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Ode to Joy

Alan Smith

Can't imagine there is much singing and dancing in the hallowed halls of the EU head office in Brussels at the moment. (Beethoven's Ode to Joy is the theme tune, if that is the right phrase, for the European Union).

The recent elections in France and Greece have thrown the Euro again into a crisis that may cause joy in many UK households as they plan their escape from rainy Britain, but seems to have riled the German nation, and particularly their sour faced leader Angela Merkel.

The stunning victory of the French Socialists and wipe-out of mainstream parties in Greece has sent shock waves crashing throughout the continent of Europe. The economic doctrine of austerity, to cut the burden of state spending to free up the economy, has ruled supreme with the support of all of the past leaders. But many old and new political leaders were on Sunday night conceding the previous deal may have been shattered beyond repair.

I am not in this BLOG going to argue the case for or against austerity as a way out of the mess Europe is in. For one I have always spent a bit more than I receive. Like most baby boomers. I thought I was doing my bit to keep the economy moving.

Nor am I going to get to hung up on the integrity of either party trying to change a deal, they clearly agreed to. I am not a fan of people who say one thing and do another. Trust is the most valuable of all things in my view.

However I am interested to watch how this plays out. Often we agree to things (and there is no doubt that both France and Greece did agree to the plan) and then change our mind, or find that the other side change their mind, or that circumstances change, what do we do next?

Conditionality is good news. Ensuring that any proposal you make or adjust is conditional on getting something in return is a key definer in negotiation. Many times however even though the link is clear, the EU agreement was agreed with a stipulation that no changes in government would impact on the deal, they, or you, may have no choice but to break it.

The powerful negotiator recognises the chance to make new proposals that repackage what has been previously accepted or trade new variables (Scotworker's will recognise the concept of wish lists and concession lists) to ensure the eventual outcome can work for all sides.

Fortunately for most of us our negotiations have less complexity than the ones the EU are contemplating, and have fewer players at the table. The principle remains however the same. The majority of conflicts arise because stuff happens. If your agreement is based on set conditions make sure they are met, or that you trade for new conditions if something prevents that from happening.

Otherwise, and more like Meatloaf that Beethoven, you could be praying for the end of time.

"Paradise by Dashboard Light", could be a more fitting anthem if that is the case.

Alan Smith

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