Thursday, 13 November 2008

Scottish journalists in Brussels

Much of today has been taken up with a group of Scottish journalists which we brought across to Brussels for a one day training session. The group came across yesterday with many of them journalist students studying journalism at various universities across Scotland and wanting to learn and see for themselves how the EU works. Also among the group were a number of journalists from Scotland’s local newspapers. We had organised their visit with the main aim being for the journalists to gain a better insight into the EU and its institutions, what it does, how to follow its work and the relevance of Europe to Scotland and why it matters so it was a full day with back-to-back meetings arranged for them.

Hopefully we managed to introduce them to some pretty useful folk here who they can be in touch with when it comes to reporting any EU stories with a local relevance.
The journalists had the chance to meet with the other Scottish MEPs once they had toured round the Parliament, seeing the chamber and where the committees meet. They also met with civil servants in Scotland House to find out more about the work of the Scottish Government and what its EU priorities are and how they work with other national delegations as well as with Scotland Europa to see how Scotland’s interests are represented in the different EU institutions. The group also met with some of the press team in the European Parliament and the European Commission, as well as with journalists working for The Parliament Magazine in Brussels and Cosla’s European officer who took them through the role of local authorities and the various issues surrounding EU funding.

I had invited Ireland’s Ambassador to the EU, Geraldine Byrne-Nason to speak with the group about Ireland’s experience in the EU and was delighted when she was able to make it along given how busy her schedule was with the Member States still trying to reach an agreement on the climate change package. Chairing this last session I found it heartening to hear the extent to which Ireland has become a model example for other small countries, especially the Baltic states, in its dealings with the EU and how Ireland has managed to use its resources and strategic alliances with other European countries, whether large or small, to influence EU policy. I also asked the Ambassador about Ireland’s experience in setting up a National Forum on Europe as one way in which to increase public debate and awareness as to what is going on in the EU, something which I am very supportive of and would like to see established in Scotland as I have already written and spoken about.

Photos: With the Irish Ambassador to the EU in Scotland House.

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