API-IPA held its 2022 General Assembly on July 14th. For the first time in three years we met in physical format. Around 25 members were present. The first part of the meeting was chaired by vice-president Teresa Küchler, the second part by president Katalin Halmai.
The meeting approved, without a vote, the financial report for 2021 and the budget for 2022. Treasurer Nagayo Taniguchi gave an overview of API-IPA's assets, revenues and expenses in the 2021 fiscal year. He said that the financial situation of the association is healthy, with assets worth over € 131,000. Revenues - which consist entirely of membership fees - exceeded expenses in 2021. This is partly due to fewer activities as a result of the Covid crisis. The treasurer stated that API-IPA is fully financially independent, and does not receive any subsidies. The membership fee remains unchanged: € 70 for freelancers and € 120 for employed journalists. On behalf of the auditors, Tomas Miglierina granted discharge to the API Board.
The number of members was 345 at the end of last year. There is a slight increase in the number of freelancers, which may lead to lower revenues in the future, since freelancers pay less membership fees than exployees. Member Anna Van Densky asked that in the future the financial presention will be shown on the screen, to make it easier to follow and understand. The secretary-general promised to do so, although every member received the financial documents by e-mail before the meeting. AVD's suggestion to buy laptops for the Bureau members, to improve (digital) communication, was not followed.
The secretary-general gave an overview of API-IPA's activities in 2021, which were limited because of the Covid-crisis. Still, API-IPA succeeded in organizing four online API Hour events, with the ambassadors of the (Portugese, Slovenian and French) rotating EU presidencies, which were very well attended. Also an online API Hour was held for the by now traditional annual presentation of the report of the European Economic Advisory Group. Member Nawab Khan suggested to not limit API Hours to ambassadors from EU countries, and also invite representatives from nonb-EU countries, to shed a light on issues there, for instance about the Middle East or Asia. This suggestion was positively received.
In September API organized an extraordinary assemblee, open to all accredited Brussels correspondents, to discuss the suggestion by European Commission chief-spokesperson Eric Mamer to open up online off-the-record briefings to journalists not accredited in Brussels. The proposal was overwhelmingly rejected by this special assembly. See also under 3.
The assembly discussed the state of play of the above-mentioned suggestion by Mamer to open up off-the-record briefings. The president explained that Mamer now seems to agree with an alternative proposed earlier by API, whereby access to online off-the-record briefings can only be given to outside journalists from media outlets already accredited in Brussels. It would then be up to the Brussels correspondent here to pass on an invitation to such briefings to another colleague at his/her organisation. Details of this proposal still have to be discussed with the Spokespersons Service.
Eric Mamer has also proposed to create a new kind of online accreditation for online only media in the member states that are dedicated to EU affairs but have no correspondent in Brussels. It would concern a limited number of such media, some of which are already on an ad hoc basis given access to online media events at the Commission. This proposal has not been discussed with Eric Mamer yet. The assembly reacts very reluctantly to this proposal. A colleague notes that "you cannot follow the EU properly and not be in Brussels". There are also doubts about how can be checked that non-Brussels media comply with the code of conduct we have agrred with the Commission, for example with regard to embargo breaches and off-the-record rules. some argue that the existing ad hoc system is sufficient.
The president promised to keep the members informed about the discussions with the SPP about these ideas.
The President also talks about the European Commission's new embargo regime. Until now, EC divisionjs had separate embargo regimes applied, but this will now be centralised. To be eligible to get embargoed material, correspondents will have to sign a declaration at the time of the annual accreditation renewal that they will abide by the embargo rules. A sanctions regime is foreseen whereby embargo violators can be temporarily barred from receiving embargo material. There will be a possibility of appeal, in which API will also be involved. This change was positively received by the Assembly.
The European Parliament has introduced a new system for journalists (and others) who want to use the parking garages in Brussels and Strasbourg. Journalists who want to park there will from now on have to make a reservation by e-mail 24h before every visit, and will then be allocated a parking space. This should prevent unnecessary driving around looking for a place, and ensure better management of the garage. Around 50 places will be available for journalists. Some colleagues note that journalists should be able to drive to the EP ad hoc, at the last minute, without worrying about whether they will be allowed in. In particular, TV crews with heavy equipment must be able to count on being given access. The President said that the EP has promised that journalists with a reservation will always be allowed in, even if the reservation is made half an hour before arrival. It is a pilot project until the end of the year, that then will be evaluated.
- Anna Van Densky complained about the inadequate wifi system in the EP. Journalists used to have their own dedicated wifi access, but now have to use the visitors' network, which is not designed for this. Especially for use by audiovisual media, there is totally insufficient bandwidth. API will discuss this with the EP.
- There were questions about the EP's reimbursement scheme for costs made for traveling to and staying in Strasbourg during the monthly sessions. The secretary-general explains how the system works – with a maximum of 30 available slots to allocate - whereby the number of past visits and a geographical and media spread are the basic criteria.