zaterdag 19 mei 2012

Where and how to have a lunch with policymakers in Brussels

The last couple of posts were all of a somewhat technical nature. So I decided to post something more lighter, but not less important....

Having lunch with policymakers in Brussels-Where and How 

Why is lunch so important in European policy making?

Having lunch with policymakers is an everyday routine in Brussels. It is so important I would almost claim it is a part of the ordinary legislative process ;-). Lunch creates an arena where thoughts and information are freely exchanged. This makes sure that there are no bumps in the road or hick-ups during the policy making process. It is simply the oil that makes the engine run more smoothly. 

Table manners 

Make sure you are the one that chooses the restaurant. The restaurant needs to be nearby the office of the policy maker in question. And with nearby, I mean walking distance. One metrostation away is already too far. Make sure you show taste, without being too exurbitant. Having lunch in a restaurant with three michelin stars may hint at corruption. In any case there is no lack of good restaurants in Brussels. Never start with your problem or issue right away. Use the starter to ask your tableguest about what occupies his mind these days and other chitchat. Save your main issue for the main course. While waiting for your main course start politely with the topic you want to talk about. Make sure you don’t bring forth your most controversial question right away. If the policymaker (like a Commission Official) feels he is pressed for a binding statement he will shut down, and you are in for a long lunch. Smooth him into the conversation by explaining your worries, and how this relates to his work. Never speak in terms of your own narrow interest, always try to show how this is a problem for many actors in the EU. Make it interactive. I have once seen a Turkish lobbyist discussing enlargement. The poor Commission Official had to sit through a monologue of more then one hour. When voicing your concerns, you could do so in form of a question; How can we make sure that the voice of our stakeholders are heard?” How can we make sure that there is enough time for companies to adjust to the new legislation?”. In this way you do not press too much upon the official, while at the same time invite him to think along with your problem. This interactive part is very important. Make sure that there is enough time for chitchat during desert. Always briefly summarize what is discussed, including any action points / obligations stemming from the lunch. This is to make sure that future agreements are binding while making sure that you and your lunchpartner understood each other well. Finally, there are two rules to adhere to to make sure your lunch was a succes. First, respect the other persons time. Always ask up front when he has to be back, and guard his agenda more vigilantly then you would your own. Secondly, always pick up the check!

My Top 5 places to take policymakers to lunch

Number 5
The Grapevine Place Lux

For whome: Assistants of MEP's, Journalists, people within your inner-network.

Some might say that I lack style because the Grapewine ended up on my list. I would retort by saying that this place is really under-rated. The meals are great, the price is low and it is next to the Parliament. The service is very fast and the Indian buffet is a crowd-pleaser. The Grapewine is not a place to organise high-level meetings, rather it is a restaurant to bring assistants of MEP's, journalists or other policy-actors with whome you are already quite familiar.

Number 4 
Karsmakers en Tout Bon

For whome: Assistants of MEP's

Ok, I know that the title says LUNCH, but these two places are actually great for lobby-breakfast! Both Karsmakers en Tout Bon have similair concepts; great coffee and pastry, and both are actually louzy places for lunch as they are too crowded. However, both are great for a informal breakfast with the assistants of MEP's. Because assistants don't have much time, even for lunch hours, breakfast sometimes is a viable alternative. Both places are very nearby and both open very early so your assistant will be on time for morning briefings, after they had a morning-croissant and capuchino with you!

Rue du Luxembourg, 68 I 
B-1000 Bruxelles Tél: +32(0)2.230 42 44 I

Rue de Treves 20,
1050 Ixelles,

Number 3
Maison de Lyxembourg

For whome: MEP's, Head of Units and Directors of the European Commission

Maison de Lyxembourg is a upper class restaurant which serves delicious, albeit a bit expensive meals. It is very close to the European Parliament, and Place Lux. It is not a place I would take assistants for a quick lunch. It is an ideal place to introduce your director or local deputy to an MEP. The business lunches cost around 40 euro's.

Rue du Luxembourg 37

Number 2
WET 89

For whome: Assistants of MEP's, younger civil ervants from the European Commission

WET89 is a worldy lunch café situated at, how could it be else; LOI 89 / Wet 89. The ofice space directly above the diner is occupied by the Christian Democrats of Belgium. Wet89 is very trendy, without being pretentious. I would go here with assistants of MEP's during a Strassbourg week when they have more time, or other stakeholders with time to spare. I have also had lunch here with younger European Commission officials, because they can apprecaite the cool, but cramped atmosphere. I would reserve ahead, as it's popularity has outgrown its physicle space.

Number 1
Restaurant Icones in Martin's Central Park

For whome: Anyone

Restaurant Icones is part of the Martin's Central Park Hotel. Their business lunches are great value for money, and the atmosphere is formal but pleasant. The waiters are very experienced and it shows. Moreover, what makes this a top destination for lunches with stakeholders is that both waiters and management go through great length to make your event or lunch a succes. I have had different meetings here and sometimes I had special needs which were always taken care of. Moreover, they have a great garden which is a lovely place to have a meeting if the Belgian wather allows it.

ICONES Boulevard Charlemagne 80 1000 Bruxelles Tel. : +32 (0)2 230 85 55

Runner ups
Stanhope Hotel


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