Posts Tagged "Brussels"

When Brussels keeps us stuck in hotels for one Conference after the other

A scene from hell

A scene from hell

It always seems that, as Christmas break draws nearer, all conference organisers decide to set up event after event, just to make sure we end the year spending more time in the lobbies of Brussels hotels than at our office desk (or any other useful place, for that matter)…Could it be that it is to remind us why we are called “lobbyists”? If that’s the case, could we please rename the profession to “beddists” (not buddhists) so that we can spend the cold winter months in bed?

ECTA Conference on the wonders of regulation and competition in the telecoms sector, Data Protection conference on why it is important for Europe and its Member States to protect our privacy, Data Retention conference on why it is important for Europe and its Member States to make private companies store lots of stuff in case they feel like breaching our privacy, Ecommerce Conference to explain the wonders an online single market could bring to our economy if only there was one (well, a functioning one)…all of that bundled in one week.

And you know the sad part: at none of these events did I hear (when I attended with my brain on) or read (when someone was kind enough to spare me the need to participate by sending me notes) anything new…nothing…zippo…nada. Europe talks about innovation ad nauseam but why can’t it’s policy makers try to be innovative? OK, that may be asking a bit much so let’s be slightly less ambitious: how come on issues like telecoms, ecommerce, data privacy and data retention we find ourselves listening to the “solutions & views” of 5 different DG’s? Wouldn’t you expect policy-making on a rather “big thing” like the online ecosystem (buzzword alert but needed to place it somewhere after hearing it a zillion times) to be slightly more…centralised? well-thought? coherent? Oh, and while we’re at it: I am not sure that rules should be different online and offline. I actually am pretty sure of the contrary except for one major aspect: applicable law. But that is something I leave for my musings on Lobbynomics, as this blog must remain my place to rant!

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Why Brussels needs its Onion, imho

I like writing imho, as people using that expression are generally very unlikely to have a humble bone in their body :) but at least, they have an opinion!

People think that Brussels is this bubble far removed from reality where every legislative act takes 3 painful years to move along the co-decision omnibus train (you know, the one that is slow and stops at every station?)…and they are right to a certain extent. But Brussels is also a city of power and politics, a mixture that rarely breeds calm and serene atmospheres. It is is finally a city of institutions and procedures, a combination that induces and fosters many frustrations and in some cases, utter boredom with a thin veneer of cynical humour.

How appalling you must think at this stage! Well not at all: to me, Brussels is the perfect breeding ground for a new satirical newspaper (except I’m of the generation where paper seems odd and it being satirical, you can hardly associate it to news). I’m a great fan of The Onion in the States, and have thus cooked up the idea to start something similar in Brussels.

So here is the big announcement: at a time where the press keeps on reporting about the journos leaving Brussels, a new “newspaper” is born in Brussels and it’s called: “The Brussels Jungle – No Trees, lots of Monkeys“.

The logo of The Brussels Jungle

The logo of The Brussels Jungle

This newspaper will report pieces that stem only from the writers’ imagination, the greatest difficulty so far having been that reality in Brussels often surpasses what imagination could come up with. The editorial guidelines are a work in progress, and submissions are invited by anyone that feels inspired, either under their own name or a pen name.

So eurobloggers, journos, creative civil servants, bored politicians, inspired lobbyists, all you out there that make up what constitues the EU bubble, start reading The Brussels Jungle and, even better, start sending in your contributions!

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The L word, part 3

Picture from Burson Marsteller website

Picture from Burson Marsteller website

As I mentioned in part 2 of my “The L word” rant, I was pleased by the results put together by Burson Marsteller and PSB this year following a survey they conducted on the effectiveness and perception of EU lobbying, the results of which were issued in powerpoint format in August by the German office and as a full “Guide to Effective Lobbying in Europe“  in October 2009 by the Brussels office, with European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas as keynote speaker.

Why?

I actually smiled when I read the coverage of these results by EUobserver, in an article by Leigh Phillips titled “Fancy lobby receptions don’t work, say Brussels politicians“. I smiled because this article seemed to consider that the fact MEPs and other EU lobby targets do not enjoy a “wine and dine approach” was a “counterintuitive and startling conclusion” (sic.).

It’s been personally my impression for years, but it’s nice to be able to refer my clients to these study results to alleviate the pressure of some, that still believe Brussels decision-makers have nothing better to do in the evenings then raid cocktail receptions in a  desperate quest for free food. Or that chatting casually with a glass of white wine in one hand, a canapé of foie gras in the other, a napkin squeezed beneath and crumbles of toast at the corner of one’s mouth, is the most efficient manner to (1) convince someone of an issue at an hour of the day where he/she would like to talk about anything but his/her day job and (2) in a location filled with noise, hysterical bursts of laughter and eavesdroppers.

It is true that if you want to live off mediocre wine / orange juice / sparkling whatever every evening and a selection of shrimps / mini-quiches / salmon toasts, you have every opportunity to do so in the EU bubble, as every evening and every lunch offers its choice of reception and events to attend.

But at the end of the day, decision makers want to hear your arguments, and noise-filled places are just not the appropriate location for that exercise.

So what should you do to be an efficient lobbyist?

Well part of the recipe is outlined in Burson Marsteller’s reports:

(c) Burson Marsteller and PSB

(c) Burson Marsteller and PSB

1. BE TRANSPARENT, KNOW YOUR STUFF, AIM AT THE MOON BUT BE PREPARED TO SETTLE FOR A STAR

I do not understand why a lobbyist would not divulge who he/she is representing when talking to others. Does anyone think a lobbyists would meet them just on their own, with no one asking him/her to do so? Same thing with the myth that a lobbyists is someone you give a 2-pager and tell him/her to repeat it at nauseam to anyone willing to listen (and many unwilling souls too). If that’s your approach, you’d better start praying no one asks questions or, worse, challenges your “messenger”. And finally, and it’s often the biggest issue when discussing with clients: Brussels is about managing the nuances of gray. We don’t do white, we try to avoid black, but we excel at discovering the multiple facets of gray. So no one wins, many can lose…

2. IF YOU WOULDN’T BUY IT, THEY WON’T EITHER.

I guess you could say EU decision makers are like animals or babies in one respect (and only one, be reassured): they sense it if you’re not sincere. And it takes ages to get a good reputation in Brussels but only seconds to rip it apart!

So if I agree partially with this bit of the movie “Thank you for smoking”:

I definitely do not share this approach to lobbying:

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