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Renewed optimism ahead of political breakthroughs?

Structural reforms / MESSAGE

Date: 30/06/2017

As Brussels is slowing down with the approaching summer break, it’s time for the EPC to briefly look back at what has happened since the start of the year, and present our plans for the second semester.

With the benefit of hindsight, one cannot overlook how much the mood has changed in Brussels. As echoed by the most recent Eurobarometer results, Europeans appear more optimistic, considering the unexpected solidarity of the EU27 in reaction to Brexit and Donald Trump’s election, the election results in Austria and the Netherlands as well as the election of President Macron in France on a pro-European manifesto. We had highlighted the likelihood of such outcomes in our March 2017 publication on the upcoming elections. We can now contemplate the prospect of breakthroughs in areas that were previously at a stalemate, such as reform of the European Monetary Union, the deepening of European defence cooperation and, possibly, greater integration in the field of social policy, as well as a reinvigorated Franco-German relationship.

In the framework of the New Pact for Europe (NPE) project, the EPC will present at the EPC-NPE Annual Conference on 9 November a “package deal” of proposals to revamp the European integration process. The aim is to explore the breadth and depth of an EU-wide agreement that would include institutional reforms and progress on the economic, migration and defence challenges the Union is facing.

For the EPC, the past six months have seen promising developments. Our organisation continues to grow. In May, we expanded to an additional floor at Rue du Trône 14-16 to accommodate our now 40-strong team. We have reinforced our communication and outreach teams with the recruitment of a new Senior Associate for Partnerships, External and Member Relations, as well as a new Head of Communication. These appointments underscore our commitment to strengthening our relations with members and to building cooperation with other valued partners. We also aim to enhance the visibility and impact of our work in the media and among policymakers. With the help of SAP, we are finally conducting a complete overhaul of our IT system and the website, which will enable us to connect better with our members and stakeholders and professionalise our outreach and management systems.

As part of this new phase we have rearranged our programmes, transforming our former European Political Economy programme into two programmes: ‘Sustainable Prosperity for Europe’ and ‘Social Europe and Well-Being’. Sustainable prosperity stands for trying to achieve welfare and growth that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. The programme focuses on the functioning of the EU economy and the enablers for progress with a view to creating a cleaner and smarter Europe. The Social Europe and Well-Being programme addresses the discontent with the European project amongst a large share of the population and looks at ways to strengthen the Union’s social dimension.

The first part of 2017 also saw the launch of our Connecting Europe project. Supported by Stiftung Mercator, its aim is to deepen the links between Brussels and the member states in an increasingly fragmented Europe through forward-looking dialogues and joint activities among policymakers, researchers and citizens on youth, climate and migration, amongst other issues.

Meanwhile, the FutureLab Europe programme entered a new stage with the launch of five projects involving on-the-ground activities in ten European countries. In response to political apathy and disengagement across Europe, the programme is taking the lead in “getting Europe back to the people” as one participant said. Each project will engage citizens at the local level on pressing challenges, such as youth disenchantment with the future, their withdrawal from political engagement, and the exclusion and stereotyping of immigrants.

For the second half of the year, we have a packed programme of events and meetings on a wide range of issues. Speakers already in the pipeline include Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager and Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, to name a few. The launch of our Brexit@EPC series will be another focus for the remainder of this year and the next. The political and economic impact of the Brexit negotiations and the future of the UK-EU relationship will feature prominently on our research agenda. Also on the EPC’s research radar will be the follow-up to the Commission’s White Paper on the future of Europe, the Rome declaration last Spring and the prospects for a multi-speed governance of the European Union.

We will be analysing the outcome of the German federal elections as part of our ongoing EPC Election Monitor series and will continue to provide you with briefings and analysis on the major European Council Summits. With a view to the upcoming EU Presidencies, the EPC will continue to work on cohesion policy reform ahead of the discussions on the EU budget in the context of the next multi-annual financial framework.

On the global front, our work will focus on the situation in Ukraine and Turkey, the ongoing challenge on migration and the integration of migrants and the evolution of the United States’ standing on the international scene and the changing dynamics in transatlantic relations.

The EPC’s growing success would not be possible without the backing of our long-term strategic partner, the King Baudouin Foundation, and of our other foundation partners, including Adessium, Mercator and Cariplo. Finally, we want to thank all of you, our members and partners, for your continuing engagement and support. We wish you all a happy and relaxing summer break.

Fabian Zuleeg, Chief Executive

EPC Summer message 

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