As part of our education about the systems of power and influence in society we have been learning about the functions of the European Union and associated bodies, which has been bolstered by a funded trip to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to observe the proceedings the week commencing the 10th March 2014. Courtesy of the European Parliament Information Office we’ve been given full press accreditation for the week, and are free to use all of the available resources as we wish. This encompasses a large press working room with individual desks and telephones, a press bar, a permanent staff of press officers to use and a significant amount of audio visual equipment.
Would it be unfair to accuse the European Parliament Information Office of ‘buying’ young journalists? That’s certainly one reading, and there’s certainly something of a PR job going on, but their argument is that the EU and European Parliament must hold the highest standards of transparency, and that improving journalistic understanding of the functions of European administrative institutions is an excellent way to go about this. There has been no lecturing as to the positives and negatives of European integration – we are simply invited to come and make of it what we will.
The commitment to transparency is impressive; during a tour of the facilities earlier, it was explained that the wealth of audio visual equipment available for free use by journalists exists in order to limit the extent to which a lack of access to equipment can curtail accurate reporting, so broadcasters and media organisations with limited resources can come to the European Parliament and cover the stories without worrying. The access to elected officials is also good – the telephone numbers of the MEPs’ offices are all publicly listed, and the Members are generally very receptive to press interest. Earlier this morning a group of four of us set about trying to organise interviews with MEPs about several different issues and have all been successful to some degree. That arranging interviews with public officials in the UK can be so difficult only makes the European Parliament situation more refreshing.