If you don’t know John Harper, you know nothing about EU Affairs

Author Milos Labovic presents a personal account of his journey with John Harper Publishing.

When it comes to EU Affairs, I was blind until I met John Harper. I must admit it took me some years to get to know him – and Lord knows – I wish I had met him sooner! It would have provided me with valuable insights that would have saved me a lot of time and energy. So, who is he? We will get to that in a second. First let me explain how I met him. 

In 2009 (when I arrived in Brussels) I thought I was an EU Expert. I was wrong. I was no expert. In my defence, I did have experience, as I had been working in EU Affairs for some years. For two years I was an EU Advisor to the Serbian government dealing with legal approximation and EU Funds. I had even finished a double-Master’s Degree in European Studies.  Moreover, I was already dabbling in EU Affairs as the President of the Young European Federalists Netherlands.  Even so, when I met John, I realized how blind I was, and how many gaps there were in my understanding. 

Milos Labovic

From the outset, I wanted to be “the best lobbyist in Brussels”, so I started by reading academic papers. Within two weeks I understood that the academic papers were useless. Trying to understand the European Union through the prism of some vague academic theorem is like trying to learn how to bake a cake by reading Schopenhauer’s “Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung”. It had left me frustrated and none the wiser. 

Then by accident I was introduced to John’s publishing list through Richard Corbett’s book The European Parliament. I picked it up at the EUROBOOKSHOP on Rond-Point Schuman. The level of (practical) detail was unrivaled. It not only presented the flavours and colours of the EU’s power dynamics, it also gave practical advice and case studies. The only thing not covered, I reflected, were the bathrooms in the European Parliament! I was so excited. I felt as if I was in a videogame and I had unlocked a secret superpower. The book gave me insights which in turn gave me a competitive edge over my colleagues and competitors. 

The second time I was introduced to one of John’s books, it was not by accident. It was through Erik Akse. Increasingly Erik Akse was being seen as the ultimate expert on impact assessments in Brussels. Impact assessments were becoming more and more relevant and so I bought Erik’s book Influencing the preparation of EU Legislation. This time there was no feeling of Euphoria. Quite the opposite. Through Erik’s book I understood that influencing EU legislation starts about 1.5 years before the proposal is made public. I was in shock that I had never attended to this part of the process, and basically knew almost nothing about it. At that time other people were telling me I was a a good lobbyist, but thanks to Erik’s book I knew I was still an amateur. That hurt. Nevertheless, I was grateful I had picked up that book. 

Finally, I faced my “unknown unknowns”, and I picked up How the EU Institutions Work and… How to work with the EU Institutions. Again, just as with the previous books, the level of detail is incredible. It literally tells you the day of the week the cabinet members of the Eurocommissionairs meet. For the second time, it felt like I was unlocking superpowers in a videogame. 

John Harper

By now, I really wanted to meet John Harper himself! The opportunity came when I was looking for a Publisher for the English translation of my book EU Superlobby; I wrote him an email and, in due course, my book was published by John Harper Publishing. For me this is, in a way, ‘full circle’. I went from being an ardent reader of John Harper Publishing books to being one the authors in his remarkable stable. I know I run the risk of humblebragging, but of course there is some pride in all of this. These books, and these authors, contributed far more to my body of knowledge than any of my Universities. To have joined an impressive list of authors providing insights and information on how the EU really works, feels amazing. 

By the way, John Harper is not just the name of a company. John is a real person. I met him and his sons in London. The publishing house is a family operated business. John is both a true Englishman and a true European. I have inserted a picture of him just so you know he is alive and well.

You may, or may not, aspire to actually meet John Harper or his authors. If you are serious about understanding the inner workings of the EU, however, John Harpers’ books provide by far the best guidance.


Find out more about Milos Labovic’s book: EU Superlobby Winning in Brussels

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *