I am well aware surveys are an imposition. Which is why I’d like to thank all respondents to our reader survey from the bottom of my professional heart and on behalf of everyone at EUobserver.
Last month has been somewhat crazy.
We presented a new vision and strategy for supporting foundations and investors to grow EUobserver.
We prepared the content for Growth Week, which you should go check out if you also have your doubts about GDP as a measure of human progress.
We finalised the articles for our upcoming magazine on alternative proteins, which should be coming out in June.
But we also ran a survey among our readers to find out how we’re doing and what we could be doing better. Over 200 readers took the time to answer, and while not scientifically significant, the results were valuable in shaping our plans for the future.
And since I don’t believe in the investment of time without dividend, I wanted to share some of the results of the survey. If you don’t care, which I’d totally understand, skip through to read the articles you should not have missed this week.
Among the most trusted
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a survey run on EUobserver.com, most readers (75.2 percent) considered EUobserver as their main source for news on EU affairs. Politico Europe, The Guardian and Euractiv followed with respectively 44.2 percent, 35.9 percent and 30.1 percent. One reader relies on ‘none of your extreme left wing propaganda and fake news’, which sounds like an intriguing name for a publication.
Almost 70 percent of readers ranked us as ‘among the most trusted’ news sources, with 5.4 percent ranking us as ‘by far the most trusted’ ❤️. Only two readers ranked us as ‘not trusted at all’, but I’ll consider that a rounding error.
Most of our readers (60 percent) come to us ‘to stay informed on EU news and policy developments. One of our readers visits us ‘to laugh at the delusions of the over-educated and under-worked’. Thanks for your candour, reader.
On our journalism
Readers thought we would best be spending our time on creating:
• Investigations — stories holding EU institutions accountable (58 percent)
• Explainers or analysis of news stories (52 percent)
• Daily EU news (39 percent)
On that, good news, we have a whole slew of investigations coming up.
When asked what sets EUobserver apart from other news publications, readers wrote — and I’m making a non-impartial selection here — the following:
“Original and, sometimes, in-depth coverage of issues that are not covered by others, migration in particular. And leftwing slant which sometimes gets in the way of objectivity.”
“The migration section is more critical of EU institutions than the average media outlet, although unfortunately not critical enough.”
“The tone is very clear and to-the-point. Also fortunately less biased towards Western Europe and US politics, which is refreshing.”
“Not a corporate mouthpiece.”
“Generally an independent voice, some more in depth thinking about what is happening rather than chasing all the details and headlines.”
“EUobs is more trustworthy, less driven by commercial motives of advertising and owners than Politico or Euractiv. Double down on this quality.”
Funnily enough, for a publication that’s member-supported and should have a paywall that kicks in at some point, more than half of respondents read EUobserver on a daily basis — but 75 percent of respondents also say they are not paying members.
While not opposed to circumventing paywalls (shout out to archive.ph and 12ft.io), this was somewhat surprising — and to be frank, concerning when it comes to funding our publication for posterity. In any case, definitely something we need to keep an eye on and make clearer that our journalism relies on member support, and without it, we cease to exist.
In that sense, it helps that readers also ranked what we could do from our end to make being a supporting member more attractive. Apart from access to the full 20 year archive and daily articles, readers would like a members comment section and interaction with our journalists — both of which are in the works.
What also could help is lowering our price (currently €19/month or €150/year). Around 75 percent of our readers would like a monthly price point between €1 and €10 per month.
So let me help you with that right away. If you fill in EDITOR50 when signing up, you’ll get 50 percent off the yearly subscription price, forever.
Most readers, like us, think that independent journalism should be funded by readers and members, closely followed by EU institutions (which should all obviously purchase a group membership to EUobserver), advertisers and philanthropic organisations .
Suggestions for improvements
We also asked readers for ideas on what features we could add to EUobserver’s website. A number of readers suggested a forum where members can discuss articles and policy, which I think is a fantastic idea.
A dedicated app was another commendable (but expensive) idea. Others suggested different ways of organising our news into other categories, ‘a list of apologies for every fake news you posted’, and finally ‘More photos of scantily-clad people? Nope, just kidding. Or just if it may increase subscription revenue.’
I appreciate all the responses, even the negative and jokey ones. It’s your time, and you chose to spend it helping us out. So even to the 70 percent of readers who don’t pay for EUobserver, my thanks are many and everlasting.
In other news, we’re running a themed week on economic growth called Growth Week. In it, we’re exploring what economic growth means and for whom, but also topics like post- and degrowth, other indicators for human progress, and we spoke to some of the leading thinkers.
