The European Union is standing at a cross-road, facing crisis after crisis. While European politicians are putting everything at stake to find compromises between 28 member states, the young generation of Europe is calling for sustainable solutions. From the conviction that a debate on the future of the continent cannot be conducted fruitfully without the input of the young generation, a team of alumni of the College of Europe organizes the “Re-Inventing Europe” youth conference. Uniting the College of Europe’s history as lively and ambitious graduate institute nurturing Europe’s future, the conference invites the young generation to voice its visions about the future of Europe.
Bruxelles, c’est nous!
On October 17th, the 3rd edition of Re-Inventing Europe took place at the College of Europe in Bruges. Bringing together politicians, academics, young leaders and more than 350 young activists, the conference was ready to be kicked-off. The official opening address was held by Didier REYNDERS, Belgian Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Policy and European Affairs. Minister REYNDERS called upon the young generation to continue striving for more integration towards a federal union. The European values are at the core of this project, values that have guaranteed peace for over 70 years. The refugee crisis is not a threat to these values but is an opportunity to show and promote European values.
The Prime-Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Xavier BETTEL, impressed everyone with an open and honest speech about what way forward with the European Union. The PM stated : “on peut constater aujourd’hui que l’Europe est forte”. With Luxembourg holding currently the presidency of the Council of the European Union, participants learned about key priorities that PM BETTEL aims to achieve. One of them being climate change and preparing for Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) taking place in November 2015.
Both prominent politicians of the European political landscape shared the same message for their colleagues: national ministers should take responsibility and stop blaming EU for difficult decision that are being made in Brussels. By faulting European policy for unpopular decision that are difficult to explain a national level, these politicians create feelings of resentment towards European politics among the people of Europe. Their message is: “Bruxelles, c’est nous”!
Debate about Europe
Focussing on four key challenges Europe faces, the conference’s agenda focussed on the banking crisis, European foreign affairs, the energy union and the immigration crisis. During panel sessions experts in the field held open conversations with participants about these challenges.
The economic crisis has raised many critical questions, one of the most urging being: does the EU need to move towards a banking union? This remains an open question with many factors that need to be considered when taking the decision, such as what is the price of competiveness of banks.
European foreign affairs is currently dominated by the unstable Eastern. What should the EU’s reaction be towards Russia’s increased activity in the region? This question was heavily debated and support was found in favour of EU recent approach being more strategic and focussed policy, providing both economic and political support to region.
Touching upon the foundation stone of the EU – Treaty of Paris signed in 1951 establishing ECSC – the panel about energy policy promised to be an interesting debate. There was a critical note towards move to more green energy, this cannot be the only answer for cleaner environment. Consider the example: Berlin has the highest solar panels per capita but at the same time the number of days raining equals the numbers of day with sunshine, so what is the return of the investment?
The most recent and urging crisis – the migration crisis – was intensely debated among experts and students. A strong voice was expressed to invest more resources into integration and fight against human smugglers.
The importance of the migration crisis was again highlighted when the organizers were contacted by Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia, Miro CERAR. On October 16th neighbouring countries closed the borders with Croatia, putting Slovenia in the context of the migration crisis in a very serious situation. The project of European integration is facing many challenges and while some might say there no hope left for further integration, the conference has proven that young generation is striving for the continuation of the European project. Reaching many young, dedicated activist – even beyond students of the College of Europe – it is safe to say that there will be a future of Europe and a future for Europe.
If you like to get more information about the Re-Inventing Europe ’16 edition get in touch with us via
As host institution the College of Europe provides the young generation a platform to debate the future of Europe. In particular the support provided by Rector MONAR and the Political and Administrative department is highly appreciated.
The Re-Inventing Europe team ’15 continued the cooperation with the Bertelsmann Stiftung. The Bertelsmann Stiftung has been a partner of the conference since the first edition in year 2013. This year the conference welcomed Febelfin as s new cooperation partner. The cooperation with both cooperation partners as very fruitful and the conference team would be glad to continue this partnership in 2016.
A special word of thanks for all the speakers and moderators: Xavier BETTEL (Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg), Didier REYNDERS (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs, Kingdom of Belgium), Katarzyna HANULA-BOBBITT (Senior Public Affairs Officer, Finance Watch), Mathias DEWATRIPONT, Director (National Bank of Belgium), David SCHAFER (Researcher, London School of Economics), Michel VERMAERKE (CEO, Febelfin), Henning vom STEIN (Head of Brussels Office, Bertelsmann Stiftung), Alexander GUSAROV (First secretary, Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the EU), Masha HEDBERG, Adjunct Professor (Johns Hopkins SAIS Bologna Center), Arnoldas PRANKEVICIUS (Foreign Policy Adviser to the President at European Parliament Martin Schulz), Michele CHANG (Professor, European Political and Administrative Studies Department, College of Europe), Johanna GEREKE, Researcher (European University Institute), Maximilian POPP (Journalist, Der Spiegel), Martin XUEREB (Executive Director, Migrant Offshore Aid Station), Tobias MAASSEN (Vaclav Havel Promotion, College of Europe), Dries ACKE (Policy Manager, European Climate Foundation), Caroline DIECKHONER (Energy Analyst, KfW Banking Group), Michael MIESZCZANSKI (EU Affairs Advisor, ENTSO-E), Thomas PELLERIN-CARLIN (Research Fellow, Jaques Delors Institute)