what if this job was also tailored to the needs of each candidate? An Austrian experiment is trying to find out if it works.

Read it.


Ukraine's military advantage? How quick it treats its wounded

There's general agreement that Ukrainian losses are about one third of Russian losses. There are several possible reasons for this discrepancy — one reason that has gone under-reported is the way in which Russia and Ukraine treat their wounded.

Read it.

EU plans €100m to farmers to ease Ukraine grain price worries

The EU executive plans to limit Ukraine grain imports to neighbouring EU countries to transit and export purposes only, after Bulgaria became the latest country to temporarily ban the import of Ukrainian grain.

Read it.

Abducting Ukrainian children is a deliberate Kremlin strategy

This humanitarian tragedy unfolding just outside our EU borders is not just collateral damage from the war. We must acknowledge that it is part of an intentional strategy by the Kremlin aimed at those who are the most vulnerable: children.

Read it.

Foreign Affairs

EU draws up Moldova anti-coup sanctions

EU countries have drawn up sanctions targeting Moldovan oligarchs trying to overturn the pro-Western government in Chișinău.

Read it.


MEPs lay out asylum vision as majority back fence funds

MEPs leading files on the EU asylum reform want binding relocations of asylum seekers in times of crisis, a contentious issue for member states. But some capitals will be pleased that most MEPs also endorsed EU funding for border fences.

Read it.

Dutch raise discrepancy in Sweden's draft EU asylum bill

Internal discussions on a key EU asylum bill have led to a raft of opposition from member states that have yet to agree on numerous issues.

Read it.


Italian central bank chief warns against raising rates 'too much'

Italy's central bank chief Ignazio Visco in a lecture at the University College London warned the ECB against further raising interest rates to tackle eurozone inflation.

Read it.

Health and Society

Luxembourg's Bettel lashes out against Orbán over LGBTI law

"If there's anyone in this house who thinks that you've become a homosexual by watching the television or listening to a song, then you've not understood anything," Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel told MEPs.

Read it.

As always, thank you to all our readers. My various inboxes are open for feedback, suggestions, tips, leaks, ideas and gossip. And don't forget to become a member (or subscribe to our daily newsletter) to support our work. Also, if you'd like this editor's note to be delivered straight to your inbox (with special offers!), subscribe to it via LinkedIn.

See you next week,


Okay, alright, AI might be useful after all

Large Language Models could give the powers trained data-journalists wield, to regular boring journalists like me — who don't know how to use Python. And that makes me tremendously excited, to be honest.

The stories you should have read in 2022

I won't bore you with platitudes about what a momentous year this has been, you'll probably have enough of those conversations tomorrow at your New Year's Eve. So here are our favourite stories of the year, in no particular order.

Okay, alright, AI might be useful after all

Large Language Models could give the powers trained data-journalists wield, to regular boring journalists like me — who don't know how to use Python. And that makes me tremendously excited, to be honest.

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