Press releases

EPC turns 20!

14 October 2016

The European Policy Centre celebrates its 20th anniversary in style

The European Policy Centre celebrated its 20th anniversary yesterday with an incredible line-up of speakers and intense discussions on the future of the European project at the Palais des Académies in Brussels.

Fabian Zuleeg, EPC Chief Executive, opened the conference by telling the audience about how the EPC arrived to where it is today, and spoke about the real impact that the organisation has had, and maintains, on EU policy-making. “The EPC is growing, looking forward and upward”, he continued, “at a time when the role of think tanks in Brussels is more crucial than ever”. He also profusely thanked all those who have supported the organisation over the past 20 years: the founders of the EPC (Max Kohnstamm, John Palmer and Stanley Crossick); members of the previous and present governance structures; speakers; participants; partners; EPC members; and funders. A special thanks went to the King Baudouin Foundation, a strategic partner since 2002, as well as to the EPC staff.

Among the conference’s distinguished speakers were the three EU presidents. The celebrations kicked off with a ‘hard talk’ session with European Parliament President Martin Schulz and moderator Jacki Davis, followed by a speech by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Both emphasised the need for more solidarity and trust, with Juncker saying that “solidarity is a vital part of our shared project”. European Council President Donald Tusk called for unity and made a passionate case for a Union based on the principles of liberal democracy. He also spoke about Brexit, saying that “the brutal truth is that Brexit will be a loss for all of us. There will be no cakes on the table. For anyone. There will be only salt and vinegar [...] the only real alternative to a ‘hard Brexit’ is a ‘no Brexit’”.

The panel discussion focused on the EPC publication (EU@60 – Countering a regressive and illiberal Europe), which was written on the occasion of the Anniversary Conference by Director of Studies Janis A. Emmanouilidis and Chief Executive Fabian Zuleeg. In this paper, the authors argue that the biggest threat is not necessarily the possible crumbling of the international institution that is the EU, but the emergence of a regressive and illiberal Europe. The panellists, including Janis A. Emmanouilidis, Marietje Schaake (Dutch MEP of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), Radoslaw Sikorski (former Foreign Minister of Poland), Gunther Oettinger (EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society), and Michael Roth (Minister of State for Europe, Federal Republic of Germany), all recognised that with populism and anti-democratic forces on the rise, the stakes are high for Europe. A shared consensus that the EU will have to a better job of explaining its added value to European citizens in the member states arose from the debate. 

Closing the conference was EPC President Herman Van Rompuy, with a much needed message of courage and hope: “Combating polarisation, aggressiveness, and hate whilst promoting values, dialogue, moderation, compromise and compassion is key in the counter-offensive to restore cohesion and integration, stability and hope […] We must turn fear into hope. Life equates hope. Only people of hope can change things. Europe needs change and hope.”

For the full speech of: 

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, click here  

European Council President Donald Tusk, click here 

EPC President Herman Van Rompuy, click here 


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