The Growth Week is tied to an event organised by MEPs called ‘Beyond Growth’, and in collaboration with the European Green Journal.
Now, onwards to the news you should not have missed this week (I’m experimenting with slightly longer recaps of articles here, let me know if that’s good or bad).
Kate Raworth, author of Doughnut Economics, proposes a vision for prosperity beyond growth, arguing that societies should aim to meet everyone’s needs within the planet’s means. She criticizes the current focus on economic growth, especially in wealthy nations, as it often leads to excessive resource consumption and environmental degradation. She also dismisses the notion of green growth as unproven and insufficient to address the climate crisis. Raworth urges a shift in economic thinking, advocating for ecological boundaries, distributive economies, and regenerative practices, with Europe potentially leading the way.
In a conversation about the future of the European Union’s economy, European commissioner for economy Paolo Gentiloni and co-president of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament Philippe Lamberts discuss the viability of sustainable growth. Gentiloni believes that growth is necessary to avoid recession and stagnation, and argues for an expanded understanding of growth that includes sustainable development goals. Lamberts, however, questions the feasibility of endless growth, highlighting the need to decouple economic size from its environmental impact. Both agree on the importance of addressing inequality, but differ on the role of growth in achieving this, with Gentiloni pointing to historical periods of reduced inequality during high growth, and Lamberts suggesting that inequality reduction can be achieved through political decisions, not necessarily tied to growth.
Fast food giant McDonald’s is leading a major lobbying campaign against new EU laws aimed at reducing packaging waste. Together with packaging producers and trade associations, McDonald’s wrote to European policymakers demanding a pause to legislation promoting reusable packaging. The industry’s opposition is based on claims that the legislation would undermine Europe’s net zero ambitions, despite critics accusing them of promoting scientifically dubious evidence. The lobbying effort has involved funding studies, launching websites, and sponsoring articles attacking the legislation, which aims to tackle the growth in packaging waste and single-use plastic. Critics argue that industry groups are resistant to change due to concerns about profitability and the need for significant investment.
Two Italian MEPs, Licia Ronzulli and Daniela Aiuto, brought their babies to the European Parliament during plenary sessions to advocate for women’s employment rights and highlight the challenges faced by mothers. However, the rules of the European Parliament do not recognise maternity or paternity leave for MEPs. Currently, MEPs can take excused absence before or after giving birth, but they lose their right to vote in plenary. Some MEPs are calling for the recognition of maternity leave and the right to vote while being a mother, as well as the possibility of remote voting, which was successfully implemented during the pandemic. Failure to modernise these rules could discourage people, especially women, from pursuing a political career.
Discussions on asylum reform within the EU include proposals to detain families with small children along the borders, shifting responsibility onto countries like Italy and Greece. Critics argue that this approach will lead to more detention, illegal push-backs, and potentially create ghetto-like camps similar to those previously seen on Greek islands. The European Commission’s original proposal sought to exclude families with children under 12 from expedited asylum processes, but the Swedish EU presidency now wants to include them. The proposal faces opposition from the European Parliament, with some MEPs advocating for a higher age limit and emphasizing the need to protect the rights of children.
The European Commission’s “whistleblower tool” has been receiving anonymous tip-offs on Russia-sanctions violations, but EU member states are not actively sharing information on frozen assets. The commission has been selective in referring cases to member states for follow-up investigations, relying mostly on customs data rather than hard intelligence to curb circumvention of sanctions. A new IT platform, SIER, is being developed to facilitate information-sharing among EU capitals, but for now, a beta-testing messaging board called FSOR is being used with limited participation. EU countries are discussing new Russia sanctions, but initial proposals have disappointed some frontline countries, and there are challenges in implementing and enforcing sanctions, such as tracking Russian oligarchs’ control over EU companies and minimising job losses.
MEPs have expressed concerns that the proposed new revenue sources for the EU’s €800bn Covid-19 recovery fund will not be sufficient to cover borrowing costs. Repayments and borrowing costs are estimated to be at least €15-20bn per year until 2058. The European Parliament called on the European Commission to present new proposals for additional revenues by the third quarter of 2023. The Commission’s proposed revenue sources, including the carbon market, a carbon border levy, and a tax on large multinationals, are expected to generate only around €6.5bn per year, falling short of the needed amount. MEPs suggested potential new sources of revenue, such as a financial transaction tax, a digital levy, and a fair border tax.
As always, thank you to all new subscribers to this newsletter, and my various inboxes are open for feedback, suggestions, tips, leaks, ideas and gossip. And don’t forget to become a member (or subscribe to our daily newsletter) to support our work.
See you next week,