Interviews with EU insiders. Some quotes

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A couple of months we have walked the streets of Brussels now. Talking to folks working in the Brussels bubble brings new insights. We have talked to a correspondent, a freelance writer, a IT coordinator and a lobbyist.  The coming weeks you can expect two more conversations. One with a lobbyist, and one with somebody who is trying to monitor this lobbying business.

To give an oversight, down here a collection of quotes from our interviews so far. You can read the interviews in full, with more context, by clicking on the link at the end of the quote. The idea is to focus on the media and lobbying sector for the coming months. From there, we will see what happens. My guess is these sectors are pretty important to pay attention to right now.

Everyday a lobbyist can postpone legislation, he earns a million more for the company. Their own bonuses continue as well. Its a game of delaying. A couple of months more, a year more, two years maybe. Its a game. – Lobbyist, working in Brussels.

 

You have a couple of big banks with one goal: world domination. In 1981 the Americans cut AT&T in pieces. There comes a moment when this happens to the banks as well. Its just a story of competition. That is what’s going on in Brussels right now as well. – Lobbyist, working in Brussels.

 

You have a couple of intellectuals, but most of them just think about the next election, their constituents and hopefully not to much about their own bank account. But, also those folks are present. – Lobbyist, working in Brussels, on politicians in Brussels.

 

One of the positive notes on the lobby and PR sector is that the sector and its budgets have been growing enormously. If you look at the big companies in the transparency register, some of them are not making big profits, but the majority of them show growth and some of them even doubled their budgets. It’s now or never. If you can’t sell your case right now, you are worth nothing. – Lobbyist, working in Brussels.

 

Its the only thing we have right now. You are not obliged to register yourself, so in that sense you can raise questions about it. But making it manditory doesn’t solve the problem either, my guess is. There is no capacity to do something with all the information. – Lobbyist, working in Brussels, on the transparancy register for lobbyists.

 

First of all you have people from different kind of administrative cultures here. Second, you have people who were used to work in other structures, like that of the Commission or the Council. Then you have people who where transferred directly from their Ministry into this building. You have people who have been put into leading positions without any training. All these different cultures with different languages are mixed up together. What a Frenchman says in English, is not what a Dutchman or Spaniard would say. So, you have a problem of interpretation as well. – IT coordinator, working in Brussels.

 

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EU Insider in Brussels. A chat with a lobbyist, part 2.

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We continue where we left of yesterday. A conversation with a lobbyist about the culture of lobbying, moral guilt, life in Brussels and more. You can read part 1 of this interview here.

Was there one specific moment that made you decide to step out?

There was not one specific moment. I had set an ultimatum for myself. If it’s not improving, I thought, I would go looking for something else. At first, I didn’t find anything. I was offered a couple of jobs as well, but rejected them. In the financial world you have a couple of organizations where heavy conflictual situations are not part of the daily routine. The world of creditcard companies for instance is completely different than the world of investment banks who are in the business of making money with money. On a certain moment I just stepped out. My backup plan was to pick up my studies again. In the end I found my spot at an organization with refreshing ideas.

How would you describe the lobby culture in the financial world?

It’s changing, but within the financial world you have a lot of alpha males with  high levels of testosterone. Its a certain character of people. When you look at backgrounds in terms of education its quite arbitrary. People start working in the business when they are 25 years old and their salary is high. You go home with the idea that you’ve lost 1 billion Euros, but can compensate it by making the same amount next day. You lose every feeling of its value, of what a society should be and what important is in life. Its about making money. The bonuses they receive are not particular spend wise, so to say. At an investment bank the formula is simple. Bonuses are divided according to three factors. Yourself, the team and the company. Very meritocratic. Often 30 procent is for the individual. It stimulates the competition. It influences the atmosphere. Not meant in a positive way.

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Questions for a lobbyist

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Lobbying is a big issue in Europe. Questions have been raised about the influence of corporate lobbyists in Brussels. Here you can find an interesting interactive map of the buildings in Brussels where lobby firms reside.

We will talk with a lobbyist in about 2 weeks from now. Is lobbying wrong? No it isn’t, i guess. Is the amount of influence lobbyists have on the political process wrong? Maybe. But what amount is good then? None? 10, or 20 Percent? Can you even talk this way about lobbying and its influence?

Lots of questions. I started to make a list for myself. I want to know how a workday looks like. How do you interact with a politician? Etcetera.. Do you have a good question i can add to my list? Share it, and you will find your answer when i publish the convo.  DM or Tweet via twitter @insideEUblog, comment, or send me an e-mail at insideeuropeblog [at] gmail.com.

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