The idea that Commission officials make rules without worrying about their impact is far from the reality of EU decision-making. It is, in fact, a democratic process involving the Commission, 27 national governments, the European Parliament and many others. Matthias, a negotiator involved in the 2004 EU enlargement to 25 countries and in talks with potential future members, works at the heart of this democratic process.
Matthias was born in Celle, Germany, in 1967. He works in the Commission as a negotiator for agriculture and food safety with candidate countries
‘In its role of handling entry negotiations, our Commission department has the primary responsibility for listening to candidate countries’ concerns. We try hard to accommodate these, but we take into account the views of other departments too — in my case colleagues responsible for agriculture and for health and consumer protection. We must also be fair to Europe’s farmers and consumers.’
The EU negotiating position is drafted by the Commission but must be validated by the Member States before being presented to the candidate countries. Validating the Commission’s proposals is a process Matthias sees as problem-solving, not confrontation. ‘To be in the Council of the EU with the 25 Member States and the Commission and find a compromise which satisfies everyone, you can feel Europe evolving day by day. And I love working on subjects which affect so many people.’
After schooling in France and his native Germany, Matthias picked studies in agronomy in Bonn and Toulouse as a likely route to an international career. This paid off. Matthias has worked continuously for the EU in various functions ever since.
He first spent two years in Brussels analysing agricultural legislation under a work experience scheme run by European universities. Then followed secondment as a ‘junior expert’ to the EU delegation in Barbados, an auxiliary contract in Brussels managing aid projects in the Middle East, a spell as a temporary EU official in Belgrade helping Serbia’s farmers in the aftermath of conflict, before becoming a fully fledged EU civil servant in 2003.