Responding to concerns over the vast disparities in quality and content of conferences, workshops, forums and symposia across the EU bloc, the Commission today unveiled a proposal for promoting a harmonised approach to organising conferences. This aims to take the best each Member State has to offer in hosting terms, and transpose it to the EU level. Given the lack of formal competence the EU has in this area, the harmonisation will take the form of a delicately balanced points system, which recipients of EU funding will have to implement in any project-related meetings. It is thought that at least 85% of conferences in Europe receive some form of European funding.
The premise is simple. Conference-organisers will have to reach a 25 point threshold, or risk financing the conference themselves. Points are added for using the best Europe has to offer, and deducted for gross misuse of expertise. For example, using Italian venues, cuisine and general lavishness (when using an EU budget line) would add 5 points to the total, but any use of Italian workshop planning would immediately incur a deduction of 10 points.
“It makes sense” commented an exhausted official on the plane back from Milan. “Italians should never, ever, be allowed to host workshops. Not unless you want eight minor officials competing with each other over whose statistics are more detailed, leaving two minutes for questions. And, kuñardocz, did we have questions.”
Points may be given for using any of the following:
German implementation: 10
British debating techniques: 5
Swedish furniture and/or teleconferencing: 5/5
Spanish/Portuguese post-conference social organisation: 10
Italian catering: 5
Dutch audience participation: 5
Polish chairing/bluntness: 5
Points may be added for the inclusion of Irish in any post-conference socialising.
Points may be deducted for dogmatic Austrian interventions during discussion periods.
Points available for Belgian biscuits during coffee breaks on a sliding scale according to chocolatey-ness.
It is hoped that this harmonisation will end years of frustrating, circular dialogue on the conference circuit. However, critics of the proposal have highlighted that if circular, pointless, dialogue were to be eradicated then many EU conferences would no longer have a reason to exist. Responding to this criticism the Commission overseeing the proposal stated “Well that goes to the heart of one of the major elements of the proposal. Never, under any circumstances, allow the French to determine content and topics for discussion. Immediate disqualification.”