Readers of our monthly newsletter have already realised that it has gradually moved away subjects of general interest relating to energy at a worldwide level and with regard to the European institutions. The reason for this development lies in the fact that a number of press agencies now publish this type of information in real time using EDP. Reproducing it in one form or another – using links or by providing a summary or a synopsis – would be pointless, even deceptive.
The same considerations apply to our website, as our visitors can now see.
The information we will be publishing from now on will relate to the activities of our Association and the life of its Members, both Active and Associate.
This change of direction, considerable as it may seem, is not the first our Association has experienced.
Those of our Members who may wish to learn more about previous developments in our Association and its communication can refer to the annex to this editorial which is to be found at the end of the newsletter.
Brief survey of previous developments in our Association and its communication
The first election to the European Parliament by universal suffrage was held in June 1979. This was an event of huge political importance, accompanied by varied practical consequences. In particular, many of the MEPs elected were members of parliament for the first time and were plunged into an international environment that was totally new to them, having to adopt positions on subjects which, at national level, did not have the characteristics that they bore on the European stage.
Some MEPs, however, were already experienced political figures and, in the energy sector, a number of them joined forces to offer all their colleagues the possibility of gaining access to reliable information and documentation.
Thus it was that, from the early 1980s, some members of parliament and a number of business leaders in the energy sector devised and established the first version of our Association.
One of these MEPs was Pierre Pflimlin, mayor of Strasbourg, leading European and former minister, including once Prime Minister, of France.
Pierre Pflimlin proposed to create our Association on the basis of Alsace-Moselle law, which had advantages for its members in terms of taxation, and offered to house its registered office in a building belonging to the city of Strasbourg.
The purpose of the Association was to facilitate access of those members of the European parliament interested in energy to satisfactory information. To achieve this, it was agreed that, on a monthly basis (except for the month of August) the Director General would prepare a newsletter on energy events (including technological and research aspects). This newsletter consisted of a series of press cuttings, basically reproducing article headlines. Numerous copies of this newsletter were distributed to members of parliament in person by the Director General of our Association, who assured them of his willingness to provide them with detailed documentation on any subject relating to energy.
This was the first formula adopted for our monthly newsletter.
During his second term of office as an MEP, Pierre Pflimlin was elected President of the European Parliament (1984-1987) and gave new impetus to our Association which was reflected in an appreciable reputation that still held good in 1994, the time of the fourth elections to the European Parliament by universal suffrage. In the meantime, Rolf Linkohr had become President of our Association.
This was when I was approached about taking over the management. I had known Rolf Linkohr since he was first elected in 1979. I had also been familiar with the activity of our Association since it was founded. At that time, I was head of division in the Directorate-General for Energy at the European Commission (see editorial of January 2005).
The prospect of taking over the management of our Association had emerged from the start of 1993 and I had indicated to Rolf Linkohr that, if necessary, “everything needed changing except its good reputation!” We had often discussed this at length, such that in June 1994 we were ready to make the first change to the Association.
And so Rolf Linkhor and I invited the energy companies we knew to take part in a discussion on the future of the Association. We met with them on 22 September 1994 to explain our plan, which was implemented immediately and from the start of January 1995, thanks to the accommodating attitude adopted by Tractebel, we opened our Brussels office at the address where it is still to be found today and began our new activity.
In 1995 we organised 15 events equivalent to those which we have been organising ever since. They included a conference on nuclear safeguards in Saint Petersburg and two factory visits. In addition, there were five internal events within the Association.
During that time, our monthly newsletter did not evolve, and my predecessor continued to prepare it.
Subsequently I devised a completely different presentation which, basically, consisted of three sections: information on energy in general, information on the institutional activity of the EU with regard to energy and information on the activity of the Association. The whole newsletter was to comprise four pages, so as to keep it within limits.
This new formula quickly proved a great success and gradually the number of copies we distributed increased, as did the number of language versions. We reached 700 copies in five languages: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The newsletter had become a reference.
By the time of the European elections of 1994, a great any businesses, noting the growing political importance of the Parliament, had opened an office in Brussels, making the initial version of our newsletter less and less useful to MEPs. At the same time, as of the year 2000, the introduction of electronic mail rendered the paper version of the newsletter obsolete.
In 2001 we introduced the electronic version which, in practice, consisted of a list of the links with various sources of information. Before that, I consulted these sources, selected a number of them and summarised the content. This was certainly incomplete but, in its form edited and printed on paper, it was relatively user-friendly.
This was why, in 2002, without changing the concept of the electronic newsletter, I gave it a slightly personalised touch by adding an original editorial.
In short, the widespread development of e-mail meant that much of our newsletter no longer provided our readers with new information and, without changing its mode of presentation, we have refocused on matters that relate, primarily, to our Association.
In 15 years, the content of our communication has moved from information devoted entirely to what was happening outside the Association to information relating solely to the Association and its members.
As all our so-called “associate” members are invited to take part in all our events, we maintain the basic essentials of our personality: our association is not a lobby group.