The EU’s Environment Agenda 2018

Yesterday, the Commission published their 2018 Work Programme.

I was anxious. I was at the airport when the proposals were adopted.  An airport departure gates is not the best place to digest a bulky set of new proposals. I need not have worried.

The Commission’s Work Programme for 2018 is a master-piece in brevity.  It looks like half through his mandate, President Juncker is shutting up shop. He has slashed the amount of proposals from the Commission by around 80% and delivered on 80% of his priorities. By the end of 2018 he’ll surely have hit 100%.

The Work programme is slim on the Environment  front. Reference is made to developing the battery infrastructure, evaluating the 2012 bio-economy strategy, including broadening the scope, but it is not developed.

The existing legislative programme continues and there were no repeals or withdrawals on the environment front. This means the circular economy package upgrading the following existing legislative updating continues:

  • Directive 2000/53/EC on end of-life vehicles
  • Directive 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators
  • Directive 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment
  • Directive 2008/98/EC on waste
  • Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste
  • Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste

From a 20 year historical perspective, the work load is emaciated.

Indeed, whether these proposals land up coming out the door is another thing. They’ll still have secure a positive impact assessment before the May 2018 deadline. After that, it appears people will have to wait until 2020 and a new Commission before anything new will  be tabled.

Recalling the lessons outlined by J.Kingdon (see here), my best advice is to start preparing now for the next Commission, with clear and persuasive briefings for any new legislation/measures you may want. They start work on 1 November 2019 so  you have the time to prepare. Indeed, as all outgoing Commission’s do, they will hand over a whole set of ideas for initiatives to the next Commission. Work on that will start the summer of 2018. Then Mr. Barnier and his new team can choose their new agenda.


2018 Work Programme

Item 1

  • Strategy on plastics use, reuse and recycling – non-legislative – end of Q4 2017
  • Proposal for a Regulation on Waste Water Reuse – legislative – end Q4 2017
  • REFIT Revision of the Drinking Water Directive – legislative – end Q4 2017
  • Monitoring framework for the Circular Economy – non legislative, Q4 2017
  • Communication to address legal, technical or practical bottlenecks at the interface of chemical, product and waste – non-legislative – Q4 2017

Item 2

  • Proposal for a Multi-annual Financial Framework beyond 2020 (Q2 2018) followed by proposals for the next generation of programmes and new own resources – legislative,  Q2 2018

Item 3

  • Reflection Paper ‘Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030’ on the follow-up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change –non-legislative Q2 -2018

I have listed the Commission’s finances (Item 2)  as this will be the biggest issue. The EU can no longer balance their books. They need to cut spending to deal with Brexit by 15% and to balance the books by 30%.  Tough decisions will need to be taken.


This light work load will have two obvious impacts:

First, MEPs will have a lot more time to review delegated legislative proposals.

Second,  Member States will introduce national measures in place and ignore the European order.


21 things and more to consider before you set up your lobbying office in Brussels

Recently a friend asked about setting up their organisation in Brussels.  I came back with 21 things to take into account.
  1.   Only set up in Brussels  as a lobbying shop. K Street is only in DC for a reason. Belgium is not cheap.
  2.  Use the following technology and services: Fiscal note (or evernote if your budget is smaller), Vote Watch and EU Issue Tracker. Artificial Intelligence  will make your job better. Use it.
  3.  Before you do anything  use vote watch. They’ll tell you who your winning coalition is.
  4.  Stay out of the office and meet people. Fiscal note allows you to run a war room online.
  5.  Your lobbyists are not bureaucrats so hire only good lobbyists with a real track record. They are hard to find.
  6.  80/20: spend your money on campaigns and winning votes and not on bricks and mortar staff.
  7.  Use experts when needed but you don’t need them on staff. Or have them back in the HQ.
  8.  Location, location, location – it really counts. The Norwegians know it, they are next door to the Commission HQ.
  9.  Know the rules, keep up with the changes, and understand how they really work. Very few lobbyists do.
  10.  Stop wasting your time preaching to the converted win over the switchers
  11.  Your job is to win majorities  so don’t waste your time appeasing your allies. If you spend your time saying what your organisation says to itself, you are likely to lose.
  12.  Know the rules of procedure for the various legislative procedures. It is shocking that  only a few people seem to.
  13.  Only a few people really make the key decisions, so know they are, and who advise them. Adapt your language and message to what will appeal to them. Again, it is amazingly effective.
  14.  Work with the press, be seen as the  first port of call for comment, analysis, and background. Answer their calls. Try using plain English.
  15.  Avoid internal meetings like the plague. We live in a world where a  good laptop, data connection, can have you and your team as remote nomads. Your job is to meet and win votes and not take minutes in internal meetings.
  16.  Data doesn’t lie so use  it. Just because someone says they can back you, doesn’t mean they’re going to. If you look at how they voted on the same  or similar issue in the past, all too often the truth will be revealed.
  17.  Keep the mother ship fully informed 24/7.  They are paying the bills, so send them plans, regular reports, and answer their calls whenever they call.
  18.  Focus on a few key things and don’t try and be the master of everything. No-one is going to believe you’re the best at everything.
  19.  Make sure that your lobbyists are experts in a few fields.  Have point people to work  with the Parliament, Council, Perm Reps and the Commission.  Make sure your lobbyists are team players,  versatile when needed, and most of all like people. A  good lobbyist must work across political and national lines. It helps if they have served their time inside one of the institutions, but avoid political placement, or  a stagaire,  who in my experience mainly specialised in advanced privileged partying.
  20.  Make sure the lines of communication and accountability in your organisation do not cross and are clear. If your office  spends most of its time competing with the mothership or affiliates about who does what,  something is seriously wrong.
  21. You’re a lobbying shop for your organisation. Your job is to clearly communicate with politicians and civil servants. The ability to speak, listen and write clearly is vital. I place the ability to “listen” at the top. A politician and civil servant will tell you everything you want if you really listen.

I have received some good suggestions from readers. I have added them below and added my comments in italics.

22.  Know why you are in Brussels and focus. Set regulatory/legislative/policy/political objectives that will support your organization’s strategy and focus your tactical efforts on these. This makes a lot of sense to me. A lot of organisations try to be all things to all men and their identity becomes very foggy.
23. Be able to adapt. If your “best case scenario” objectives turn out to be unreachable, you must be able to work on the basis of a second best or third best scenario. Makes a lot of sense to me. I always plan on the basis of the reasonable worst case scenario. Even on 1 May 1997 I thought Labour would not win a working majority.

Why Principles & Data can help you predict who will win the vote

Use Data and not hunches

In  Ray Dallio’s “Principles” he talks about the use of data and computers to enhance good decisions. It is something that I think political campaigners and lobbyists should try.

