Understanding and Interpreting European Union for a national and transnational audience
Left to right: Teresa Küchler the EU-correspondent of SVD, Therese Domisch, press officer, European Commission Representation in Sweden, Markus Bonekamp, head of European Parliament’s Information Office in Sweden and Jenny Wiik, programme director of MIJ.
The European Union (EU) is a bloc of 28 countries (UK: Breixted), and continues to show the potential to increase its numbers, boost trade and movement of goods and people within the continent, and bolster its role in the global arena. EU is a web of institutions tasked with a specific role manned by directly and indirectly elected representatives. The students of Master’s in Investigative Journalism (MIJ) programme (2016-2017) had the opportunity to listen from the experts who work for EU and also from the journalist, Teresa Küchler the EU-correspondent of SVD.
Therese Domisch, press officer, European Commission Representation in Sweden introduced the students into the roles and functions of European Commission, European Parliament and European Council: who proposes the legislation, who decides on the legislation and who are represented in it, and how. She informed the students about the power wielded by a national parliament such as Sweden’s Riksdag (unicameral legislature) on taxes, social insurance, defence and foreign policy while obliged to cooperate with other members of EU on environment, asylum and migration, agriculture and international agreements among others. Students gained insights into the multilayered institutions of democracy operating in a country. In the case of Sweden, legislation is decided by Riksdag (Parliament), Kommun (Municipality), Landsting (County Council) and European Union.
Markus Bonekamp, head of European Parliament’s Information Office in Sweden, introduced to the students the nitty-gritties of political groupings in EU Parliament based on political leanings of Left, Right, Populist (Extremist), Centrist, Socialist & Democratic parties coming from different countries of the union.
European Parliament is one of the largest parliaments in the world but unique in its formation and function. It has 24 official languages and 751 MEPs directly elected by the citizens of EU.
Markus Bonekamp highlighted the sources for information in the EU: spokespersons, press service, audio-visual materials available online for any journalist to access from wherever. He said, EU has the biggest interpretation service in the world, and pointed out that how its power is increasing since its formation: more and more legislations are proposed and decided in Brussels.
Teresa Küchler, a polyglot and seasoned journalist on reporting the workings of EU from Brussels, shared her experiences with the students. She informed the students the importance of understanding issues such coal mines in Poland from the respective country’s perspective as well rather than diagnosing it from national perspective only. She divulged the functioning of MEPs in the corridors of power, how support was solicited by them on a particular piece of legislation, where and how to look out for ‘off-the-record’ briefings, how to write for a national audience, and as how and when to grill the elected representatives on their contributions to the EU (not only on sauces and croissants) as a journalist. She shared her anecdotal experiences on drunkard MEPs to seal-deals to conspirators in Brussels. She advised the students to tear-down prejudices, and the need to dissect issues objectively while reporting.
The students of Master’s in Investigative Journalism had a daylong lecture and workshop with the three guest faculty along with the MIJ’s course director Jenny Wiik. The students-journalists had an opportunity to learn directly from those who work in the field.
Text & photos by Kovuuri G. Reddy