On 8 December 2021, students from the IEE and the College of Europe had the pleasure of meeting to discuss the future of Europe, this time in Bruges. After a very successful first meeting in June 2021 in Brussels, initiated by both institutions and organised by the Student Association of the Institute of European Studies (SAIES) and their counterparts from the College of Europe, students and authorities were eager to repeat the experience and make it a tradition between the two institutions.

Meeting 2021

The day started with welcome words by Professor Olivier Costa, Director of the Department of European Political Studies and Governance of the College of Europe, and Professor Ramona Coman, President of the IEE, recalling the success of the first edition in June and highlighting the will of the two institutions to continue to collaborate and meet, as well as the relevance of the debate on the future of the Union.

Then, the student coordinators (Antoine Ichas and Margarida Marante for the College of Europe, Martina Rubino and Jeanne Fabreguettes for the IEE) announced the work schedule and presented the five discussion panels and their corresponding sub-themes:

  • Panel 1: Resilient European societies (Green Deal, digitalisation, health issues and solidarity).
  • Panel 2: Democracy in the EU (Rule of law, legitimacy, European public space, education).
  • Panel 3: Europe and the World (European Neighbourhood Policy, trade relations, enlargement).
  • Panel 4: Strategic autonomy and defence (Common and Security Policy, cyber security, industrial autonomy).
  • Panel 5: Migration (Border management, internal management of migrants, asylum policy, integration policies).

slideshow IEE-college 2021 by Institut d’études européennes-ULB

After the 32 participants had been assigned into their groups, the students were able to launch the first discussions and debate the chosen themes for two and a half hours. The participants described the discussions as rich and intense. The work on articulating the debate will take place during 2022 and on the second day of the meeting, to be hosed by the IEE in June.

After a lunch in Bruges, the afternoon was an opportunity for the students to meet in a more relaxed way over a drink at the Christmas market and during a tour of the city organised by the College students.

The student experience

Testimony Anabelle Adam (IEE)

Annabelle is Belgian and is enroled in the Specialised Master in European Law. After a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the University of Namur and a Master’s degree in Law specialising in European Law (options: international public law and international trade) at the Université Catholique de Louvain-La-Neuve, she wanted to deepen her knowledge of European law by joining the IEE-labelled LL.M. Her favourite subjects are competition law, all aspects of EU trade policy and EU external relations.

“As Vice President of SAIES, it is an honour for me to work with this association and to collaborate with the IEE and the College of Europe to set up this kind of meeting. This joint event was an opportunity for me to meet my peers but also to discuss issues that are not only current but also of the utmost importance for our future”.

Annabelle was part of the Europe and the world panel. “After a brief introduction of each student, we started brainstorming by talking about current events but also about topics that we thought were related to our panel. After gathering all our ideas, we tried to classify them into broader themes and to arrange them in a coherent way”. For the student, this first plenary session was “not only a way to meet new people who share my interest in the European Union, but also a way to network, which is valuable as most of us are about to start our professional lives”.

Testimony Aoife Curtin (College of Europe)

Aoife is from Ireland and is currently pursuing the Master in European Policy and Governance Studies at the College of Europe. Prior to starting the programme, she worked for over a year with an organisation called European Movement Ireland, which aims to strengthen the relationship between Irish citizens and the EU. She is particularly interested in the themes of citizen engagement and participatory democracy.

“I am very happy to be involved in this extra-curricular activity with the IEE students. I think it is really important that we have the opportunity to discuss such relevant issues concerning the future of the EU and to each bring our different perspectives and experiences to the debates.”

For the upcoming debates, Aoife is a member of panel 5, which focuses on the topic of migration. “At our first meeting on 8 December, our panel members recognised that this is one of the most highly politicised issues facing the European community and therefore one of the most difficult to resolve at pan-European level. We highlighted the lack of understanding of the issue of migration in the public sphere and also noted the narrow definition of a refugee, which needs to be updated to include new categories such as climate refugees. Our panel hopes to focus on issues relating to border management, a system of reallocation, standardisation of the asylum process and the effective integration of migrants into society. We will take into account the European Commission’s proposal for a new Pact on Migration and Asylum in our discussions, while bringing our own innovative but realistic ideas. Given the very insightful thoughts already expressed at our first meeting, I am very much looking forward to seeing how our discussion develops over the coming months and what solutions we adopt. I have no doubt that our panel will have some interesting proposals to present to the whole group when we meet again in Brussels in June!”