They´re a shadowy lot, these faceless, unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. I know they must be because the Daily Mail says so. Maybe I should have worn a cloak and carried a dagger when I stepped into a lift in the Berlaymont - European Commission HQ - on my way to meet with the boss, the Secretary-General, Catherine Day.
But close up, Brussels bureaucrats usually seem like ordinary human beings. Catherine is striking - Irish, tall, and formidably on top of her brief (or if not she is a class act at bluffing). She is a former head of DG Environment and I´ve come across her a few times in the past. Nick Clegg was a colleague with her in Leon Brittain´s Cabinet some 13 years ago and tells me her capacity for work then was awesome.
I had emailed her before Christmas, fresh from the success of having secured funding of up to €9 billion, to ask for a meeting to discuss the development of the programme to construct up to 12 carbon capture and storage demonstration projects. A meeting was arranged for the first week of the New Year. Sitting with her now are Jos Delbeke, the Deputy Director of DG Environment, Piotr Tulej from the same department, and Jan Panek from DG TREN (Energy) who has to do most of the real work.
My concern is to ensure that implementation starts to happen quickly now that money is available, and as more than one Commission department will be involved I want assurance from the top that turf wars will not be allowed to get in the way.
It proves a happy meeting with everyone singing from the same hymn sheet. Catherine emphasises that developing CCS is regarded as a priority. Jos agrees emphatically. Jan explains that there are some 30 potential projects in the pipeline and that firm declarations of intent will now be sought. The Commission will be looking for match support funding from member states and wants to get construction of the first few schemes underway as soon as possible.
They say nice things about my CCS work and hope that I will maintain my involvement. I indicate that this is my intent and invite the Commission to take part in a public workshop I shall be organising on the subject before the end of the parliamentary term, to which they assent.
I depart, ego duly flattered. Maybe the faceless ones have deceived me, but the bureaucrats have won another battle.