Britain may have found itself isolated on the wider European stage recently but where agricultural journalism is concerned there’s no need to exercise the veto – we’re playing a key role.
As Guild chairman Adrian Bell (pictured) points out, European heads of state were not the only group to meet in Brussels; the city also hosted the launch of the European Network of Agricultural Journalists, a new organisation tasked with helping agricultural journalists from across the EU communicate more easily with each other. Amongst other objectives, it will provide members with better access to issues of importance – including CAP debate – from DG Agri, the agricultural directorate.
Adrian was invited to become one of eight members of a ‘project team’, led by Belgian Guild secretary Jef Verhaeren, to manage the fledgling network over the next 12 months, establishing a final charter and constitution before elections to a management committee take place in December 2012.
“The idea came about following consultation between journalists and the EU Commission earlier this year,” Adrian explains. “Representatives from agricultural journalist associations – including Joe Watson from Britain – explored the possibility of establishing a new organisation.
“That culminated in its formal adoption at the meeting in Brussels in November, when Commissioner Dacian Ciolos was presented with the working charter for the ENAJ at a function attended by 140 journalists from the EU27.”
British Guild members will be able to engage with the ENAJ through an interactive website, which will provide ENAJ members with the opportunity to exchange stories, access press releases and press conferences organised by DG Agri, and gain access to contact details of other journalists and key people associated with agriculture in other countries.
“The website will be part of the AG-PRESS site, which I’m pleased to report, following discussion in Brussels, should now start accepting applications from all Guild members as part of the ENAJ,” says Adrian. “In addition, the new organisation will work to establish guilds and associations in member states that do not have an agricultural journalist organisation.”
There are also plans to provide professional development opportunities for young journalists, something in which the British Guild’s U35 group will be able to participate, while all ENAJ members will benefit from the two major networking events planned annually. At these events, journalists will be able to meet and debate the latest issues of importance with key figures from European agriculture – including the Commissioner and member state ministers.
“I hope it’s something that British Guild members will value and get themselves involved in,” enthuses Adrian.
Funding for the ENAJ will come through DG Agri without any contributions from member organisations, but its independence is laid down in the founding charter.
Project team leader Jef Verhaeren said: “ENAJ meets important needs – EU agricultural policy is made at an EU level, so ENAJ will ensure that journalists can fulfil their information mission at this EU level as well as defend their professional interests. ENAJ will enjoy full co-operation with the EU Commission, other EU institutions and other organisations such as IFAJ.
“I thank Commissioner Ciolos and his press service for their support, and the other members of the project team for their enthusiasm in the service of journalism and the right on information.”
Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos welcomed the establishment of the European Network of Agricultural Journalists: “This will be an important platform for exchanges among journalists. It will also aid the two-way communication between the EU institutions and journalists to ensure that, on the one hand, information needed by the media is readily available so that they are aware of the latest developments, and on the other hand, that we listen and take into account their comments, contributions and questions.”
The members of the project team are: Jef Verhaeren (Be), Damien O’Reilly (Ire), Katharina Seuser (Ger), Hans Siemes (Neth), Eric Massin (Fr), Jesus Lopez Colmenarejo (Sp), Tatianna Cop (Slo) and Adrian Bell (UK).