Having previously covered the US Congress in a former life, covering EU politics was inevitably going to conjure up comparisons. As I've covered this crazy EU world over the past four years, I've made my fair share of comparisons. Some of them perhaps more apt than others.
But one message I always take home to my American friends when I visit is this: Europe works. While Washington has ground to a dysfunctional halt, Brussels churns out regulations and directives at an impressive pace. This activity may have slowed during the economic crisis, but from my vantage point, things run a lot smoother here in Brussels than they do in DC.
This difference is part of what attracted me to EU politics. it is why I chose to come here to cover the European project. I made the decision back in 2004 after reading a series of books by American authors that were coming out at the time of the EU constitution heralding a new era of European leadership - books like The European Dream by Jeremy Rifkin and The United States of Europe by T.R. Reid. The books decribed the EU as "the first truly postmodern governing body" that was already an economic superpower rivaling the US, with the potential to become a full world superpower. This seemed like a fascinating thing to watch, and I wanted in.
Of course, we all know that didn't come to pass. The constitution was rejected, and the last seven years have seen the euro-ethusiasm of the early part of the millenium give way to cynicism, apathy and nationalism. I'd be lying if I said that coming to Brussels to report on the EU hasn't been a bit of a rude awakening.
And yet there are still parts of EU policy-making that fascinate me and give me great hope for the future of this continent. It is the youngness of the European project that drew me here, and that youngness still continues to excite me. It has been a refreshing change, coming from what I often viewed as an archaic and inflexible governing system in the United States.
European nation-states, and the European Union, have a youth and dynamism to them which smakes them much more agile in dealing with new realities of the modern world than the governmen in my homeland. The vast majority of EU member states are, after all, far younger than the United States as a nation. They are works in progress, and that allows a degree of flexibility impossible in my homeland, which is still using the same constitution it devised in 1789.
As I've covered EU policy in areas such as environment, energy, transport, health amnd agriculture, I've seen this agility first hand. Of course, the EU doesn't always get it right. But it operates in a way that is fundamentally different than the way in which the US government operates, and that has been fascinating to watch.
It's this perspective that I'd like to share in my new European Voice blog. The byzantine nature of EU policy-making can be easily daunting. I know I was certainly confused by it when I first started my work here. But in the end it's about real policy matters that make a huge difference in people's lives. I hope to be able to translate what that means as we move forward with this blog. And I hope you enjoy it!
Dave Keating reports on the interrelated issues of environment, energy, climate change, transport, health, agriculture, fisheries and research for European Voice. In this blog, Dave brings you insights into the sometimes byzantine world of European Union policymaking as well as the equally confusing nature of life in Brussels. Originally from outside New York City, Dave has lived in Europe for six years. He can be reached at DaveKeating@economist.com.
More in environment
Analysts reveal that many of the energy-intensive industries resisting changes to the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) are making a profit from the system.
The Commission's plan to bring water supply under public procurement rules is worrying local governments
Cities can take measures to cut pollution, but sometimes the problem is out of their hands