If one wants to know more about communications processes and independencies, well-informed journalist are vital source of information for a researcher. I am fortunate to have had the chance to discuss the issues followed in this blog with one of the most knowledgeable journalists about lobbying in the EU, who in addition has more than 15 years of experience in Brussels.
In his opinion is it way to much to ask of the EP to cope with the increasingly complicated matters of EU policy making. The primary reason for this inability is the incompetence of its scientific service and the lack of specialized expertise. This leads to a situation where MEPs charged with a report depend on outside expertise to fulfil their duties. In the more established policy areas, such outside expertise is provided in form of additional staff, which is paid via consulting contracts by vested interests. Also, being a lawyer by training is beneficial for an MEP because he than in not obliged to reveal his clients. Those clients on the other hand might well be related to a burning political interest of the same MEP in particular detailed political questions.
Since we already know that personal contacts are important, the above assessment leads to the a reminder that contacts and connections often are based on loyalty networks and dependencies.
If one compares the current situation with the situation before the “Kinnock-Reforms” had been pursued, individual COM officials are nowadays more insecure. The reason is the new staff evaluation system, which presumably cripples motivation and leads to insecurity. As observed by my contact, COM officials are increasingly interested in gaining recognition outside the COM.
In terms of policy making, a higher dependency on allies characterizes the COMs political initiatives. This in turn increases the chances for lobbies to influence policy initiatives.
Communication networks in Brussels work on three different levels. It is not only EU-Speak, the jargon of policy people, but rather a phenomenon that may be described as triple speak. It depends on the level of knowledge a listener has, if he understands only the openly expressed jargon message or the sub-textual messages referring to the network of interests or the personal relationships concerned.
Especially the personal level of communication seems to be important in an environment where most of the actors are expatriates that share similar private activities, such as school for children, sport, etc.