Brussels 21–25 November 2016, A group of 16 Montenegrin journalists from various media (television, radio, the portal of the public broadcasting service, newspapers, Vijesti television and portal, Monitor, TV Prva, TV Pink, Pobjeda, Dan, Dnevne Novine, Analitika portal, CDM portal, Mina agency and Antena M radio) stayed in Brussels for five days on a study visit. It was an opportunity for them to become more familiar with the way European institutions function and also to discuss with representatives of the EU about the current issues in Montenegro.

The visit began with a tour to the European Parliament, the only EU institution in which representatives are elected by the people. As the deputies were in a regular session in Strasbourg, their replacement was the guide, George Stylianou. With a warm welcome, he informed the journalists about the European Parliament, its functioning and responsibilities. “The European Parliament is the only directly elected body in the EU.” Its 751 delegates represent 500 million European citizens. Every five years they are elected by the citizens of the 28 European Union member states,” explained Stylianou.

After their tour of the Parliament, the visitors from Montenegro moved on to something closer to their profession: next up was a visit to the headquarters of the audiovisual services of the European Commission, the birthplace of all information concerning the European Commission. Michelle Gill presented the EBSA website in detail and explained how journalists can find material for their stories and download it.

“Almost everything can be downloaded, 95% of the content. The other 5% is material that we get from other sources. The only thing we ask is that you credit the EU on the material.”

While Montenegrin journalists often use the Commission’s site, the studio of the audio-visual service of the European Commission is used much less. For this reason, Fred D’Hondt, in front of his colleagues, tried to encourage the journalists to use its services more.

“Everything is free. We exist not to take jobs from journalists, but to facilitate them. You can call us to record a statement for you, but you can also use our studio. Free of charge. You just have to book it in time. The only thing that must be paid,” explained Fred, “is the satellite link, when one of the television companies wants to do a live interview.

Late afternoon was reserved for a break from political issues and the process of negotiations, in order to explore the city, its culture and people.

In the morning, along with the other residents of Brussels, the press delegation rushed to its next lecture. First on the list was the Directorate General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. Klaus Giering explained the tasks of the Directorate General to the journalists.

“The mission of the Directorate General is to implement neighbourhood and enlargement policy, as well as to coordinate relations with the EEA–EFTA countries regarding Commission policy,” said Giering.

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The general information about the Directorate was followed by more focused talks with representatives of the Directorate General’s Department for Montenegro. The Deputy Head of the Department, Tomas Hagleitner, with his associates Kirsi Pekuri and Adrian Nicole, opened up all the relevant topics to the journalists, from the opening of new chapters to the specific results that are needed in order to close certain chapters.

Morten Jung explained how important regional cooperation is for the European Union and why the EU invests money in it.

Between meetings, journalists sampled Belgian cuisine, which was on the menu in the canteen of the European Commission where the journalists went immediately after the media briefing.

Agriculture, environmental protection and enlargement of the European Union were the themes reserved for talks held with spokespersons from the relevant areas. Robin Clements explained the functioning of the European Union when it comes to agriculture, as well as what is expected from Montenegro in this area. The European Commission’s spokesman for environmental issues, Enrico Brivio, explained why Chapter 27 is one of the most difficult in the negotiating process., Journalists discussed the current situation in Montenegro and the region with Maja Kocijancic, the European Commission’s spokeswoman for foreign policy and security.

At the end of the second day of the visit, the journalists visited the European Federation of Journalists, in which Montenegro has two representatives.

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The third and last day of their visit to Brussels was reserved for a visit to the European Service of Foreign Affairs and the Mission of Montenegro to the EU. Clive Rumbold, the Deputy Head of Department for the Western Balkans, and Herbet Pribitizer hosted the journalists. “Safety is a priority of the European Union,” said Rumbolt. As he spent part of his career in Montenegro, Rumbolt was happy to answer reporters’ questions.

The Head Montenegro’s Mission to the EU, Bojan Šarkić, did his best to make sure that the journalists would feel at home in Brussels. Šarkić explained the tasks of his team in Brussels, the way they function and showed the journalists where they work.

Although the study visit was intended to inform the journalists about the European institutions, there was time for a walk around Brussels. Before going home, the journalists had the opportunity to visit this European capital, be photographed next to the famous Atomium and under the Arc de Triomphe of King Leopold, under which, in the second half of last century, tunnels were dug for the metro and car traffic. As they heard the story of how the city originated and evolved, the hour when journalists had to think about returning home slowly approached.

The trip was funded by the EU Info Centre and created by the European Union Delegation in Podgorica.

The content of this news item is the sole responsibility of the EU Info Centre and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.