Last week API sent a letter to EU Council secretary-general Mr. Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen, asking for more access and facilities for journalists during European Council and ministerial meetings in these Covid-times (see our letter below). We received a reply from Mr. Tranholm-Mikkelsen which unfortunately offers no perspective in the short term on changes in our working conditions at the Council, due to the Covid restrictions. Here is the letter from the secretary-general to API president Katalin Halmai:

Dear Madam President,

Thank you for your message. We are grateful for the excellent cooperation we have had with you to date and welcome your efforts and proposals to ensure that the media can cover Council and European Council work and activities. We are happy to continue working with you on finding solutions to facilitate access where possible and we are pleased to see that, as a result of your suggestions, our joint efforts to enable some media presence near our premises at the last European Council were successful. You will understand that this is not easy at the current time.

We also understand the importance of allowing more interaction with leaders, ministers and spokespersons and we are keen to find ways in which to ensure safe, fair and reasonable access. As you rightly point out, however, we depend on the rules imposed by the Belgian state in relation to the epidemiological situation and are responsible for upholding these within our buildings. We wish to make progress towards returning to some kind of normality as soon as possible, but we can only do so to the extent that we can ensure the safety of anyone accessing our premises, including member states' delegates, staff, contractors and media representatives.

For the time being, the epidemiological situation in Belgium and the Belgian rules require us to maintain the present level of caution and do not allow us to offer increased media access to our premises. Even so, we are examining the options for doing so whenever the conditions permit. Once the options become clearer, we will consult you on these.

I would like to conclude by stressing that we remain committed to ensuring transparency and media access to the Council and European Council activities while fully respecting the relevant public health requirements. We appreciate your continued cooperation in helping us achieve this objective.

Your sincerely,

Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen,

Council of the European Union

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