In This Review

Life of a European Mandarin: Inside the Commission
Life of a European Mandarin: Inside the Commission
By Derk-Jan Eppink
Lannoo Press, 2007, 392 pp

Eppink, a Dutchman, has written an entertaining and often ironic memoir of his career at the European Commission. For more than seven years, he was a "mandarin" -- one of the 22,500 senior civil servants who constitute the "central repository of ideas and information which alone makes everything possible." The mandarins make proposals, ensure their implementation, and monitor their consequences and implications. Most of the book is anecdotal, and some of the stories will only appeal to true Europhiles, but collectively they provide a good insider's sense of how the EU works -- and does not. Eppink remains a firm believer in the European ideal, but he does not hesitate to reveal the bureaucratic nightmares that ensue when 27 countries try to defend distinct national interests. Nor does he hide his concerns about the future of an EU whose membership is rising as its birthrate falls.