Today, it is not used much in lobbying and political campaigning.  People prefer hunches, intuition or what I suspect, too often, making it up on the fly.
The tools exist. For a long while I have used the data flow from EUVotewatch.  On one of most successful political campaigns the data gleamed from previous similar votes was a vital tool in designing a winning campaign.
Look at the trends
A word of warning.  Historical data does not predict future votes of politicians. It is a useful indicator, but politicians are not robots. Events shape their decisions, and they change their minds.
It helps to understand the context of the vote and the events surrounding a vote. They are vital indicators. Shaping the events and the thinking on the vote is vital.
We are not in a realm of plug in the data and predict the result. There are though vital trends that can be learned.
97% of laws made this way and most people ignore it
The area I have most used EU Vote Watch is for comitology.
I have, what my friends tell me,  is an unhealthy interest in comitology/ delegated legislation. I have had the interest for more than 20 years. I enjoy it because it accounts for about 97% or more EU legislation and very few people in Brussels  are interested in it.
I looked at last week’s vote in the European Parliament against proposed scientific criteria put forward for the determination of endocrine disrupting properties in pesticides. It is a file I have worked on for a long time and work on today.
Getting a challenge through the EP is always tough. Securing 376 votes is a deliberately high hurdle.
The Green/Social Democrat motion passed. It got through with 389 for, 235 against, and 70 abstained.
Why did they succeed?
But, the real question is why get this many votes.
What was very smart about this challenge is how the proposers  played it. There was little discussion about the about endocrine disruptors. Instead, the objection was framed to what really concerns MEPs, namely “Parliamentary privilege the rule of law and the Commission exceeding the law”.
Listening to Bas Eeckhout MEP (Greens/Netherlands) explain his case was tantamount to getting a condensed lecture from the late Tom Bighmam on the Rule of Law.
This must have head the NGOs, who had crusaded on the public health issue, gnashing at the teeth.
But, it was the right call, and the figures prove it.
A roll call vote on Recital P “P.  whereas, in accordance with long-standing case law, the adoption of regulatory elements that are essential to a given matter is reserved to the EU legislature and may not be delegated to the Commission” went through.
This went through with overwhelming support.
It went through with support from most of the groups, except the ECR, who were split.
Parliaments throughout Europe have been in struggle against the Executive for centuries. They guard their hard won privileges. They have been battling against the Council and Commission on delegated legislation since 1979.
The data show most politicians have this DNA built into them. The substantive issues of the rule of law and protection of Parliament’s privileges are more important than the technical issue at hand.
This is the vital lesson on what really counts.

What can a self made multi-billionaire teach you about lobbying

I have just listened to Ray Dallio‘s book “Principles”.

He  is the founder of the investment management firm Bridgewater.

His investment funds has done well. It has made him, his employees and clients wealthy, very wealthy.

He is in the process of writing down his principles.  He has kindly written out his “model” for making decisions.

Dallio is direct. Some people think he is too direct. He embraces an ideal of radical honesty and transparency. I can see how some people find these principles tough. I am fortunate. I like it. I had a Danish boss when I was young. You like it or leave.


Can you use a billionaire’s principles for  lobbying and political campaigning?

I have listed some of the ideas that I find directly relevant for political campaigning and lobbying.

The whole basic of hyperrealism seems core but is too often absent in political campaigning and lobbying. Hope is a great slogan, but it is not a political strategy.

Looking beyond the first order consequences and considering the second and third order impacts needs to be sidelined. All too often, I have learned in more than 25 years of political campaigning  and lobbying, if you ask for everything, you lose everything. Politics is the art of the compromise and if you don’t, you risk loosing everything.

The whole use of AI, computers and data, is perhaps the most undeveloped area in lobbying. In political campaigning, it is more evolved, had a huge impact in the UK’s Brexit campaign. “The Victory Lab” explores this.

Over time, I’ll look at his principles in terms of political campaigning and lobbying, and write up.


