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Many people believe that rulers should have their own court - well organised, in order to maintain a credible relationship with their citizens. Bearing this ancient ideal of state organisation in mind, some incidents at EU institutions just leave us too flabbergasted to even think of a revolution.

coffeeking
Photo: Michaela Lücker
Coffee + Politics = Revolution?

At the beginning of last year, the European Commission ordered twenty-one "La Cimbali" coffee machines at €5000 each. But inspite of this incredible amount of money spent in order to satisfy the commissioners' need for luxurious coffee, it did not take long before high concentrations of nickel and lead were found in the dark liquid from the classy Italian machines. After some investigation and haggling with the producer, it became clear that the maintenance needs of the machines (further increased by the Belgian capital's poor water quality) were not even barely met by the users. In the end, La Cimbali agreed not only to train certain Commission staff members to maintain the machines properly, but also to foolproof the machines.

There are several concerns I have with this story. The Commission fails to set a good example and when rulers preach water and drink wine, they become vulnerable. But what I find even more disturbing is another dimension of the incident: many coffee shops worldwide (even in Brussels) successfully manage to serve good coffee to the coffee-addicted crowd. Why does a herd of highly trained (and highly paid) officials fail to achieve the same? The above malfunction either suggests an arrogance towards certain everyday activities, or inabilities in fields of competence that might be necessary in their primary occupation as well. Both would be crushing insights.

coffee
Photo: Adriane Gonka
Making coffee can be a difficult task.

After all, both jobs involve the careful application of intricate processes. Taking an order in a café is very similar to identifying legislative needs. Brewing the coffee after freshly roasting and grinding the carefully selected beans can be as complex as drafting the right rule for the right purpose. Finally, in order to create a perfect foam from milk and crema, steady hands and patience are needed, much like getting a draft regulation through the EU Parliament without destructive compromises. As we have seen, coffee making can be foolproofed. But what about legislative processes?

To conclude this, I would like to bring forward a humble suggestion: maybe all sides would benefit from a temporary exchange of personnel between the Commission and twenty-seven high-class Brussels coffee shops. The EU establishment would get to know "ordinary people" and strengthen their practical skills, coffee servers could assume political responsibilities and rulers would finally get a chance to (literally) serve the people who elected them.

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