Rashomon effect on full show in Brussels
by our secret columnist in Brussels
The aftermath of a meeting in Brussels is a perfect example of the Rashomon effect, with European Commissioners and national ministers each coming out with their own version of the truth, writes Schadenfreude
Decades ago a Japanese film was one of the few ever exhibited abroad. Rashomon was a murder mystery narrated by flashbacks of the people involved, perpetrators and witnesses. Some lied but all differed in their account of the events, just as we all bring back our recollections with a baggage of self-esteem, prejudice and preconception.
There is much Rashomon effect in Brussels. After ministerial meetings there is an official press conference where the speakers are the chairperson and the responsible European Commissioner. They begin before the press communiqué has come out. Each wants to celebrate success, including the speaker's sterling contribution to it. If there is no solid result, nonetheless a good basis has been laid for the next meeting.
Other ministers meet 'their' national press informally. There must never be a headline 'Country X outfoxed'. Ministers tell how they fought their corner, averted damage, gained ground. If something was given away, it was for the greater national – and perhaps the European Union's – good. In any case they left the others in no doubt of the strength of their positions.
The same is being said in the other national get-togethers. With rumours rife some journalists may strike a jarring note by interjecting that what they are hearing here does not match what other participants are saying. The minister smiles wryly: "Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?"
When the official communiqué appears it is bland, often a recital of where the next meeting will start from. No honours are bestowed but the implicit impression is progress – as it was last time. The meeting will usually go unreported. Sub-editors know the readership is put off by the esoterica that are meat and drink to Brussels habitués.
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