Five reasons to support Investigate Europe

Journalism for a changing Europe

The founding impulse of IE was a combination of the failure of nationally biased journalism in Europe during the Euro crisis, a desire for editorial independence, and a journalistic collaboration that runs across borders and beyond the rapid nature of traditional news cycle.

We have lived another year full of unprecedented events and deepening crises. In such tumultuous times, we remain committed to provide you with solid reporting that pieces the puzzle together and demands accountability where it’s due. And we have stories to show for it.

However, impactful and critical journalism takes time and resources we do not always have. In order for us to keep up the pressure and investigate those in power, we need your help now more than ever.

Allow us to present you with five reasons to convince you to support our work:

  1. We report on issues before they make it to the top of political agendas and become a subject of public debate
  2. We connect the dots on a diverse Europe 
  3. We shed light on Brussels’ secrecy
  4. We practice what we preach
  5. We have ambitious editorial plans for 2023

Reason #1: We report on issues before they make it to the top of political agendas and become a subject of public debate. 

  • In 2019, we published an investigation into the unlimited investment power of Chinese corporations, buying out European ports and gaining control over critical infrastructure. This was three years before China’s state-owned COSCO bid to buy a majority stake at the German port of Hamburg last month, stirring a global debate over Europe’s dependency on Beijing.  
  • In early 2020 we reported on the lack of contracts to secure open access to a COVID-19 vaccine in exchange for public funding – and we did so while people were still not even talking about a vaccine to be successful. This profit based on the vaccines for all is still a huge scandal today.
  • In the beginning of 2021, we published the first journalistic in-depth report on a little-known agreement called the Energy Charter Treaty. Under the ECT, companies can legally sue European states that pull out of coal, oil or gas and thus delay crucial climate measures. Since then Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, France, Slovenia and Germany withdrew from the agreement, and thus struck its reform off the EU summit’s agenda in December 2022.
  • In the summer of 2021, we began looking into the under-reported sector of elder care corporations across Europe, their treatment of employees, residents and dubious financial operations. Our findings on one of this market’s leaders, Orpea, led to the company’s share price plummeting on the stock market. Our revelations were cited in several legal complaints against the French firm, while a police search of their headquarters followed months after our publication. 
  • When Russia invaded Ukraine, we were already researching Europe’s growing military power for months, and could quickly reveal how EU states sent arms to Russia despite embargoes in place since 2014. Following public outcry, EU lawmakers closed the loopholes, which had allowed for the trade to continue.
Credit: Alexia Barakou

These are just a few examples of how we hope to look into the future with your help.

Reason #2We connect the dots on a diverse Europe

Europe is not an easy geography to cover. Connected by a myriad of intersecting interests and global shifts, integrated like never before, it also escapes a uniform story. At a time when one country’s gain might be another one’s loss, national reporting with a one-sided focus does not represent the full picture either. IE’s mission is to deliver you journalism that does. 

Our investigative work spans at least 12 countries, with reporters who speak 10 languages and combines on-the-ground reporting with cross-border analysis. 

Why and how does this model work? Let us take the example of our investigation into the state of Europe’s railway networks. It’s undoubtedly one for a cross-border team, yet the story was really in connecting the patchwork of our countries’ individual policies.  We could reveal how Spain, France and Germany blocked a common train ticketing system at the EU level. Moreover, we showed how different national companies seal off their markets (and cross-border connections) against each other and impact each country’s approach to rail. Reporting from the ground, our research fellow Ana from Serbia and our Hungary reporter Attila focused on the Belgrade-Budapest rail connection. They discovered that the loan Hungary’s Viktor Orban’s took from China to build it, would become profitable only after 1000 years. A story on geopolitics, economic shifts, and citizens that bear the brunt, in the whole of Europe. 

As our world is increasingly interconnected as well as more polarised, the journalism of today has to reflect this reality.

Reason #3We shed light on Brussels’ secrecy

In December 2022, the EU parliament was shaken by a massive corruption scandal. Bags of cash, criminal charges, allegations of Qatar buying influence with

European politicians. Behind the headlines, lies a more serious systemic problem: a lack of transparency, and major lobbying loopholes, that make the EU bodies vulnerable to corruption and influence.

