“To come to Brussels is to make a vow of media chastity”

Former French Minister of the Budget and of European affairs Alain Lamassoure has an interview on Euractiv.fr which has a lot of insights into European political life and indeed the lives of politicians in general. I would nuance the notion that it is impossible to get media coverage in the EU.

Charismatic and savvy personalities, particularly those “independently famous” or who lots of extra-parliamentary activities, can be frequently contacted by French and international media. On the French side, think of MEPs like Corinne Lepage, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, José Bové and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. It is true that few MEPs will ever get much attention for their actual legislative work in the Parliament, whether they are seriously dealing with very technical dossiers or negotiating a compromise with Members of other nationalities or political groups…

Lamassoure also praises The Economist as the best magazine in the world and, indeed, the only he subscribed to since he was a student. I cannot agree with this assessment.  I reall don’t think you can limit your daily reading to only The Economist, which has a few problems as a magazine (namely neoliberalism, as Lamassoure notes, Francophobia and a tendency to replace “clever commentary” for actual reporting).

Excerpts:

To come to Brussels is to make a vow of media chastity. For a politician, it is fairly painful. […] For two years, I was Minister of the Budget for Alain Juppé and the spokesperson for the government. I was in television studios three times a week. In 1999, I return to the European Parliament. And, simultaneously, I disappear from the TV screens. Unfortunately, we are fairly numerous in being able to say the same thing. In ten years, I have been invited only once to a live TV show for a major channel.  It was “Soir 3”, at 23:30. Marie Drucker had invited me to talk about the report on the citizen and the application of EU law. I had given the document to the President of the Republic that morning. Two days earlier, I had planned a press conference in Paris. I had to cancel because not a single journalist confirmed his presence. […]

The journalists who cover Europe and we MEPs are in a somewhat similar situation. Ignored by the media. Naturally we help each other. […]

The Minister of the Budget understands budgetary problems better than the journalists do. In contrast, today, I cannot say that I know the European issues better than the journalists do. […]

When you speak to journalists in Paris, you know that the publicization will be much greater. This leads perhaps to a different manner of expressing oneself. […]

The expression langue de bois is misleading. When you hold political office, you represent your electors. Every time you make statements in public, you have to be make sure you have a way speaking that is dignified and not only shocking. On the one hand, they criticize us for the langue de bois, and on the other, when we don’t use it, they accuse us of being politically incorrect. […]

British journalism is the best in the world! Since I am a student, I am subscribed to only one media: The Economist. I absolutely do not share their general philosophy, which one would qualify in France as ultraliberal and which, on European subjects, is frankly Eurosceptic. But, when you read The Economist, you are as well informed as the President of the Republic on what is happening in the world. In Brussels, the journalists I take the most interest in answering are the British. […]

[T]he important French media are absent from Brussels. TF1 does not have a permanent correspondent! Concretely, this means that there is hardly any coverage of the European Parliament on the daily news. The public therefore does not know what it looks like, or if it even exists for that matter. […] The public television channels do better. They have excellent journalists. But they are in an uncomfortable situation: their editorial staff consider that Europe is boring and less it is talked about, the better.

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