Max von Abendroth, Executive Director of the European Magazine Media Association (EMMA).
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I please ask for your attention.

Dear First-Vice-President Frans Timmermans,

Dear Ms. Dunja Mijatovich,

Dear Members of the European Parliament,

Dear distinguished guests!
As a Board Member of the Fondation EURACTIV #Media4EU, it is my great pleasure to welcome you at the newsroom of EURACTIV tonight to celebrate tomorrow’s World Press Freedom Day.

My name is Max von Abendroth. I am the Executive Director of the European Magazine Media Association, EMMA – one of the four press associations running the European campaign “Empower Democracy”.

With EMMA I initiated in 2012 the Future Media Lab. think-tank that had today its 7th Annual Conference here in Brussels as a follow-up of the Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights in 2016 that focused on media pluralism and democracy. This colloquium has been hosted by First-Vice-President Frans Timmermans and it is a great pleasure to have you with us tonight, First Vice-President.
Before we start I would like to ask you all – and please respond with your show of hands:

  1. Who of you attended today’s Future Media Lab. conference?
  1. Who of you considers herself or himself as someone who can actively contribute to shaping the future of media?


Thank you. This clearly shows that we have a room full of “movers and shakers”! That is important because even though we announced tonight as a “celebration” of press freedom we all know too well that there is a lot of work to do for all of us

  • to overcome restrictions of media freedom and pluralism,
  • to beat propaganda and populist voices in times of “alternative facts” and
  • to allow the press and media to fully play its safeguarding role in all democracies across Europe and beyond.

This is why it is so important to have these moments like tonight where we can focus on the challenges and jointly come up with solutions!

The networking night tonight is only possible because of our distinguished sponsors. Please give a round of applause for tonight’s Premium Sponsor “Google”.

Also, I would like to thank our sponsors Facebook, the Belgium printing company Corelio and Future Media Lab. (applause).

Please welcome with me our host tonight: Christophe Leclercq. Christophe is the founder of EURACTIV. And also passionate media innovator, supporting cross-border collaboration in the media sector – he will tell you more. His own company is an excellent example as it is running operations in 12 countries across Europe.

Christophe – the floor is yours!
Christophe Leclercq, Founder of EURACTIV and Fondation EURACTIV.

Thanks Max for our excellent cooperation. The Future Media Lab is impressive, and your brainchild. Thanks also to Karin Fleming and Bianca Ferrari, among others, for this evening. J’ajoute quelques mots sur le contexte de cette soirée, auxquels le Vice-Président réagira peut-être.

Et oui, je parle d’abord français.
[Notre Europe devient un peu plus continentale, à cause du Brexit très probable et du repoussoir que constitue le président Trump]
Se rapprocher des peuples, en pratiquant leurs langues, c’est indispensable ces temps-ci.
Cette semaine, tous les yeux sont tournés vers la France. Des regards d’inquiétude, et aussi d’espoir.
[Im Herbst, würde ich gern deutsch sprechen, e dopo anche un po in italiano]


Men heer Timmermans, ce dimanche, j’espère que les français suivront vos compatriotes. La France rejettera le populisme et choisira… l’Europe! Certains trouveront que je sors de la neutralité politique du média EURACTIV. En effet! Dans le passé, nous nous disions ‘naturellement Européen, born European’. Maintenant nous nous affirmons pro-Européens. Il est temps!

Fondation EURACTIV nous inspire, elle est reconnue d’intérêt public, et vient de finir le projet de recherche #Media4EU avec l’Université Libre de Bruxelles. Il s’agissait d’explorer dans 6 pays les parallèles entre la crise de l’UE et la crise des médias. Il y en a beaucoup, et aussi des façons de s’entraider, sans interférer.

[M. Timmermans, dans votre blog du 1er mai hier, vous avez mentionné les acquis sociaux des travailleurs en Europe, et le besoin de continuer, d’innover. Dans le secteur des médias, c’est la même chose]
Pour limiter les fausses rumeurs, éviter les fake news, il faut protéger la liberté de la presse. Et cela ne suffit pas, il faut aussi innover.


Saluons d’abord le Difference Day, demain à BOZAR. Tout comme Max, tout comme Bart Becks, devenu Executive Chairman d’EURACTIV, l’initiatrice du Difference Day est aussi administratrice de Fondation EURACTIV. Je salue parmi nous la rectrice de la Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Caroline Pauwels. Bravo ! (en NL ?).
[Ms. Dunja Mijatovich will also comment on press freedom later.]

Mr. Timmermans, your colleague Vice-President Ansip is currently in the lead of a review of the Digital Single Market.
[Other people also have a big say: yourself, stakeholders, and MEPs. ]
For the moment – I simplify a bit – the Digital Single Market consists mainly of horizontal policies to open borders. Necessary, but not sufficient.
[Regarding pro-active ‘vertical’ actions, Horizon 2020 and the MEDIA programme are typically not relevant for media companies, outside films and broadcasting.]

[Am I calling for European media subsidies? Probably not: some EU media projects were focused only on increasing coverage, and stopped once the money ran out…]
What we need now is to help speed-up innovations by media companies themselves. Since September, talks with 50 media stakeholders led to a new initiative, presented today at the Future Media Lab. The project name is not final, it could be Erasmus4media, or perhaps stars4media. This is about exchanging young ‘rising stars’ between like-minded media. Across functional boundaries, at the crossroad of journalism, technology, and new business models.
[Respecting independence, only supporting training, mobility and networking costs. For a start, we hope to have at least 100 media involved and that half of them derive lasting innovations.]


Here is a little scoop, for our journalist friends in the room! Last Friday, this Parliament proposal for this pilot project has been signed by 12 MEP, from many different committees, groups, and countries. The project could be voted as part of the 2018 budget and then extended. An overview and a list of moral support are available outside, at the entrance. [We will be interested in your reactions, or indeed coverage.]

Mr. Timmermans, you are not directly in charge of policies for our sector, but we know about your media expertise and the relevance of the policy big picture that you coordinate.
[Our sector is in crisis, like Europe itself. And also full of risks and opportunities, as Max indicated.]
Please tell us if and how we could accompany each other.
Thanks a lot in advance.


Following the speech of FVP Timmermans:

Thank you, First-Vice-President, for your wake-up call. There is a lot to take away for all of us. It is good to see that the European Commission is fully behind the need for a free, independent, diverse and vibrant media in Europe – so let’s keep up the dialogue also when it comes to the legislative side of things such as copyright, privacy, and advertising questions, that sometimes have unintended side effects on the ability of Europe’s media sector to operate in a sustainable and competitive manner.

Thank you!


It is my pleasure to introduce to you now Ms. Dunja Mijatovic. Dunja is the highest-ranking woman free-expression advocate in the world. Until March this year, she was for 7 years the Representative on Freedom of the Media at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the OSCE. Dunja has received a wide range of national and international awards for her work in the field of press freedom. Her expertise ranges from the safety of journalists to media regulation and new technologies.

I am very delighted to have you with us tonight. Please welcome with me Dunja Mijatovich.


Following the speech of Dunja Mijatovich, Max von Abendroth.

Thank you for your perspective on press freedom. […]

I would like to thank all the speakers for their time and for sharing these important and inspiring thoughts. I hand over to the DJ and look forward to our discussions following now during the networking reception.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of the evening!


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