How to make the EU work for you
by our secret columnist in Brussels
British ministers appear to know little about the way the European Union is run, so Schadenfreude explains in a few easy steps how it can be made to work for their own benefit
It would represent real progress if members of the British government who have dealings with the European Union knew something about how the organisation works and how you can make it work for you. Sadly their role model, Prime Minister David Cameron, is no guide.
He has his little homilies that – when stripped of their Etonian hauteur – consist merely of telling the eurozone to fix it or nix it and be quick about it. It is hardly the most insightful of analyses, and a bit rich coming from the leader of a country in double-dip recession, in a budgetary muddle, and with a failed recovery plan.
British minsters could hardly attend any of the time-tried training classes on the subject that are on offer in the public and private sectors. To do so, even incognito, would expose them to charges of ignorance or, worse, of going European, a cardinal sin. So here is a thumbnail guide for them using the acronym DASH.
D is for discretion. When you have nothing to say, say nothing. Listen and when you speak remember the watchword of the United States marines: KISS, or Keep it Short, Stupid. Prolixity is a European habit that you should not acquire.
A is for animus negotiandi. This is a fancy Brussels word meaning, as somebody once said, we are all in it together. You may not win support for your first choice. The outcome will be a compromise. In Brussels lore the best compromise satisfies nobody. But the aggregate of fall-back preferences is better than no gains at all.
S is for sensitivity. The others round the table believe in what they are doing at least as strongly as you do. They do not want to be patronised or diminished or exposed to the superiority of your intellectual or dialectic skills. And they do not want your advice, still less any belittling of their own advocacies.
H is for hypocrisy. A little goes a long way. You praise chairpersons for their untiring efforts to reach agreements. You applaud European Commission representatives for their flexibility and valuable contributions. You commend your opposite numbers for their willingness to join in seeking the elusive compromise. You might even thank the interpreters for helping to make sense of the proceedings.
Will it get results? DASH means that you can expect to be listened to, rather than a priori disregarded. You will be an insider.
EU lacks driving force at time of greatest need
There is little dynamism in the EU, so the bold initiatives talked about have little prospect of realisation – and the problem goes deeper than the bloc's error strewn response to the economic crisis, writes our secret columnist in Brussels