Study Trip of the Business Club

On 23 January 2014, the students of the EEIB specialisation of the Voltaire promotion of the College of Europe took part in the first study trip organised by newly funded CoE Business Club. The purpose of the club is to bridge the gap between business and academia, and to allow its members to gain new skills and apply their theoretical knowledge in practice. The purpose of the study trip was to see how business and EU policy interacts in Brussels. In view of that, we visited Hanover Communications – a consultancy dealing with EU public affairs, BUSINESSEUROPE – an association of business representations from different Member States and the Brussels office of Siemens AG.

Hanover Consulting

The first meeting, at Hanover Consulting, was described by the participants as inspiring and productive. Hanover is a private consultancy firm advising companies, associations or governments. It provides integrated services across the spectrum of corporate communications, political campaigns and public affairs from offices in Brussels and London. Business club visited the office of Hanover in Brussels.

The meeting was conducted by Mr Tristan SUFFYS (Account Director), who was very open and ready to discuss even some sensitive issues such as tips for finding a job, passing a job interview and being competitive in job market. He also gave concrete and practical overview of interest representation in Brussels, explained the roles of institutions and  the possible strategies for lobbying on different levels.  Moreover, he presented some practical tools used by consulting companies in dealing with their clients’ issues, such as regulatory audit and stakeholders’ mapping. We left the meeting with an interesting insider’s perspective on Brussels lobbying landscape and with answers to many questions that were on our minds.

BUSINESSEUROPE

The visit at BusinessEurope, one of the key business representations in the European Union that speaks for 41 national business associations in 35 countries and consequently for more than 20 millions of small, medium and large companies, gave us a very interesting insight and a practical perspective for our EEIB academic program.

The two policy advisers we met there, Cecilia ZAPPALA and Méabh Ní DRISCEOIL, work respectively in the departments of Internal market and Industrial Affairs and are both alumni of the College of Europe. They presented us the main figures of the lobbying activities in Brussels and the associated challenges. They also explained BusinessEurope’s structure and activities, highlighting the difficulties in representing such a variety of European business and being at the same time a credible interlocutor with the European intuitions. This heterogeneity of firms often translates into slow reaction and challenges in building a common consensus.

Finally Cecilia and Méabh briefly illustrated BusinessEurope’s position on specific EU legislations such as data protection and Cybersecurity, concluding with a focus on Research and Innovation and the Horizon 2020 Package.

Siemens AG

The last meeting of our trip was at the Brussels Office of Siemens AG. We were welcomed by the head of the office, Mr Peter WITT, his assistant Ms Maeve SMYTH and a College alumnus, Jonas DREGER. The meeting started with a detailed and inspiring presentation of Siemens AG, describing the role of the company as an innovative firm, always on the technology frontier, maintaining its position as one of the leaders of patented technologies in Europe. Moreover, the mission of the firm was presented, with the focus on addressing challenges of today’s world – climate change, urbanization, demographic change and globalization. During the q&a section following this part of the presentation, we touched upon the strategic importance of EU as the home market for Siemens, and found out about many ways in which industrial markets worldwide are affected by EU regulation.

In the second part of the presentation, we found out more about the activities of the Representation Office. Most important areas in which Siemens’ interests are represented were defined as: creation of markets, ensuring access to funding (e.g. R&D funds, etc) and containing regulatory threats. We have also found out about Siemens’ involvement in the activities of standardization bodies, for which they can often provide priceless expertise. Finally, we found out that for efficient interest representation, you need to know the dossier, have the right social skills, act fair towards partners and have a large network. The meeting was very professionally prepared and gave us a lot of important insights.

Afterwards, we proceeded to one of the bars on Place du Luxembourg, where we met some of the EEIB alumni in a more casual context. The trip was very interesting and enriching, and we all came back to Bruges with interesting new ideas, contacts, and with renewed energy for deepening our knowledge and getting ready for joining the labour market fairly soon.

 

If you want to find out more about the activities of the Business Club, follow our Facebook page: 

https://www.facebook.com/pages/EEIB-Specialisation-Business-Club/282765281848318

Or contact the responsible:

Katarzyna BITKA, katarzyna.bitka [at] coleurope.eu