Actively European:, a profile


European politicians are loathe to communicate to EU citizens about the project of European integration. The public’s consecutive defeat of two treaties is a clear indication: If politicians are incapable (unwilling?) to get the word out to the people, the task falls to journalists.

But are EU-focused media up to the task? Or do they avail themselves to the same foibles EU politicians themselves commit, failing to connect with citizens, a lack of critical reflection or favoring narrow interests over the common good?


This article leads off a series we hope will familiarise EJC readers with the various media dedicated to reporting Brussels affairs. How do they try to distinguish themselves from their competitors? What are their respective business models, their target audience and their strategies for reporting and making their subject, the EU, attractive to their readers?

Our first interviewees, Frédéric Simon and Christoph Leclercq from, gave us a tour of their newsroom, answered our questions and proffered some handy advice for the EU reporters of the present and the future.

Facts and Figures

Readers: 505.000 (20.000 journalists)
  Newsletter subscriptions: 60.000
  Staff: Approximately 35 core staff, plus 25 at-large contributors in Europe
  Founded: 1999
  Languages: 9 (80 percent of readers are addressed in their own language)
  Ownership: Public Limited Company
  Company seat: London, UK

Target audience

Rather than try to attract the impartial citizen to EU affairs, targets an audience that has at least some previous interest in and knowledge about the topic,  says Frederic Simon, managing editor in Brussels. However, even when dealing with interested readers, striking the right balance between Eurojargon shortcuts and exhaustive explanations is problematic, he says. “If you want to appeal to the specialist as well as the generalist, it’s very difficult to please them both, but we are trying to somehow do that.”

“EurActors” – reaching the audience by sector

In particular, targets what it dubs ‘EurActors’:  stakeholders in EU affairs, via sector-based approach. This means EU news and information are ordered according to categories that encompass everything relevant to a specific sector of the economy or society.  “Instead of trying to communicate everything to everybody, it is better to provide readers with information that concerns them professionally”,  Simon says. “People who follow environmental affairs will be very interested in all the tiny details of legislation, but they will have no interest whatsoever in defence policy, for example.”

Decentralisation – using the national lens

The main strategy, Simon says, is to “have [spin-off] websites in the Member States focusing on EU affairs, but seen from a national angle, and this is really where we can add value”.
  These websites are editorially independent, working “a little bit like McDonald’s’ franchises”. “The whole idea is that they can adapt to the national culture and explain things from this point of view, and this is what makes them more interesting”, he says, adding that the national sites are what accounts for the bulk of the growth for Euractiv’s page views.

According to Christoph Leclercq,’s publisher, the franchise network now comprises eight countries in Eastern and southeast Europe.  Translation and localisation are done by small teams of local journalists. Currently, the network is set to expand: Plans include setting up not only more “country portals” in Berlin, Madrid and Rome, but also extra-Europeanimageoffices in Washington, Moscow and Beijing, Leclerq (at right) says.

Focus on in-depth information

Besides news, offers so-called “LinksDossiers” which provide background for an issue referred to in an article. This is given depth by integrating into the rough outline links to other articles, official documents and other relevant websites. Unlike much of their Brussels competition, “we try to provide more than just the story – we provide the sources”, Simon explains.

Getting the story

“I almost completely stopped going to daily press briefing. You can watch it on EbS (Europe by Satellite, red.) if you really need to.  They have become boring and pretty much a waste of time”, because they are kept very politically correct, he says. Simon adds that interviewing the spokesperson afterwards usually proves to be more interesting, yielding “juicy” information that may diverge from the officially agreed position.

Simon emphasized that it is important to know whether information is given on or off the record.  Unless specifically stated, reporters may safely assume that information given during a press event is on the record. “Sometimes, Brussels officials forget to say something and end up with an article they are not too happy about.” In one instance, the office of Jean-Pierre Jouyet, French State Secretary for EU Affairs,  complained after being quoted by Euractiv that “it was not Mr. Jouyet’s intention to say that”, Simon recounts. “My reaction was: I’m sorry,  but he said it!”

Dealing with the EU institutions

Simon says he prefers covering the Council, because it is full of conflict and thus yields the best stories. The Commission, on the other hand, he considers “the most boring” because it is very apt at hiding disagreement with a veil of confidentiality. imageThis makes it difficult to have information leaked and thus closes a very important channel for gathering information. The European Parliament, he finds, is “fun, but not always very serious. With 785 parliamentarians, the discussion goes in all kinds of directions”. The most exciting reporting comes during EU summits, when ministers provide plenty of quotable material, Simon says.

Little reach beyond own readership news is used by media outside Brussels, but it is rarely cited, says Simon. “If a reporter at a national newspaper has mentioned us his editor may take that out, asking ‘Who is this Euractiv’?” Because most papers and newswires are usually fishing for quotes,’s background-heavy approach does not appeal to them, he says. “You must come up with something quite striking to get coverage.” He added, however, that Eastern European papers,  specifically from Romania and Bulgaria, turned to Euractiv quite frequently for their Brussels coverage.

Plans and hopes

Simon hopes that their blog spin-off, will give depth to the offering by attracting quality specialists to provide analysis on the various sections.  However, as of now, the quality varies too much. Entries need a lot of editing, he says. He says he also hope for more “prominent people”, such as politicians, director generals and heads of trade associations, to comment on articles and interact constructively with the EurActors.