To start the fourth day of the Brussels trip, we had got in touch with a conversation with Mr. Andrew Murray from EUNIC (European Union National Institutes for Culture). EUNIC was founded in 2006 in order to help the member states build stronger partnerships and work together better, which mainly focus on the foreign affairs. They believe in sharing good practices, promoting cultural diversity and mutual understanding across cultures. Over the past 10 years, EUNIC has evolved into a global network. They deliver transnational collaborative projects through their 36 members and more than 100 clusters. It means EUNIC is not only concentrating on the cultural relationship among the member states in European Union, but also considers the situation from the eastern part of the world, for example, China and South Korea. Mr. Murray claimed, for instance, Korea and China are strongly influenced by Confucianism so that EUNIC is working on the cultural relationship between Asia and Europe, signing an adjoined communication with EU Commission, with a view of building up a better understanding and having more collaborations.
After the meeting, we had a little break for grabbing some food for breakfast before a meeting with Skåne European Office.
Skåne European Office is a regional institution representing Skåne to the EU mainly to give a better point of view between the Skåne County in Sweden and EU, also collaborating with the Swedish Foreign Mission in Brussels. The representatives from the Skåne European Office are from Göteborg. They started the presentation with the basic facts of Skåne, and also listed the importance of Skåne in Sweden because of the projects, MAX IV Lab and European Spallation Source. The economic and political influence to the EU is strong enough to have an institution in Brussels for a smoother communication to the EU. The presenters also said there are differences of concern among national, regional, and city representatives in EU. For example, Skåne European Office has different opinions from the Swedish Representatives sometimes and the agenda of Malmö Representative is also differentiated from the Skåne European Office.
In the afternoon, a mix up with dates had us go for an extra spin at the European Commission for a meeting that was actually supposed to take place the next day. This led to some democratic discussions on priorities and luckily an eventual successful re-booking of one of the meetings taking place on the following day. Meanwhile, with the extra free time we suddenly had on our hands, some of us went to get lunch at a cosy café that sold baked potatoes. Afterwards we had a bit of a stroll before heading to our next destination, the European Environmental Bureau.
We were greeted there by an enthusiastic young professional Mr. Roland Joebstl who specializes in energy and climate. He told us about how the organization functions as a network of various national organizations (including Naturskyddsföreningen and Miljöorganisationernas kärnavfallsgranskning from Sweden), how the organization works with the EU, and for example what happens if some country is not in line with EU environmental regulations. It was interesting to see how this organization was engaged in lobbying work – it really is everywhere in Brussels! Furthermore, the organization is partly funded by the European Commission, who they try to influence with their lobbying work, so the system has institutional support. We also heard about the several strategies the EU currently has on environmental mitigation, including the Circular Economy model, goals for energy savings and the emission trade scheme.
After an information-packed meeting at the Bureau, we headed over to Place de Luxembourg in front of the European Parliament. We had been told that for Happy hour every Thursday it turns into the meeting place of all the young people from the Brussels Bubble, so of course we had to go and see what it was all about! Getting ourselves some Belgian beers, we enjoyed the chatter and the sun that had come out to greet us until we felt it was time for dinner. We ended up at a nearby burger place that had been recommended to us by a Fleishman Hillard employee, which turned out to be delicious and even allowed us to split the bill between 13 people without a huge hassle. After getting some food in our bellies, we separated into groups of those who wanted to explore the Happy hour plaza a bit more and those who wanted to head to the hostel to get some rest before a fully-booked day ahead of us in the morning.
By Hugo Hue & Minttu Hänninen