Food for thought

by Lorenzo Piccoli

I came back to Brussels about one month ago. In this time frame I have had the chance to attend about 15 conferences. There are some recurring facts about them that I find quite interesting. First: vagueness. It is very rare to hear EU bureaucrats speaking about facts, figures, and policies. They tend to deliver rather abstract speeches about growth, solidarity, innovation, smartness… This is not always the case, but quite often.

Instead, those who are really interesting to listen to are the people working for think tanks and, perhaps worryingly, those who are British. Journalists, commentators, and even politicians from the UK are often very provocative: sometimes for the bad reasons, but always with a clear, round, and very practical point.

There are a few of other details which I find quite telling. Speaking about European bureaucrats, it has become almost impossible to go to a conference without hearing them using the expression “food for thought“. This is the perfect imagine of what is going wrong with the EU: the expression means nothing but sounds fancy, therefore people use it, therefore even more people will use it because it is becoming trendy as well.

Finally, one remark on timing. All the conferences begin perfectly in time and they end at the exact time that was foreseen on the program. The only exception is with the conferences organized by Italian regions, Italian delegates, Italian cultural centers, etc: these events always begin with a 20-minute delay and rarely end in due time.