Posts Tagged "European Parliament"

So what was the whole #digitalep thing like?

Stephen Clarke and myself looking our usual serious selves

Stephen Clarke and myself looking our usual serious selves

I had the pleasure of being invited to participate in a panel at the Centre-Edelman, in relation to the launch of their new study “The 2010 Capital Staffers Index“, which looks at the use of social media and more traditional lobbying means (e.g. writing letters, face-to-face meetings) and how they are perceived by the assistants of MPs and MEPs in the US, at the European Parliament, and in France, Germany and the UK.

I must admit that the results were not entirely surprising, except maybe for the continued attachment by French MPs to handwritten letters….I mean come one: is that a paper or a pen lobby going on?

The panel was made up of myself (for the “view of the lobbyist” touch), Stephen Clark (Head of the EP’s web comms unit, aka @stctweets) and MEP Judith Sargentini (@judithineuropa).

Everyone of us seemed to be on the same wavelength on most issues except, funnily, the fact that both Stephen and Judith disagreed with my perception that Twitter was “time-saving”. It is funny in a way that the general agreement in society at this stage still seems to be that social media induces procrastination (which is true) and this makes you waste time (which, to me, is not true). Though I know the image people have of lobbyists is that of mercenaries cruising the corridors of Parliament to convince naïve politicians with a 15 minute elevator pitch, that makes up, quite frankly, for only 20% of my time (and, by the way, they’re not that naïve). The remaining 80% are split between a lovely 5% allocated to bookkeeping and various fascinating reporting activities to clients and 75% of getting to grips with the issues that I have to advocate on. For that portion of my time, Twitter is just an extraordinary source of relevant information. Yes, it is time consuming but then doing random keyword searches and clicking on non-relevant links is even more so.

So I stand by statement that social media can be a time-saver if used well (and truly: use two screens, it will save your life)! And, by the way, procrastination is sometimes a good way to regain a form of sanity so even there, there are hidden benefits.

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The wonderful art of eloquent vagueness in Europe

Berlaymont building

Berlaymont building

After fifteen years in Brussels, I am still amazed about the ability of EU politicians and civil servants writing their speeches or consultation papers at saying nothing, but at length!

I had never been able to pinpoint the exact expression covering this art, until today. Speaking to an ex-Commission official about a speech by a Commissioner given yesterday, we both agreed that it was wonderful at saying not much, committing to even less, and basically giving in only ever so slightly to every side of the debate. But through that agreement, he made me discover the technical term covering such a masterful result: the concept of “eloquent vagueness”, or let’s call it EV from now on (not to be confused with the European Voice, the other EV in Brussels that sometimes practices eloquent vagueness too but not always).

EV is all over the place in Brussels (though in some cases, it’s only V, the eloquence being difficult to spot). It’s in the questions in a Consultation which make you wonder if the official that wrote was under the influence of illegal substances…It’s in the responses we lobbyists draft in which “We acknowledge (…) applaud (…) whilst regretting (…) and strongly believing (…) even though…”. It’s in the press releases of every EU institution (though there, I’d go for a simple V most of the time), in the oral interventions at the European Parliament, in the discussions at every corner…More than an Art, it’s a second nature of the inhabitants of the EU bubble.

Funnily, if you Google “eloquent vagueness”, the first result obtained is an entry on Wikipedia about Edgar Quinet (February 17, 1803–March 27, 1875), a French historian and intellectual, described in the the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica as follows: “His pervading characteristic, therefore, is that of an eloquent vagueness, very stimulating and touching at times, but as deficient in coercive force of matter as it is in lasting precision and elegance of form.” Now, why am I not surprised the concept is linked to a Frenchman?

The problem with EV is: as comfortable as it may be, it produces nothing…layer after layer of vagueness you end up with…a “mille-feuille” of vagueness and a serious feeling of frustration. Combine it with “political correctness” and you end up with less than nothing.

So I would like to encourage speech writers of Commissioners, spokespeople at press briefings, MEPs standing up in the hemicycle…all these wonderful people to stop the “eloquent vagueness” wave that has been overwhelming us for ages and go for something else…maybe “blunt convictions” could be an interesting alternative? Or even “funny bullsh*” would be an improvement!

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European Parliament: No, we will not! message to the US on SWIFT

I will not go in an in-depth analysis on SWIFT: I have listed some of the excellent ones done prior to today’s vote in a previous post. I will just briefly express my satisfaction at this incredible show of class by the European Parliament, and especially the Rapporteur Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, aka @JeanineHennis (though other MEPs such as Sophia in’t Veld, Jan Albrecht and Alex Alvaro and many other merit to share in the victory too).

Voting against SWIFT is one thing, but doing it so massively and across party lines is even more remarkable, as it shows that legitimate concerns for European citizens can unite the European Parliament in defending them.

One wonders yet again at the clumsiness with which the Council and European Commission (in no particular order) took care of this dossier, seemingly still oblivious of the fact that the Lisbon Treaty is changing the balance of Power in Brussels. When I talk about lobbying, I always say it boils down to 3 things, what I call the “3Ps”: People, Procedures and Power. Boy, did they get the Power bit wrong this time!

In honour of this historical decision, I couldn’t resist to dree Lino in an appropriate outfit:

Lino mimicking the attitude of the EP today facing the US, Council and Commission

Lino mimicking the attitude of the EP today facing the US, Council and Commission

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