Most helpful positive review
69 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2009
This book is a short (125 pages) diary-like record of the author's recruitment as Budget Execution Director and Chief Accountant of the EU, her attempts to reform inadequate accounting and their obstruction by European civil servants and EU commissioners, and her dismissal by the EU.
Most of the European civil servants' names have been changed, either because of libel laws or because the author says she still hopes for legal redress. In particular one Jean Maison, Director General of the Budget Directorate, who if the author is to be believed, would appear to be a Sir Humphrey gone very bad indeed.
This is an individual's record, and you must decide whether to take it at face value or write it off as a whinge (or perhaps somewhere in between.) The author's repeated and simple list of her department's failings and her attempts to reform them seemed intelligent and clear and I believe them. I doubt we will see a rebuttal; one of the central points of the book is that the EU bureacracy would only fight on its terms. Furthermore you can learn more about this complicated, and complicatedly dull, organisation in this short book than from much longer, impersonal volumes.
I found myself wondering whether the EU can ever work. The secrecy is outrageous. The unelected Commission, formed of failed and mediocre careerists like Neil Kinnock, operating in secret, proposes laws. A supine parliament (whose prostration will be partly due to incomes so massive they could be called bribes) sometimes has the power to examine and approve these laws. How can a continent that fought a war that was at least indirectly about democracy allow such a thing?
One gets the feeling that these things are unreformable. Shouldn't the EU, with the power it has now and that which it is now taking without national vetos, be reformed into elected President/Excutive, Legislature, with courts that act as such instead of informal means of refining and extending EU powers? This book gives a clear picture of how the self-serving duopoly of Commission and EU Civil Service could easily obstruct and prevent reform whilst promissing the opposite; but then think of the nations' horse trading (over for example the Common Agriculture Policy, 50 years old and bigger and more complex than ever,) the near absence of proper reporting, the publics' laziness and distraction and the national jealousies and obsessions of all of the above.
Incidentally the author is now an MEP for the UK Independence Party. That's all very ironic, but best possible luck to her grilling the EU accountants anew. My money would be on the parliament freezing her out again, by whatever means they can cook up.