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European journalists fight for statute and revaluation

Submitted by on March 13, 2012 – 13:07No Comment

Since the end of the 90’s, for­eign cor­re­spon­dent jour­nal­ists for the Euro­pean Union in Brus­sels have to deal with sev­eral issues that make their job more and more com­pli­cated. Between their social and fis­cal statute, the wider eco­nomic cri­sis and the con­tro­ver­sial com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­egy of the UE, the nec­es­sary watch­dog role of this Euro­pean press corps is at stake.

The IPA (Inter­na­tional Press Asso­ci­a­tion) strug­gles to save the pro­fes­sion through two dif­fer­ent means. On one hand, it has called out to the Bel­gian gov­ern­ment and on the other, to the Euro­pean institutions.

For the record, the major prob­lem the IPA has to face con­cerns the social statute of detached jour­nal­ists who are set­tled in Bel­gium for more than five years. Indeed, regard­ing the Euro­pean leg­is­la­tion, detached work­ers have to pay their social charges to the coun­try of res­i­dence after being estab­lished for five years. This mea­sure was launched to avoid social dumping.

But as Griselda Pas­tor, a Span­ish jour­nal­ist for El País and vice-president of the IPA stated: « This is not our con­cern. For­eign cor­re­spon­dents don’t take the work of Bel­gians away. They work for their own coun­try and cover Euro­pean mat­ters through their own eyes. It’s dif­fer­ent from a cor­re­spon­dent in Paris for example ».

Accord­ing to Michael Stabenow, ex-president of the IPA, who was involved in the main debate around this prob­lem, the exemp­tion that cor­re­spon­dent jour­nal­ists would ben­e­fit from is « not only nec­es­sary, but also in accor­dance with the dis­po­si­tions of the Euro­pean legislation ».

Indeed, this reg­u­la­tion pro­vides a dero­ga­tion that can be imple­mented by all Mem­ber States. (Reg­u­la­tion 1408 – 71 art.11, 13, 17). And M. Stabenow adds « As long as for­eign jour­nal­ists face the risk of hav­ing pen­sion rights lower than their col­leagues, there is discrimination ».

More­over, the trend among edi­tors, will­ing to avoid employer’s social secu­rity con­tri­bu­tions, is to change or move their cor­re­spon­dents every five years. Again, this is mak­ing the job more com­pli­cated in regards to the com­plex­ity of the Euro­pean news top­ics. What inevitably leads to the shrink­ing qual­ity of Euro­pean information.

Accord­ing to the IPA, the issue of statute is directly linked to the reval­u­a­tion of the pro­fes­sion. There are two ways to solve the prob­lem: Ini­tially, the IPA requested Bel­gium to change the leg­is­la­tion and sec­ondly, they asked a spe­cific statute with the Euro­pean institutions.

The first pro­posal sup­ports a pref­er­en­tial treat­ment for a small group of work­ers – for­eign jour­nal­ists. How­ever, they do not want to be in a dif­fer­ent posi­tion com­pared to other Mem­ber States. They want to reach a gen­eral agree­ment, not just about Belgium.

On this side, Min­is­ter of Social Affairs Frank Van­der­broucke dis­missed the case in 2000. For now, the project is on standby and the absence of a Bel­gian gov­ern­ment has led to a lack of inter­locu­tors on this subject.

At a Euro­pean level, con­tacts were made with the Par­lia­ment espe­cially in 2009 with some MEP’s including.

The Com­mit­tee on Con­sti­tu­tional Affairs also received requests from the IPA (again in 2010) and sev­eral dis­cus­sions were held with commissioners.

But accord­ing to Griselda Pas­tor, “there is a fail­ure to under­stand the impor­tance of the issues, the debate is non-existent.”

Instead of upgrad­ing its press corps, the Union believes that trans­parency is played by increas­ing the flow of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. “We do not need a Euro­pean big brother! The EU is wrong, it makes a lot of noise but actu­ally looks like a per­ma­nent World’s Fair with infor­ma­tion bistrots”, she says.

But the Par­lia­ment is not in favor of this spe­cial statute and con­sid­ers it as uneth­i­cal and para­doxal regard­ing to the role of an inde­pen­dent press.

Besides, spokesman for the Com­mit­tee on Con­sti­tu­tional Affairs, Fred­erico De Giro­lamo, con­firmed that the file has not been well dis­cussed. “The issue of a sin­gle statute has still never come on the table. If such statute is cre­ated, then it must con­form to the direc­tive on detached work­ers.”

The posi­tion of the IPA is clear: Euro­pean union should mainly play a stim­u­lat­ing role in order to have a press corps of qual­ity.“The UE finds the ques­tion too com­plex. How­ever it should be aware that you can­not do pol­i­tics with­out a good and rel­e­vant press corps. There should be a real thought­ful Euro­pean infor­ma­tion pol­icy with all the com­plex­i­ties that it implies”, says Griselda Pastor.

Finally, the IPA con­fesses that the file meets dif­fi­cul­ties about the mon­i­tor­ing in front of the Par­lia­ment but hopes the project will regain a dynamic input shortly.

Related posts:

  1. Cre­ate a new employ­ment statute for EU correspondents
  2. Euro­pean asso­ci­a­tions chang­ing jour­nal­ists’ job
  3. Anne Del­vaux: “Jour­nal­ists must put Euro­pean affairs on the agenda”
  4. Euro­pean jour­nal­ists : are we eurocrats?
  5. Train­ing the new gen­er­a­tion of Euro­pean journalists

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