As part of the University of East Anglia Redrawing Europe Lectures, I was invited by Prof. John Street as a guest speaker at the European Forum which involves lectures from prominent academics, politicians, practitioners as well as people from the world of business, media, non governmental and international organisations, with valuable perspectives on a variety of European affairs, with the talks being freely open to the public.
I was invited due to my inspiring path through life and business and me being a Member of the EESC which would make a valuable contribution to the series, since I combine the insight from working within the EU institutions with the practical concerns and challenges that face European citizens.
I began my lecture by asking how many in the audience knew of the EESC and was slightly surprised that over half did. However the questions at the end of the lecture were critical of the Communication of “Brussels” and all the EU institutions in general for being too distant from the citizens.
I focussed on describing the work of the Committee and how my business and experience was related to the work of the Committee. I shared how we prepared the opinions with a consensus but also influenced policy with own initiative opinions.
The University of East Anglia take students over to Brussels twice a year and visit the Committee of the Regions. I have now invited them to the EESC also. They explained that my lecture would be very valuable as a precursor to these visits and also believe that the Going Local initiative is excellent in promoting our work, and more such initiatives should be carried out.
The question and answer session also covered
- The UK elections, which I addressed without any political bias but did highlight some of the anti –EU media which is not always correct and takes only a snapshot of one or two negative decisions or actions to influence the citizens without full explanations.
- The lack of visionaries and leaders in the EU – I had highlighted the influence of Jean Monnet and as a 27 year old his ability to drive a vision forward not only for coal and steel, but for peace and security.
- The lack of inclusion or representation of civil society in the decision making process. The gender balance, ethnicity and also the lack of representation of NGOs in a substantial manner were all listed as concerns. Of course I used the example of gender inequality which was still obvious in all EU institutions. The comment that came from the audience was the “male, pale and stale EU bureaucrats!!”
- The issue of democracy and human rights was also mentioned, but the greatest concern was the lack of employment opportunities for young people and what was the EU doing to address this. The University had now reviewed its own practices and was putting employability at the top of the University agenda.
- Being an entrepreneur we discussed the entrepreneurial spirit in the EU, and the lack of support for entrepreneurs in general, despite the fact that they were seen as the backbone of the economy.
It was a very enjoyable lecture and the questions and answer session had to be terminated to allow the lecturers to take me for dinner, but for me this was a sign that this format of “Going Local” was productive.
I hope to be invited back in the future and I thank the EESC for giving me this opportunity to “Communicate Europe”
Please do not hesitate to contact me for any further information email@example.com.