Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Politicians I admire, Part 3

Franz Fischler meets some of his clients as EU farm commissioner

The bronze international award goes to former EU farm commissioner, Franz Fischler. He outmanoeuvred opposition to achieve the most significant reform of the EU's burdensome Common Agricultural Policy to date. I attended a semimar he gave on reform in Brussels when he was comissioner.

Fischler on his Alpine farm in his yodelling kit

Fischler was rather quiet in manner, but firm and persuasive. Part of his skill was to make out that he was a simple Alpine farmer who had somehow got the farm commissioner's job by accident and didn't know what he was doing. He had in fact enjoyed a long career in Austria as an agricultural bureaucrat and politician and was working behind the scenes with a hand picked team to work out a reform scheme. He was a brilliant strategist and a wily tactician. He largely outmanoeuvred the French and the Germans who normally had an iron grip on farm policy.

Johan Swinnen from Leuven University kindly asked me to contribute the concluding chapter to a Centre for European Policy Studies book on the Fischler years entitled
The Perfect Storm. (See details here: CEPS . The book as a whole provides a vivid account of how a politician can make a difference.


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