Friday

23rd Feb 2018

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

The key budget issues on EU leaders' table

As EU leaders gather on Friday to start discussing the future of the EU's spending after the UK leaves, major battle lines are already emerging among member states. Here is a look at the key issues.

EU leaders to kick off post-Brexit budget debate

EU-27 leaders will meet on Friday to draw up battle lines and possible fields of compromise over the EU's next seven-year budget - the first one after the UK leaves the bloc.

UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit

Britain wants to negotiate with Brussels the end date of the Brexit transition period - without saying what their preferred end date would be. The UK's position paper disagrees with the EU on other key points too.

News in Brief

  1. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  2. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  3. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired
  4. Luxembourg and Ireland pay highest minimum wages
  5. Freedom of expression under threat in Spain, warn MEPs
  6. Report: EU to increase sanctions on Myanmar
  7. Juncker 'worried' by Italian elections
  8. EU migration to UK at lowest since 2012

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  2. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  4. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  5. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  7. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  8. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  10. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  11. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  2. European far-right political party risks collapse
  3. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table
  4. EU leaders to kick off post-Brexit budget debate
  5. Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme
  6. Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?
  7. Poland and Greece broke EU environment laws, rules court
  8. Dutch MPs vote on ending 'Ukraine-type' referendums

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  3. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  4. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  5. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  8. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  10. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  12. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?