Daan Smolders is part of the team behind the EU Monitor, a tool that keeps stakeholders up to date with European legislation. Ahead of his presentation at the EU Public Affairs Conference in March, we asked him to share some insights into the workings of the Monitor, as well as shed some light on how information management brings order to the confusion of Brussels politics.
What kind of service does the EU Monitor offers?
The EU Monitor provides you with a complete and up-to-date overview of policy-making processes in the European Union, enabling you to identify and act on opportunities and threats your organisation faces in a timely manner.
The tool covers all public sources of information relevant to the EU legislative processes. In addition to bringing all information together in one easy to navigate interface, the EU Monitor provides the information in a structured manner. All developments and documents from the various EU institutions are presented in easy-to-navigate dossiers. These dossiers are created the moment a proposal is published, and every new step is added subsequently. A dossier gives clear answers to questions such as:
- what is the current state of affairs?
- what have been past developments and what are the next steps?
- what actors are involved?
- what other proposals on the same topics are currently negotiated?
Additional information and context to the political playing field is provided by an overview of all the latest news, statements and press releases of every EU institution and agency. All developments are monitored continually, thus ensuring the information the EU Monitor provides is always up-to-date.
What was the reasoning behind the establishing of the EU Monitor?
For the Dutch market we developed a Parliamentary Monitor which covers the legislative process in the Netherlands. Since a substantial share of national legislation nowadays has its roots in EU directives and regulations it seemed only logical to expand our services into the domain of European lawmaking as to be able to give insight into what prompted the developments on the national level. Also, we found that what happens at the European Union level was somewhat of a blind spot for a significant number of Dutch organisations. For us that was an extra incentive to develop a similar tool that strengthens these organisations in their dealings with EU institutions and procedures.
In cases where EU and national legislation are interconnected the Monitor is able to bring into focus the entire legislative process from the Commission proposal all the way to the final approval of the national implementation act. In these tools we are able to combine our expertise on both Dutch and European Union legislative processes (our company’s roots lie in the Constitutional and Administrative Law department of Leiden University in the Netherlands) with our expertise in the field of information technology.
You’re also involved in the management of websites for, for example, the Dutch senate, the 2014 European Elections and others. Does the democratic process benefit from better information management?
Definitely. The availability of information is crucial for people to actively take part in democratic processes. You cannot expect people to care let alone participate when it’s pretty much impossible for them to be properly informed.However, the availability of information in itself is not enough. The information should be structured so that people can better understand the meaning of a certain piece of information. This can be done for example by providing insight into the underlying processes and by providing the necessary context, i.e. related documents and dossiers, stakeholders, current state of affairs and what the next steps will be.
This is where information management steps in. Bringing all (publicly) available information together and connecting the dots in order to enable people to better inform themselves, form their own opinion and (hopefully) become active participants in democratic processes.
What can attendees of the EU Public Affairs Conference in March expect from your presentation? What kind of insights do you want them to walk away with?
What they can expect is an interactive session in which the necessity of having all relevant information at your disposal on time and in a structured manner will be become clear. This will be illustrated by several user cases, and hopefully also by input from the attendees.
The workshop is titled “EU Monitor: Public Affairs made easy”. Of course this title is meant to provoke. What I’d like is for the attendees to tell me what they think would make their life as public affairs professionals more easy. Can our EU Monitor provide just that? Or if (maybe) not entirely, what should it offer to be able to answer the most pressing needs?
We believe to have developed a tool to give public affairs professionals the edge they need to achieve better results in their work. Our clients certainly think we succeeded. We are curious to see how the attendees will judge our efforts.
Interview by David Phillips.
Daan is part of the line-up of speakers at this year's EU Public affairs conference, taking place in Brussels on March 17 and 18 2016. To book your place at the conference register at the conference website.