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Two days to go - the topics for discussion

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About the author

A freelance writer and editor based in London, J Clive Matthews is Managing Editor of openDemocracy's EU and deliberative democracy blog, dLiberation.

In the real world he has co-authored two books and edited numerous others (ranging in subject-matter from movies to modern Russian politics), been acting editor on a glossy history and travel magazine, editorial consultant for a big name women's magazine, a freelance news editor for AOL UK, worked in both the House of Commons and the European Commission, and contributed to publications as diverse as Starburst and the Times Literary Supplement.

Best known as Nosemonkey online, he has been blogging about British and European politics daily for several years both at his own blog and sites like The Sharpener, General Election 2005 (now defunct), AgoraVox, France 24 and the Washington Post / Newsweek's Postglobal, as well as about movies for the BBC, and has been shortlisted for blog awards by the likes of the Guardian, Deutsche Welle International and the Weblog Awards, amongst others.

So, in two days' time I'll be in Brussels and finally finding out more detail about what this is all about. Assuming, of course, that I'm actually registered for the event - I sent off the forms two weeks ago, but as yet have recieved no confirmation that they're expecting me, or any more detailed schedule than the one I was passed by someone at one of the poll's partner organisations three weeks ago.

However, the website does now give a few clues as to what's going on. The major topics for debate - split over five sessions of between an hour and a quarter and two hours each - are jobs, pensions and foreign relations.

Mmmmm... Discussing European employment policy on a Friday night (that session runs from 6 to 7:30pm on Friday evening) - what could possibly be more fun? I'll be even more intrigued to meet some of the participants now - I mean, I'm actually interested in this sort of thing, and that sounds remarkably unappealing. Sat in Brussels, a city deservedly known for having some of the finest beer in the world, on a Friday night - and discussing how the EU could facilitate growth in employment? Fun fun fun!

To someone looking at the poll's name, and noting that the event comes just a few days before the new EU Reform Treaty is due to be finalised in Lisbon on the 18th/19th, these choices seem somewhat odd, to say the least. Surely this is the ideal opportunity to test the water with the people of Europe to see if the new treaty would be met with approval if anyone could work out what it's all about?

Plus, of course, to anyone familiar with the British debate over the EU, the immediate reaction is likely to be "pensions and foreign policy? But the EU doesn't have any say over pensions and foreign policy!"

It's all very odd - does anyone know why it was these topics that came up for discussion? It's surely not because one of the major sponsors is a financial services provider, is it? Rest assured, I'll do my best to find out.


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