Saturday

26th Sep 2020

Finnish TV station risks EU Council ban

  • Microphones are meant to be turned off at Council 'round-tables' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Finland’s national broadcaster, Yle, risks being banned from all EU Council “round-tables” after it published ministers’ remarks in Latvia.

Janis Berzins, the Latvian EU presidency spokesman, told EUobserver on Friday (1 May) that Riga is “in talks” with EU Council officials and with the International Press Association (API) in Brussels on how to react.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

But Latvia, which holds the EU chairmanship until July, has already banned Yle from council meetings on its home turf.

The round-table is a media format in which camera crews film ministers as they mingle before a meeting begins.

The footage is used as background for anchormen’s comments or for quotes from other sources.

Yle, on 24 April at an informal meeting of EU finance ministers in the Latvian capital, filmed and published a conversation between Finland’s Antti Rinne and his Slovak counterpart Peter Kazimir.

The two men discussed whether a Finnish politician, Jutta Urpilainen, will try to unseat Rinne as the chairman of Finland's Social Democratic Party.

“Jutta has now started a campaign,” Rinne said.

“Campaign for what?” Kazimir replied.

“For the presidency,” Rinne said.

“Of the party?” Kazimir added.

“Yes,” Rinne said.

“Ah, so she would like to come back?” Kazimir noted.

“Yes,” Rinne said.

A contact from Yle’s newsdesk in Helsinki, who asked not to be named, said it didn’t break the rules because they only apply to official EU meetings in Brussels or in Luxembourg.

“If it had been an official meeting in Brussels, we wouldn’t have done it”, he said.

He noted they took the risk because the story “is of big interest to Finnish people, that they [Rinne and Urpilainen] are having this fight”.

He said the issue shouldn’t be blown out of proportion in terms of press freedom. But he added that Yle sometimes holds back material if, for instance, publication would harm national security.

“We don’t always put out everything we have. We make the decisions on a case-by-case basis”.

For his part, Latvia’s Berzins dismissed the argument.

“It’s obvious that the EU Council rules apply [in Riga]. It’s a council meeting even if takes place somewhere else”, he said.

“They [Yle] can still have full access to press conferences and to other people’s stock shots. But their own cameras won’t be let into the room”.

The rules, as stipulated by API, say media must “make sure that camera microphones are set to record background noises (not conversations) and, if despite this setting conversations are nonetheless recorded, such recordings must not be used”.

They also say the provisions “apply in the council press centre (Justus Lipsius building) … and the press centre of the Kiem Conference Centre in Luxembourg”.

API’s president, Tom Weingaertner, said a decision on the wider Yle ban will be taken next week.

"We haven’t taken a definitive position yet”.

But he added “basically, we think the rules always apply … if you ask me personally there’s no difference these days between formal and informal council talks”.

Open microphone gaffes are rare in EU circles.

But other international meetings have had to grapple with the same issue.

A meeting of the G8 club of wealthy nations in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2006, saw widespread publication of an exchange between the then British and US leaders, Tony Blair and George W. Bush.

“ Yo, Blair. How are you doing?”, Bush said at the time.

“Thanks for the sweater - it's awfully thoughtful of you”, he added.

“It's a pleasure”, Blair said.

“I know you picked it out yourself”, Bush noted.

“Oh absolutely - in fact, I knitted it”, Blair replied, before the conversation turned to a war, then erupting, between Lebanon and Israel.

“What they [Lebanon] need to do is … to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's all over”, Bush noted, referring to a Shia Muslim militia in Lebanon.

Exclusive

'Big Three' EP groups nominate homophobe for Sakharov prize

The centre-right EPP, centre-left S&D, and liberal Renew Europe have all nominated a homophobe for the Sakharov prize - the prestigious annual prize handed out by the European Parliament to people who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Analysis

The State of the Union speech - digested

The 61-year old former German defence minister, who only narrowly won the backing of MEPs last year, outlined not a vision, but an ambitious list of policies to tackle - including more health care competencies to the EU.

EU regions: pandemic should force decision-making rethink

EU regions say the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe is a "timely opportunity" to debate how to make local and regional authorities full- involved in the EU response to Covid-19 - even including possible EU treaty changes.

Exclusive

Far-right MEP resigns from EU Endowment for Democracy

French far-right MEP Thierry Mariani said he is resigning as a board member of the European Endowment for Democracy. His replacement may be Jerome Riviere - another far-right French MEP from the Identity and Democracy group.

Opinion

Why so few women in EU missions?

Angela Merkel is only the seventh woman to chair the Council of the European Union's meetings. And in 2020 there is no woman leading any of the current 11 European civilian missions (let alone the six military operations).

Commission chief under fire for Croatia campaign video

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen recorded a video in support of Croatia's ruling party, which the EU executive said was in her "personal capacity" - and admits it was a "mistake" that this was not made clear.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Berlin repeats support for EU human rights sanctions
  2. China's carbon pledge at UN sends 'clear message' to US
  3. Far right using pandemic to win friends in Germany
  4. Visegrad countries immediately push back on new migration pact
  5. Why no EU progress on Black Lives Matter?
  6. EU migration pact to deter asylum
  7. 'Era of EU naivety ends', MEP pledges on foreign meddling
  8. Anti-mask protesters pose challenge for EU authorities

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us