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20 years of the "Intensive Seminar on the European Union"

The Development Office organises the 20th edition of its flagship professional training programme in Bruges in July 2013. Each year, some 50 professionals from all over the world representing the public and private sectors, civil society and academia are gathering in Bruges to strengthen their knowledge and practical know-how in the field of European affairs.

This is the occasion for us to take a look back to the 19 past years and to reflect on them. Since 1993 about 1000 participants took part in the Intensive Seminar one-week, two-week or three-week training formula, around 100 experienced trainers brought their expertise to the Seminar and some 40 Seminar Assistants helped in organising the different editions. This created an exchange amongst professionals of at least 50 different nationalities, coming from Canada to Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Liechtenstein to Thailand and China, the Western Balkans and Turkey, just to name a few countries and regions in addition to participants from the European Union.

At the College of Europe, time did not stand still. Five Rectors, 19 promotions of students, and since 1993 there are two campuses. But not only in Bruges and Natolin many changes occurred. In the meantime a lot has also changed in the European Union. Four elections of the European Parliament took place (1994, 1999, 2004, 2009), four different Treaties (Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon) came into force and the EU grew from 11 to 27 Member States. A single currency has been created and the Euro circulates since 2002. A European External Action Service (EEAS) was established in 2010 in order to improve the EU’s external identity. Moreover 30 European Years were organised since 1983 in order to educate the widest possible audience and to attract the attention of governments of Member States on a particular issue. In order to change attitudes or behaviours, this year’s topic is “European Year of Citizens”. The European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) was introduced through the Lisbon Treaty and follows the objective to increase direct democracy in the European Union and to improve citizens’ participation – which is also the focus of the Intensive Seminar’s Council of the EU Simulation Exercise. Finally, the EU has received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 for advancing the causes of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.

Nowadays we are a more diverse European Union than 20 years ago. We now have 23 official and working languages and will welcome our 28th Member State this year in July. We, the European Union, cover over 4 million km² and have almost 500 million inhabitants — the world’s third largest population after China and India. Trade between EU countries has increased from €800 billion in 1992 to €2,540 billion in 2010. With just 7% of the world’s population, the EU's trade with the rest of the world accounts for around 20% of global exports and imports.

The institutional changes and different evolutions raise a series of questions. In order to continue following the European Dream, how can we overcome the economic and financial crisis? How will we continue using the Euro effectively? How will the European Elections in 2014 shape the European Union in the context of rise of populism? To what extent is the European Union still attractive for future and current members, and its partners on the international scene?

These and other questions will be discussed during this summer’s seminar. Join us for this year’s Intensive Seminar in summer to understand and experience the challenges of an ever changing European Union.

By Juliette Coin and Katinka Koke, members of the Intensive Seminar organising team, Development Office, College of Europe