Cooperation / EU / European Comission / European programmes

Myths of politics and cooperation #1: the common position

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In the recent history of the European Union, one frequent remark has been about the difficulty in producing a common position over topics such as the EU approach to the international crisis in Ukraine or Syria, the Eurozone’s approach about the compliance of the Maastricht parameters in terms of GDP and deficit.

When it comes to a group’s dynamics, both among individuals or members of an international cooperation scheme, the common position to be expressed is a political myth. The participatory processes in general (and more specifically the decision processes) are far from perfect and they are usually conditioned by many factors, such as:
– How the problem is defined
– How the question is formulated
– How the synthesis process is conceived
The European Union can have its say over different topics that influence our lives. Some of them (competition in the single market and managing the common currency) are taken by majority, while many other issues require a unanimous vote. It means that each member has to bend, argue or impose its view, coming to terms with others to find an agreement whose common action reflects a watered-down common position.
The degree of frustration produced to renounce to a desirable result by one part, may cause its disengagement or a poor implementation of the decision, so that –when it comes to practice- the common position only exists for the time of the meeting behind a closed door.
A more realistic approach would be to use a vectored model, considering the forces acting in the whole ecosystem and across disciplines. In this decision model, rather than convincing each other to change the respective opinion, we may reflect in terms of effects in the overall ecosystem. The combination of the forces (in terms of individual political action) may generate a more effective common action, without the need for anybody to give up his own views. This means to scan the whole spectrum of possible actions among different players and sectors. Instead of bending each other will to the group effort, we may combine a policy mix in which the result is given by the vector of an economic policy of one player summed up with the vector of another actor in economics or even in a different field.
This phenomenon happens all the time without even agreeing upon it. To steer this process and produce the good policy mix, we need somebody in the group bringing a holistic view, a deep knowledge of the ecosystem and the permeability among the silos of the usual public administration breakdown (economics, environment, culture, health…).
The advantage of this approach is to respect the diversity and differences among the members without neglecting the need of undertaking a political action.

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