Monday

16th Sep 2019

Barroso ignores outcry on China press gag

  • Li (l) and Barroso. EU media policy on China - photos OK, but no questions (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The European Commission has defended its decision not to hold a press conference after Chinese vice premier Li Keqiang's meeting with commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels this week.

"The EU institutions allow Russian and Chinese authorities to dictate who may and who may not be allowed to attend press conferences or whether a press conference will be held at all," Ann Cahill, the vice-president of the International Press Association (API) in Brussels, said at the commission's regular press briefing on Thursday (3 May).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"I would like to protest at this behavior and formally request President Barroso to hold a press briefing after his meeting with his Chinese visitors," she added, prompting a round of applause from international correspondents in the EU headquarters.

For her part, Barroso spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde said the commission is one of the world's most media-friendly administrations. "We are not going to ... conduct diplomacy in the press room. That's not going to be the case for today and it's not going to be the case tomorrow," she noted.

Ahrenkilde had earlier celebrated the fact that Thursday is international World Press Freedom day.

In a separate statement by commission vice president and foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton, the EU said: "On the occasion of World Press Freedom day, the European Union recalls these principles and pays tribute to all those who fight for the respect of freedom of expression and for free, pluralistic press and other media."

Journalists remained unconvinced, however.

One reporter at Ahrenkilde's briefing noted: "I've been here two decades and I've never once seen a public debate among the commissioners. Considering the fact these debates are public in the Council, why is it the commissioners don't hold open debates?"

Ahrenkilde replied that the commissioners need peace and quiet for political negotiations and that - in any case - their talks are later communicated through written statements and press briefings.

Meanwhile, the Danish EU presidency is doing its part for transparency by webstreaming some debates in the EU Council - such as parts of a 16-hour-long ding-dong on bank regulation by finance ministers on Wednesday.

But the majority of the meeting took place behind the usual closed doors.

An internal note drafted by the EU Council secretariat in April - and leaked by London-based NGO ClientEarth - showed that EU officials and diplomats are keen to curtail public access to internal EU documents.

The note said the EU should award "special protection" for papers on competition cases, EU court proceedings, infringement proceedings and legal advice given by EU institutions to their own policymakers.

Anais Berthier, a ClientEarth lawyer, at the time told EUobserver the trend goes against the Lisbon Treaty, which says in its opening words it seeks "an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as openly as possible."

The new European Commission: what's next?

Informal interviews with von der Leyen, hearings with parliamentary committees, and votes in the EU parliament and Council await the 26 candidates.

News in Brief

  1. Saudi oil production in flames after drone attack
  2. US: attack on Saudi oil came from Iran or Iraq
  3. Poll: Belgium's far-right Vlaams Belang largest party
  4. Nationalist parties to support Sanchez if he makes deal
  5. EU finance ministers support simplification of fiscal rules
  6. Italy's Renzi ready to set up new political force
  7. Two independents come top in Tunisia presidential election
  8. Nearly 100 refugees evacuated from Libya to Italy

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. In detail: Belgium's EU nominee faces crime probe
  2. France urges EU virtual currency rules amid Libra risk
  3. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  4. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  5. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  6. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  7. Central European leaders demand Balkan EU accession
  8. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us