1. Embrace Reality and Deal with It
1.1 Be a hyperrealist.
a. Dreams + Reality + Determination = A Successful Life.
1.2 Truth—or, more precisely, an accurate understanding of reality
—is the essential foundation for any good outcome.
1.3 Be radically open-minded and radically transparent.
a. Radical open-mindedness and radical transparency are
invaluable for rapid learning and effective change.
b. Don’t let fears of what others think of you stand in your way.
c. Embracing radical truth and radical transparency will bring
more meaningful work and more meaningful relationships.
1.4 Look to nature to learn how reality works.
a. Don’t get hung up on your views of how things “should” be
because you will miss out on learning how they really are.
b. To be “good” something must operate consistently with the
laws of reality and contribute to evolution of the whole; that
is what is most rewarded.
c. Evolution is the single greatest force in the universe; it is the
only thing that is permanent and it drives everything.
d. Evolve or die.
1.5 Evolving is life’s greatest accomplishment and its greatest
a. The individual’s incentives must be aligned with the group’s
b. Reality is optimizing for the whole—not for you.
c. Adaptation through rapid trial and error is invaluable.
d. Realize that you are simultaneously everything and nothing
—and decide what you want to be.
e. What you will be will depend on the perspective you have.
1.6 Understand nature’s practical lessons.
a. Maximize your evolution.
b. Remember “no pain, no gain.”
c. It is a fundamental law of nature that in order to gain
strength one has to push one’s limits, which is painful.
1.7 Pain + Reflection = Progress.
a. Go to the pain rather than avoid it.
b. Embrace tough love.
1.8 Weigh second- and third-order consequences.
1.9 Own your outcomes.
1.10 Look at the machine from the higher level.
a. Think of yourself as a machine operating within a machine
and know that you have the ability to alter your machines to
produce better outcomes.
b. By comparing your outcomes with your goals, you can
determine how to modify your machine.
c. Distinguish between you as the designer of your machine
and you as a worker with your machine.
d. The biggest mistake most people make is to not see
themselves and others objectively, which leads them to
bump into their own and others’ weaknesses again and again.
e. Successful people are those who can go above themselves to see
things objectively and manage those things to shape change.
f. Asking others who are strong in areas where you are weak to help
you is a great skill that you should develop no matter what, as it will
help you develop guardrails that will prevent you from doing what
you shouldn’t be doing.
g. Because it is difficult to see oneself objectively, you need to
rely on the input of others and the whole body of evidence.
h. If you are open-minded enough and determined, you can
get virtually anything you want.
2 Use the 5-Step Process to Get What You Want Out of Life
2.1 Have clear goals.
a. Prioritize: While you can have virtually anything you want,
you can’t have everything you want.
b. Don’t confuse goals with desires.
c. Decide what you really want in life by reconciling your
goals and your desires.
d. Don’t mistake the trappings of success for success itself.
e. Never rule out a goal because you think it’s unattainable.
f. Remember that great expectations create great capabilities.
g. Almost nothing can stop you from succeeding if you have
a) flexibility and b) self-accountability.
h. Knowing how to deal well with your setbacks is as important
as knowing how to move forward.
2.2 Identify and don’t tolerate problems.
a. View painful problems as potential improvements that are
screaming at you.
b. Don’t avoid confronting problems because they are rooted in
harsh realities that are unpleasant to look at.
c. Be specific in identifying your problems.
d. Don’t mistake a cause of a problem with the real problem.
e. Distinguish big problems from small ones.
f. Once you identify a problem, don’t tolerate it.
2.3 Diagnose problems to get at their root causes.
a. Focus on the “what is” before deciding “what to do about it.”
b. Distinguish proximate causes from root causes.
c. Recognize that knowing what someone (including you) is
like will tell you what you can expect from them.
2.4 Design a plan.
a. Go back before you go forward.
b. Think about your problem as a set of outcomes produced
by a machine.
c. Remember that there are typically many paths to achieving
your goals.
d. Think of your plan as being like a movie script in that you
visualize who will do what through time.
e. Write down your plan for everyone to see and to measure
your progress against.
f. Recognize that it doesn’t take a lot of time to design a
good plan.
2.5 Push through to completion.
a. Great planners who don’t execute their plans go nowhere.
b. Good work habits are vastly underrated.
c. Establish clear metrics to make certain that you are
following your plan.

2.6 Remember that weaknesses don’t matter if you find solutions.
a. Look at the patterns of your mistakes and identify at which
step in the 5-Step Process you typically fail.
b. Everyone has at least one big thing that stands in the way
of their success; find yours and deal with it.

2.7 Understand your own and others’ mental maps and humility.

3 Be Radically Open-Minded

3.1 Recognize your two barriers.
a. Understand your ego barrier.
b. Your two “yous” fight to control you.
c. Understand your blind spot barrier.

3.2 Practice radical open-mindedness.
a. Sincerely believe that you might not know the best possible
path and recognize that your ability to deal well with “not
knowing” is more important than whatever it is you do know.
b. Recognize that decision making is a two-step process:
First take in all the relevant information, then decide.
c. Don’t worry about looking good; worry about achieving
your goal.
d. Realize that you can’t put out without taking in.
e. Recognize that to gain the perspective that comes from
seeing things through another’s eyes, you must suspend
judgment for a time—only by empathizing can you properly
evaluate another point of view.
f. Remember that you’re looking for the best answer, not
simply the best answer that you can come up with yourself.
g. Be clear on whether you are arguing or seeking to understand,
and think about which is most appropriate based on your and
others’ believability.