It is our duty, as journalists, to challenge this secrecy. After two years of investigating the EU’s main executive (and most secretive) body – the Council of the European Union and its working groups, we are convinced of how necessary this fight is.

Decisions made by European governments in the Council affect us all, and will have an impact on the generations to come. Be it effective climate measures, freedom of movement or market control over digital giants like Facebook or Amazon, thousands of unnamed diplomats negotiate and pass or block key legislation in secret, behind-closed-door proceedings. 

Even though it’s EU countries’ representatives, it’s almost impossible to follow positions they make on our behalf and hold them to account both at home and in Brussels. As a team with a strong foothold in Europe’s biggest democracies, last year we decided that strengthening our reporting muscle in the EU’s headquarters was a must. We follow several key laws blocked in the Council right now, provide European legislative background to all our different investigations, but we also keep an eye on current political developments discussed by national cabinets. Like the December 2022 mega deal that involved billions of euros of EU funds for Hungary being suspended due to its democratic backsliding, which our reporters from Brussels and Budapest commented on jointly bringing the two perspectives, European and national. 

A democratic Europe has to be founded on transparency. In lawmaking, lobby regulations, and monitoring potential conflicts of interests. We keep on fighting for it – in reporting and if necessary also in front of courts – and are grateful for your support in this important struggle. 

Reason #4We practice what we preach

Many journalists work as lone wolves in constant competition with each other; instead at Investigate Europe journalists act as a pack working closely together to hold those in power to account. Whilst commercial logic dictates competition, IE’s approach is based on cooperation and sharing – within the team and within the broader ecosystem of public interest media in Europe. 

Our model is unique in many ways. We are a cooperative and we act as one. We are proud that our organizational set-up is based on a cooperative mode in which people, not capital, are the main protagonists and stakeholders – independent from advertising money. 

This cooperative spirit not only translates into how we work with our media partners, it is at the heart of who we are. It is truly cross-border and collaborative from start to finish. It is national and pan-European at the same time. Our journalism starts at a national level, in the second phase IE team members work as a pan-European team, and in the final phase each member produces a piece of journalism that appears in both their national media and on our multilingual website. 

IE’s biggest asset are its people. The current editorial team consists of experienced and brilliant investigative journalists and reporters, as well as a dynamic outreach and operations team from 12 countries – Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Ours is a multinational team of varied cultures, languages, and ways of working. It is this complexity that gives Investigate Europe its soul.  

By owning our journalism and running IE as a European cooperative, we are setting up a whole new alternative to the current media landscape. We aim to continue developing our cooperative governance model based on horizontal, democratic decision-making and successfully working together to achieve common purpose. 

Reason #5:  We have ambitious editorial plans for 2023

For one of the first big cross-border projects of the year, we plan to dissect Europe’s growing problem with waste. As Turkey has joined China in refusing to accept our shipments of rubbish, what happens to the waste trade within Europe? Whose interests are at stake, and which countries might be profiting or losing out on the shifting landscape? We are committed to finding answers for you.

We will continue to report on energy and other issues of geopolitical importance. We will highlight more issues around Europe’s dependency on fossil fuels in the year ahead. And this week we published our first stories of 2023, detailing the EU’s latest energy fever: LNG. As the embargo on oil shipments from Russia kicked in, new installments of our Fueling war investigation are to come. And we will continue to check the global footprint of Perenco, Europe’s self-proclaimed “biggest independent private oil and gas company”.

The fight for transparency and the right of journalists to scrutinise powerful actors will keep us busy this year. Our Brussels team will keep an eye on what happens with key legislation in the Council of the EU. In parallel, our editorial director, Elisa Simantke, is directly involved in the struggle to regain public access to the transparency registers of beneficial owners across Europe. Many of these registers were recently shut down following a ruling in the European Court of Justice. That was a big blow for our reporters, who used them to follow the money and track individuals behind companies.

Investigative journalism is about safeguarding your right to know who makes decisions that impact on your life. That is why we take the time to dig deep, but also to fight for more transparency in decision-making, and for the freedom to expose issues that many would prefer to cover up.

Thank you for supporting us in this struggle.