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What is Brussels talking about (POLITICO Playbook edition)?

Starting Monday, I’ll be a teaching, for the second time, a two-week intensive course European Studies here in Munich, with students from Europe (including Russia), North America, South Korea and Australia.

The course is covering mostly current European politics (elections, lobbying etc.) and European policies (the crisis, migration, climate change etc.), trying to convey what is happening right now in and around Brussels from the perspective of political science.

I also try to bring in my experience from the Brussels bubble. As a former activist with the Transparency International EU Office, I’ve spent my days working on EU lobby regulation, the financing of the European Parliament elections, and for my PhD I looked into EU fisheries policy and distribution of political information across Europe.


The top 200 words in the POLITICO Brussels Playbook newsletters published 1-30 July 2015 (by*

The preparations for the course are much fun, because I’m reading loads of stuff that doesn’t cross my desk every day and I stumble over topics that have clearly run below my radar, and sometimes the radar of the rest of the bubble, too. Last year, I discovered in the preparations that the European Parliament had silently corrected the European Parliament elections turnout figures downwards, which then became news (at least in the bubble).

This year, the students of my course will get the POLITICO Brussels Playbook newsletter as obligatory reading for every day of the course, even though EU politics is rather quiet in Augusts. And POLITICO, which wasn’t around Brussels when I taught the course last year, will also be one of the topics of  one session of my course on the European Public Sphere. We’ll discuss (next week Friday, in the morning) why there are so few European media and what changes there have been in recent years to the European media landscape.

In preparation for that session, I’ve done a little Worldle of all the July Playbooks (see above), and not surprisingly Greece was the big topic this month. Interestingly, the algorithm put “SYRIZA” “WITHOUT” “POWER” right about the very dominant “GREECE” – and now I wonder whether the Wordle actually does more than just randomly place words into a frame…

So Ryan, keep your Playbooks coming during August as promised in the 24 July edition – and don’t hesitate to slip in secret algorithmic messages (like ‘Syriza without power’)  so that my students can try to find them starting Tuesday, the first day that they’ll be reading the Playbook…!

* The Wordle is based on a full copy-paste of the playbook newsletters (incl. special editions on Greece) published from 1 to 30 July, without “Birthdays”, “Deaths”, “Marriages”, “Thanks” and sponsor messages if the were put at the end of the newsletter. Common English words automatically removed by

4 Responses to What is Brussels talking about (POLITICO Playbook edition)?

  1. avatar Neerav Mehta says:

    Hi Ronny,

    I am Neerav. I came across your blog post on Google while researching about the existing techniques to create a blogging platform that helps authors write in multiple languages. In your post at, you showed what various platforms in EU are doing to solve the multilingual problem. It seems you have closed comments on that article so am commenting on your most recent article.

    We are working on a multi-lingual blogging platform, I would like to interview you and incorporate your suggestions in the software. Would you have time to talk some time over skype or google hangout?

    Thank you.


  2. avatar Pieter says:

    Hi Ronny,

    I was thinking about making the Brussels Playbook obligatory for my own course on EU Governance this Fall.
    Just curious how you used it exactly, and how it worked out.
    Maybe you could send me an email, or make a new post about it…?



  3. avatar Ronny Patz says:

    @Neerav Sorry for replying only now, your comment slipped through my radar. I’m happy to talk, am just on travels until mid-September – so if it’s not too late write me in email (see the About Me part of this blog).

  4. avatar Ronny Patz says:


    Since I was teaching a European Studies summer school with a very diverse crowd of students (some even without a social science background and half of the class not even from the EU), the first thing I did with the Playbook was to ensure that they all had a similar level of awareness for the political news of the day/the week.

    With such a diverse background, the news resources used and the students’ focus on European and global issues differed quite a bit – which was confirmed in the session on the European Public Sphere when I asked them to write down the most important bits of national, European and global news that came to their mind, and I got quite different answers.

    So the first day they received the Playbook, I actually discussed for some 15 Minutes or so what was on the news that morning, to explain the background behind some of the stories or point to the respective session when this topic would be on the agenda of the class so they knew how this was relevant.

    The other days, I didn’t spend as much time with the Playbook, which was however rather due to the slow news cycle now in the summer season, meaning that there was very little “new” news on the Playbook, with Greece/Eurocrisis and migration being the dominant topics. Since I had both on the agenda for separate sessions, I basically went back in these sessions and asked what kind of issues they had taken away from the Playbook and to start the conversation from there.

    On one or two days, I also got questions before the class on 1-2 bits of news on the Playbook that day, e.g. to understand why the conflict between Donald Tusk and the new Polish president Duda was relevant. One or two also found background reading for they essays in the Playbook, which is also nice.

    In that sense, even though I didn’t use the Playbook as actively as I had thought in advance due to the August news cycle, it helped to get a sense of synchronisation of topics for the class, a baseline of references I could make as examples in class where I knew everybody was at least basically aware and a starting resource for students when searching topics or background. Some with a stronger IR/EU studies background said they’d continue reading the Playbook afterwards.

    One of the feedbacks I got at the end was indeed that the student had hoped we’d spend a bit more time on the Playbook every day, but I suppose that’s easier if you don’t have a course that is in summer and that is packed into just two weeks. In normal season and with course stretched over a longer period of time you will have more to talk about and also get longer lines of evolution of debates (such as unfolding interinstitutional conflicts) that simply did not happen now.

    I hope this gives a hint on how I used the Playbook and what to take from that. 🙂


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