30. September 2014

The fourth edition of the FutureLab Europe Annual Forum took place in Brussels from 21 – 26 September 2014. A new FLE ‘generation’ of young, bright professionals conveyed to the European Policy Centre to discuss issues revolving around “The State of Democracy and Equal Opportunities”, this year overall topic.

During their week in Brussels, new FutureLabbers discussed fundamental issues such as democratic values and institutional challenges, but also put forward concrete priorities for the EU agenda. While doing so, they visited several EU institutions and interacted with different stakeholders in the EU decision-making process, such as politicians, policy-makers, journalists and representatives from NGOs as well as business associations.

Scene setting day

On Monday, the participants explored the EU power structure, analyzing the role of the various institutions and stakeholders. They looked at the new European Commission, discussing the implications of the politicization of the Commission as well as the impact of the spitzenkandidaten formula on elections results. Futurelabers met with Jean-Pierre Vidal, Member of Cabinet of Herman Van Rompuy and debated the role of media in Brussels with award-winning journalist Valentina Pop from the EU observer and Christian Feustel from BusinessEurope. During the dinner, they discussed the most pressing challenges ahead for education and youth employment with MEP Maria Joao Rodrigues.

EU representative democracy

The following day kicked off with a talk about transparency in the EU with Lambros Papadias, Head of the Complaints and Inquiries Unit from the European Ombudsman and Paul de Clerck, initiatior and board member of ALTER-EU and campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe. The morning session continued with a discussion on democratic challenges between Andrew Duff, former MEP and member of the Spinelli Group, and Pieter Cleppe, Head of Open Europe in Brussels. In the afternoon, FutureLabers visited the European Parliament, where they witnessed a debate in the AFET Committee on the situation in Gaza and held a private meeting with Agnes Jongerius, MEP and Vice Chair of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.

Shaping proposals and how to communicate them

On Wednesday, FutureLabers shaped their own work plan for the European Commission 2014-2019 on four areas: a Union for jobs, growth and competitiveness; a Union that looks beyond its borders; a Union for freedom, security and justice; a Union that empowers and protects all citizens. FutureLab Europe presented these proposals on Friday in a ‘closing session’ to Commissioner Lászlo Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. In the afternoon, FutureLabers participated in a workshop on the use of social media in Brussels and learned how to write a blog post. Teresa Kuchler, EU affairs correspondent for national daily Svenska Dagblaget, spoke with the group in particular about the role of national media in Brussels and how to communicate Brussels to the general public.

An inclusive EU: civil society engagement

On Thursday morning the FLE group witnessed how a representative of the previous FLE generations presented FLE resolutions for A New Pact for Europe to Rudy Aernoudt, head of Cabinet of the EESC President. Rudy Aernoudt. After having discussed strategic challenges ahead with Mr Aernoudt, FLE stayed at the EESC to discuss the European Economic and Social Agenda with Heather Roy, President of the Management Committee of Social Platform and Ben Butters from Eurochambres. After lunch, FutureLabers met with representatives from youth organisations in Brussels to discuss the involvement of young people in the EU decision-making process.

Planning ahead

Aside from the ‘closing session’ with Commissioner Andor, the new FLE generation used the Friday to plan their activities for FutureLab Europe new programme year towards the Spring Conference in April 2015.

The FutureLab Europe Annual Forum provides a thorough introduction in the EU institutions and the issues that are currently on the European agenda, thereby providing a warm welcome to the newly arriving FutureLab Europe participants. After the Annual Forum, the participants will voice their opinions in blogs and articles and join public discussions throughout Europe, including a follow-up Europe@debate conference to be held in Brussels next spring.

Read participants’ reflections on day 1 to 5 here.

To learn more about FutureLab Europe’s fourth generation, check each participants’ profile here.