Monday, 13 July 2009


I need someone high up in the European Commission to bang heads together, so I go to the top. On Thursday I write an e-mail requesting a discussion with Catherine Day, the Secretary-General of the European Commission, the Brussels’ bureaucrats’ Number One. I get a reply saying that she is tied up in meetings till late Friday.

Last thing I do before leaving my Stockport office at 5.30pm on Friday is to call her office. I can’t remember the number so I look it up on the European Commission website. There are half a dozen numbers listed under the ‘Secretariat General’ heading, and I dial the first. The telephone is quickly answered.

"Hello,” I say, “this is Chris Davies, I wonder if Catherine Day is available?" "This is Catherine Day," came the reply. “I’ve got your e-mail, but I shall have to make some enquiries before I can respond.” (I get a full reply a few days later).


I looked up a number on a website just as any person can, and within 60 seconds I was speaking directly to the most senior person in the European Commission administration. Of course I hit lucky, and maybe she was the last person left in the Berlaymont building on a Friday evening, but if that’s not a good example of openness and transparency in Brussels then I don’t know what is.

Here’s a challenge. Catherine Day’s opposite number in the UK is the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, “Britain’s most senior civil servant”. Look up the number of his office and see how long it takes you to get through to speak to him!

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