The restrictive measures resulting from the corona crisis in Belgium are being slowly and gradually lifted. Then, of course, comes the question when the European institutions will follow, and when we will again have access as usual to the European Commission, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament. The simple answer can be short: not any time soon.
The EU institutions follow the guidelines of the Belgian government as host country. And as long as they do not give the green light, the restrictive measures for the institutions will remain in force. However, this does not mean that the next phase is not already being considered, and how the institutions can facilitate the work of their press services and the Brussels correspondents.
API is in constant consultation with Commission, Council and Parliament on this. The state of affairs is as follows:
- European Commission: the current measures will remain in force until at least after the summer break. The daily Midday briefings, technical briefings and press conferences of commissioners are only held online until further notice. Return to the press room depends on the decision by the Belgian authorities and the Commission's services to move to the next phase of the confinement-measures. Conferences and events with a physical presence of participants will resume only in line with a Belgian decision on mass gatherings.
- European Council: as long as ministerial meetings are held by videoconferencing, press conferences after ministerials and briefings will also continue to be held online only. It is not clear yet what will happen when EU leaders or member states' ministers decide to meet in person in Brussels. Under the current confinement rules it will not be possible to allow access to the Lipsius/Europa-buildings to large numbers of journalists.
- European Parliament: the EP is the only institution that has opened its doors to journalists. But working from home is recommended as the safest way to monitor the work of the EP. Restrictions apply: mandatory temperature control for all entering the EP's premises, social distancing still applies, mask wearing at all times.
API follows the situation closely and as soon as the consultation with the institutions leads to relief of the measures for journalists, we will inform you.