3.3 Appreciate the art of thoughtful disagreement.

3.4 Triangulate your view with believable people who are willing
to disagree.
a. Plan for the worst-case scenario to make it as good as

3.5 Recognize the signs of closed-mindedness and open-mindedness that you should watch out for.

3.6 Understand how you can become radically open-minded.
a. Regularly use pain as your guide toward quality reflection.
b. Make being open-minded a habit.
c. Get to know your blind spots.
d. If a number of different believable people say you are doing
something wrong and you are the only one who doesn’t see
it that way, assume that you are probably biased.
e. Meditate.
f. Be evidence-based and encourage others to be the same.
g. Do everything in your power to help others also be open-minded.
h. Use evidence-based decision-making tools.
i. Know when it’s best to stop fighting and have faith in your decision-making process.


4 Understand That People Are Wired Very Differently
4.1 Understand the power that comes from knowing how you and others are wired.
a. We are born with attributes that can both help us and hurt
us, depending on their application.

4.2 Meaningful work and meaningful relationships aren’t just nice things we chose for ourselves—they are genetically programmed into us.
4.3 Understand the great brain battles and how to control them to get what “you” want.
a. Realize that the conscious mind is in a battle with the subconscious mind.
b. Know that the most constant struggle is between feeling and thinking.
c. Reconcile your feelings and your thinking.
d. Choose your habits well.
e. Train your “lower-level you” with kindness and persistence to build the right habits.
f. Understand the differences between right-brained and left-brained thinking.
g. Understand how much the brain can and cannot change.

4.4 Find out what you and others are like.
a. Introversion vs. extroversion.
b. Intuiting vs. sensing.
c. Thinking vs. feeling.
d. Planning vs. perceiving.
e. Creators vs. refiners vs. advancers vs. executors vs. flexors.
f. Focusing on tasks vs. focusing on goals.
g. WPI characteristics.
h. Shapers are people who can go from visualization to actualization.

4.5 Getting the right people in the right roles in support of your goal is the key to succeeding at whatever you choose to accomplish.
a. Manage yourself and orchestrate others to get what you want.
5 Learn How to Make Decisions Effectively

5.1 Recognize that 1) the biggest threat to good decision making is harmful emotions, and 2) decision making is a two-step process (first learning and then deciding).


5.2 Synthesize the situation at hand.
a. One of the most important decisions you can make is who you ask questions of.
b. Don’t believe everything you hear.
c. Everything looks bigger up close.
d. New is overvalued relative to great.
e. Don’t oversqueeze dots.
5.3 Synthesize the situation through time.
a. Keep in mind both the rates of change and the levels of
things, and the relationships between them.
b. Be imprecise.
c. Remember the 80/20 Rule and know what the key 20 percent is.
d. Be an imperfectionist.

5.4 Navigate levels effectively.
a. Use the terms “above the line” and “below the line” to establish which level a conversation is on.
b. Remember that decisions need to be made at the appropriate level, but they should also be consistent across levels.
5.5 Logic, reason, and common sense are your best tools for synthesizing reality and understanding what to do about it.

5.6 Make your decisions as expected value calculations.
a. Raising the probability of being right is valuable no matter what your probability of being right already is.
b. Knowing when not to bet is as important as knowing what bets are probably worth making.
c. The best choices are the ones that have more pros than cons, not those that don’t have any cons at all.

5.7 Prioritize by weighing the value of additional information against the cost of not deciding.
a. All of your “must-dos” must be above the bar before you do your “like-to-dos.”
b. Chances are you won’t have time to deal with the unimportant things, which is better than not having time to deal with the important things.
c. Don’t mistake possibilities for probabilities.

5.8 Simplify!

5.9 Use principles.

5.10 Believability weight your decision-making.

5.11 Convert your principles into algorithms and have the computer make decisions alongside you.

5.12 Be cautious about trusting AI without having deep understanding.