Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

January Books 10) Machiavelli in Brussels

10) Machiavelli in Brussels: The Art of Lobbying the EU, by Rinus van Schendelen (.co.uk, .com)

This is a pretty comprehensive description of how policies are made and legislation passed in the European Union, and of how an organised group of people can best hope to influence the process. I found particularly fascinating the description of the various semi-official or non-official bodies that are involved with the policy process in most areas where the EU has power; as a foreign policy person myself, a lot of these simply aren't relevant to me, but it does explain what an awful lot of the people I see wandering past my office or at the next table in the restaurant are doing. I also very much liked his characterisation of the different national styles of operating - the French tendency to concentrate on getting their people rather than their policies in place, the British tendency to be the bad boys in negotiation, the Germans' difficulty with coordination between different levels of their own government, the Italians' combination of charm with ineffectiveness, etc. How close this is to reality is of course for the reader to judge.

Van Schendelen's two main conclusions are, first, that the key to being effective in the EU is to know what you are doing and to do it well - sound advice in any setting, but he explores how you can find out what you should be doing, and how you can do it better, in considerable detail - and second, that EU lobbying is an essential part of European democracy. I think he claims too much on the second point. I certainly agree with his description of the Brussels policy process as being surprisingly open and transparent, provided that you know where to look and who to talk to. But that is quite a far cry from the accountability to the wider public which is surely key to an active democracy.

Unfortunately, the book is written in appalling English. I do not say this lightly. It's not just the recurrent management-speak of jargon phrases which are used frequently but never explained - "feedforward", "window-in and window-out", and most bafflingly "U-turn" apparently used to mean some sort of deceptive practice. It's not just the irritating habit of italicising one or two words, apparently chosen at random, in the first sentence of every paragraph (curiously reminiscent of that spoof travel guide to the fictional country of Molvania published a couple of years ago). It's the fact that the sentences are tortuously and often ungrammatically constructed, with frequent irritating use of the word "hardly", where "amper" would be appropriate in Dutch, but a completely different construction is needed in English. It is a shame that the academic publishers responsible for this volume did not take the trouble to have it edited by a competent native English speaker.
Tags: bookblog 2007, eu
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