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Damanaki has a strategy but no plan – #EUfail

How does the EU do politics? You can best see it in a speech that Maritime Affairs Commissioner Damanaki held to today in Lisbon.

The speech starts with a big announcement:

… the Atlantic plays a critical role in Europe’s history and identity. It is of vital importance for EU trade and contains tremendous potentials for the future development of Europe.

It was time to act and to offer new perspectives for this sea basin. The Maritime Strategy for the Atlantic region is our response.

Then it continues with an ambitious timeline promising swift results:

What can we expect from the Atlantic Ocean in 2020 if our proposal is in place? Can we make a difference in nine years time? I believe we can.

And then it destroys it with bureaucratic self-entertainment:

“… we will set up an Atlantic Forum. It will gather opinions, digest them and deliver an Action Plan fo [sic] the beginning of 2013. The Action Plan must have concrete ideas for turning our vision into reality.

So the strategy is to have a new forum. The ambitious timeline means that out of the nine years to deliver the results, one further year is need to first create a new consultative structure that (hopefully) will be able to come up with a plan that may then start to be implemented in 2013.

That doesn’t sound like a bold strategy, that sounds like delaying tactics.

And nowhere in the speech there is any reference to what added value the EU has in all this, which things should be dealt with on the national or regional level instead of wasting time on the EU level with issues the Union doesn’t have the funds and structures to deal with – proven by the necessity for a new Forum.

That’s not EU politics, that’s EU waste of time – and one can already see it in the speech.

6 Responses to Damanaki has a strategy but no plan – #EUfail

  1. avatar Craig Willy says:

    I see two factors determining the vacuous nature of commissioners’ speeches:
    1) She can’t dictate anything. She can either go rogue and make a strong proposal (likely to be shot down) or try to build consensus for a proposal (what these bureaucratic consultation nightmares are about).
    2) There are far, far more commissioners than there are actual roles for politicians to make big speeches about. (Problems of redundancy and lack of community competence/budget.)

    These two factors inevitably make it difficult for most commission pontifications to contain anything noteworthy.

  2. avatar Ronny Patz says:

    The problem I see is that the institutions with all these side-activities divert attention from where they actually can bring added value. This speech was just an example of how the institutions are unable to do that.

    And this is not because there are too many portfolios, it’s because there is the lack of political will/strength to focus.

    I can’t see who do you win with such a speech, one that start with a huge balloon and ends with a tiny rubber ball. If I was anyone involved in maritime business and I had heard this speech, would I in any way care what the EU has to do? Would I have any confidence that my input/my involvement would be any good for me or for whomever I am engaged?

    It’s just a pity to see EU resources wasted in this way…

  3. avatar Craig Willy says:

    “And this is not because there are too many portfolios, it’s because there is the lack of political will/strength to focus.”
    Can you detail this?

    As to “waste of resources”, a speech costs nothing but the time of the speaker and its eventual listeners.. Well, after a certain point there may be a cost to credibility, but I don’t know that many people have heard of or expect much from a typical commissioner like Damanaki.

  4. avatar Ronny Patz says:

    The argument is the following:

    As the portfolios are as many as they are, the main task should be to see what the core issues are that each of these portfolios should deal with, issues where they can deliver or where they can fail. However, I have the feeling that in order to prove their necessity, every possible issue is taken up by the portfolios. By having many issues, one proves that one is doing something. By having many issues to deal with, you will always have a minor thing were you will either succeed or where the success can anyway only come with the next Commission or even later. So having an overly large number of issues even if the impact and added value is minimal – as in the case of the Atlantic Strategy – keeps you pseudo-busy and in the end you can always blame your failure in important matters on the amount of work you had to do with so few staff.

    And then a single speech may just cost the time for preparation and the travel costs, but this speech stands for a lot of wasted work, at working level, at high administrative and at political level. And even worse: The speech shows that this wasted work doesn’t even pay of but only leads to more self-distraction, such as the creation as yet another consultative forum with boring panels and useless workshop without the involvement of those who actually produce innovation (because they are busy innovating if at all).

    So the speech just embodies how the Union fails quite often: It fails in communicative action as the speech is not convincing, it fails in focus as no real added value can be found in a lot of its actions and it fails in procedure by creating a plethora of fora without real creative input or support for implementation. One bad speech than equals hundreds of hours of time wasted on bad actions.

  5. avatar Craig Willy says:

    I was more thinking of your claim that “political will” was what was needed for a Commissioner to achieve something. No doubt that is required but I am very struck by how weak they really are, typically requiring consensus and having no budget to speak of. Of course this depends on the portfolio and a Commissioner can “go rogue” from time to time, although I wonder how often this is effective.

    I agree these workshops/panels etc are pointless. That is another way of saying the EU itself is often pointless (!). It more often than not is reduced to pretending it has a policy or pretending that it is a/the focal point of decision-making on a given issue. This embarrassing situation is partly inevitable given the Union’s actual powers, partly due to having Commissioners given “responsibility”/speech-time in areas of weak community competence.


    That said, there are lots “pointless” panel discussions in all politics, as you will always have more speakers than their are actors.

  6. avatar Ronny Patz says:

    My point was that it needs political will to focus, to set clear priorities and to be clear where the EU-level can be of added value. Whether this means that more is achieved – who knows. But at least less effort is wasted where it is clear that it will be wasted.

    And sure there’s a lot of useless stuff in all policies, but that doesn’t mean we should except this as given. 😉

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