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Minutes of the 2014 Annual General Meeting

The AGM was held at Europe House, 11:15-12:15 on Friday, 30 January 2015

 

Chairman William Horsley welcomed the 14 members of the Section present for the AGM and conveyed apologies from Treasurer Michael Springate, Nevsal Hughes and Rick Thompson. Celia Hampton, acting Treasurer in Mike Springate’s absence, distributed laminated AEJ membership cards for 2015 which, as in past years, were kindly produced by Rick and Gill Thompson in time for the AGM.

William expressed his gratitude to the officers, Secretary Margaret Hughes, Treasurer Michael Springate, Website Editor-Manager Celia Hampton and Events Director David Lennon for “helping to keep up the level and quality of the Section’s activities”. Happily, the meeting was told that Celia and David had agreed to continue in their unelected but important roles. William reminded the meeting that all the AEJ Section’s officers carry out their responsibilities unpaid.

Noting that “Europe has moved back to centre stage in UK politics”, he recalled that the Section had organised a special briefing before the May 2014 election in addition to our regular professional and successful lunches. A special effort had been made to fix the dates and speakers for our next three prospective meetings, up to April. The next one would be on 3 March with Pat McFadden MP, the Shadow Europe Minister, as the speaker.

The chairman expressed pleasure at having being “able to welcome a good many new and younger journalists to our meetings during the year”. At the same time he urged members to actively encourage journalists and Europe specialists to come to our meeting or join as members.

 

 

Turning to the AEJ’s international dimension, William reported that new blood came into the AEJ at the AEJ Congress in Austria in October with the election of Otmar Lahodynsky, a leading Austrian journalist as President, and Fabrice Pozzoli-Montenay from the French Section as Special Representative for Network Development.

William noted that David Lennon had stepped down after two years as one of the three international Vice Presidents and our Chairman replaced him in that role while keeping his responsibilities as AEJ Special Representative for Media Freedom.

The signing of a formal agreement with the Council of Europe in December to contribute to the new "Freedom of Expression Platform" was noted as among the AEJ’s significant international activities last year. Martyn Bond congratulated William for his part in getting the Council of Europe to launch this ambitious initiative.

There was a vigorous discussion about the ways and means of publicising the Section’s activities. Martyn Bond suggested that we might link up with the London Press Club to promote each other’s events and expand the range of people who know about our meetings.

This was broadly welcomed by members, as were the proposals by Peter Norman, formerly of the Financial Times, and Charles Jenkins, formerly of the Economist Intelligence Unit, to spread the word among their journalistic acquaintances.

William concluded this discussion by noting that it was “probably the most constructive we have ever had” about steps to increase the numbers attending our regular lunchtime meetings beyond the current average of about 20.

 

 

Acting Treasurer Celia Hampton, presenting the accounts for the 2014 calendar year, noted that “despite the increased lunch fees the accounts showed a loss £499, in which the high cost of catering and one-off website charges played a part”. Nonetheless, we ended the year with £1,175 in the bank account.

A debate ensued about the cost and quality of lunches, and ways to ensure in future that the lunches do not cost more than they bring in. William and Margaret expressed confidence that by trimming catering costs, especially on tea and on the dessert plates ordered, the budget could be stabilised. No objections were voiced to this. David Barker asked the Section officers to audit the figures for our lunchtime meeting costs and revenues in mid-2015 in order to be sure. This was accepted and it was agreed that, should the next annual Treasurer’s report show a further fall in the Section’s overall bank balance, the option of raising membership fee (currently £30) should be considered.

Secretary Margaret Hughes said that 2014 we had a near-record 43 members (including 4 honoraries who are excused from paying membership fees) and that eight lunchtime meetings were held, including the special pre-EP election briefing in April, with a total of nine speakers. Among the most memorable speakers were Professor Fawaz A Gerges on ISIS and the Middle East, Anne Applebaum on Ukraine and Russia, and Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC on the European Court of Human rights, the British constitution and the issues raised by the Scottish Independence referendum.

Election of Officers: Rick Thompson had written to propose the re-election of the Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer for another year. Seconded by David Barker, the three incumbent UK Section officers were duly re-elected.

David Lennon, 30 January 2015