By Sarah Lagan
Former editor of The Wharf and The Economist’s European Voice, Dennis Abbott, is hoping to put Europe further up the news agenda of the regional press.
Abbott is now working for an EU institution called The Committee of the Regions — similar to the European Parliament, but for councillors and mayors — which is backing an initiative, Communicating Europe — Going Local.
The Brussels-based political assembly is where UK local councillors and counterparts from 24 other EU member countries meet to discuss their views on proposed European laws.
Abbott said the move to bring Europe to the regions was partly triggered by "the rather skewed debate about Europe which often appears throughout national media".
He told Press Gazette: "The reason we are doing this is to encourage a public debate at a grass-roots level, particularly in the regional media, to see what kind of Europe people want to see in the future.
"In the UK there has been a rather sterile debate about whether we should be in or out, but we are saying maybe we can have a more specific debate about where people think the EU should be involved.
"If you ask whether the EU should be working together to combat pollution or save the environment, most people would say yes because pollution doesn’t stop at national borders and you need a united effort. In my experience of working in the media I don’t think Europe is reported on a great deal."
Abbott is sending out a calendar of meetings to editors and journalists across the country. The meetings form part of the EC’s "Plan D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate", launched last October to encourage discussion with people on the future of Europe, following the "no" votes on the constitution in France and the Netherlands.