If you’re looking for the European Union Parliament’s man in Washington, Antoine Ripoll’s your guy.
The former chief of staff for Joseph Daul, the head of the EU Parliament's top political party, Ripoll came to Washington in November and has been busy ever since, working as a liaison between both parliament and Congress.
Ripoll is quick to tell you he’s not a lobbyist. He heads up the EU Parliament Liaison Office in Washington, which was established in 2010 to facilitate a better working relationship with lawmakers on both sides of the pond. His office also differs from the EU Delegation to the U.S., also in Washington, which is a diplomatic mission that works with member states’ embassies and promotes EU policies in the U.S.
“We need to establish strong discussions with the staffers and the members on practical issues. We want them to talk shop,” Ripoll told the Alley. “Our office is here to help build and push this relationship.”
Some of the main areas of concern include financial regulation, cyber security and trade. “We don’t always agree but very often we have the same problems,” he said. “We have to know each other and how the other is doing.”
Obviously, the fiscal cliff is a major concern for the EU, but Ripoll avoids being prescriptive, saying it’s up to the U.S. to figure out how to best avert it
A trade agreement between the EU and the U.S. is a top priority for the parliament, Ripoll says, and his office will help build the groundwork for negotiations starting late this year or early next. While saying he’s found willingness on the Hill to work on a trade agreement, he acknowledges that “of course it will not be a rosy process. It will be a tough discussion, and everybody knows that, but it’ll be a necessary discussion.”
The parliament also would like to see the emergence of a transatlantic, common market of some 800 million people in the U.S. and Europe. “Our dream would be that, that we do that.” Last month, more than 20 EU parliament delegates came to Washington for the biannual Transatlantic Legislators' Dialogue, meeting with everyone from Vice President Joe Biden to Senate leaders. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chaired the dialogue.
But aside from the nitty gritty of particular policy issues, Ripoll concentrates on helping to deepen understanding of how the EU Parliament functions, which is quite different than Washington. In the EU Parliament, it’s all about coalition building since no party holds the majority. While Ripoll says he’s found folks in Washington with a thorough understanding of how the EU parliament functions, there is room for improvement – and vice versa, that those in Brussels could stand to learn more about Congress’ workings, as well.
Ripoll’s plate is certainly full and will continue to fill up as trade, security and climate issues come before the new Congress. Plus, his job requires him to stay on top of happenings in both Europe and the U.S.
“You wake up in the morning and you have 100 emails because they’ve been active for six hours or more in Brussels, and you have to know what’s going to happen in Washington, too," he says.