Posts Tagged "EU bubble"

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 Calzone Syndrome or How information circulates in the EU bubble

Calzone pizza fresh out of the oven

Calzone pizza fresh out of the oven

I liked Julien Frisch’s qualification of the EU bubble as “the informality sphere” in his blog posts in four parts on the Brussels bubble (see here for part 2 specifically relating to this concept).

But the concept of “informality” only reflects part of the “EU bubble’s” culture when it comes to sharing of information and influencing. A very important part, I grant you that, as it’s the part that explains you’re either in the bubble, or outside of it.

The other big facet of the EU bubble is the over-arching rule that Information is power in Brussels (and not only there, if you’ve ever worked in big structures). Getting a so-called leaked document before your enemies (or even your friends) can make a serious difference in certain cases. Choosing who you share that information with and when to.

Is it democratic and transparent? Probably not.

Is it avoidable? I seriously doubt it.

It is a cultural feature to a certain extent. A reflection of what I dubbed one day, while having lunch with a Council representative, “the Calzone syndrome”, in recognition of the impressive calzone pizza the Italian owner of the restaurant I was sitting in had just put in front of my delighted nose.

First things first:

What’s a calzone? I promise not to go into recipes in this post but it’s basically a pizza that is folded in such a manner that the only thing you see from the outside is the crust, all of the nice stuff being warmly kept inside.

What’s the link with Brussels and transparency?

Well, most people in Brussels look at information like you would think about a lovely calzone:

  1. It’s better kept hidden for as long as possible;
  2. Only two persons in the food chain have access, in principle, to what’s inside: the cook that made it, and the client that ordered it. The others just see the crust;
  3. The content is a lot more juicier than your mainstream open pizza that’s already half dry by the time it reaches your table;
  4. It’s only good if it’s hot. Quoting a pizza manual: “diving into a pale, soggy, undercooked calzone with a filling that is still cold at the center has nothing poetic about it”.

Now obviously, places like Wikileaks try to shake the Eu bubble (and beyond) out of that calzone syndrome inherent to Brussels but, I somehow doubt that it will be able to remove decades of habits and “selective” sharing that are ingrained in the Brussels arena.

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