March 1, 2013
The Council will no longer offer free food to journalists during EU summits. This is also the end of the free croissants, soft drinks and sandwiches, available at every corner of the press centre on such occasions. The decision is part of a belt-tightening in expectation of a EU budget with deep cuts in the category of administration. By the way, coffee in the press bar has already gone up from 60 cents to 2 euro.
As sources from the Council explained, the free meals were an inheritance from the past. Until 2004 the rotating presidencies hosted journalists in their capitals and provided very generously food and drinks (even alcohol) free of charge to accredited journalists. The rotating presidencies continued to foot the bill for the food (but not for alcohol any longer) until 2010, when the Council started to pay the expense. Presidencies also used to give journalists presents. Those were usually neckties for gents and scarves for ladies, with the Presidencies logos, but this practice was discontinued a couple of years ago (by the way Presidencies still give presents to officials.)
I think the decision to stop with the free food was long overdue. Although I cannot believe that a journalist could be “bribed” with free food, our readers and audiences should not suspect us paying lip service to the Union just because we eat croissants for free.
There is one aspect though. As we are many in number, I cannot figure out how long it could take to queue at the cashbox. At the next summit two weeks from now, I will bring home made sandwiches.Georgi Gotev