EUROPE: BUILDING a VIABLE UNION
     
Herman Van Rompuy on Europe, building a viable Union
The second Brussels think tank dialogue on 25 January 2011: Over the last year, the economic crisis has reached new heights, rocking the European Union and its member states to the core. The need to implement tough austerity measures will redefine political priorities and force EU leaders to select those policy decisions that are the most effective in terms of strengthening the role of the Union on the international scene and living up to the expectations of its citizens.
With a view to contribute to the process of setting Europe’s future agenda and after the successful kick-off of the Think Tank Dialogue series in January 2010, ten leading Brussels-based think tanks have again joined forces to host the second annual Brussels Think Tank Dialogue, which addressed the immediate priorities on the EU’s agenda as well as the overall strategic direction of European policy-making
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This year’s Dialogue dealt with a variety of issues ranging from the EU’s international representation and its role in global
climate change governance, to budgetary challenges and labour migration. The conclusions reached by the participating experts were presented in a public plenary. The President of the European Union, Herman van Rompuy, has kindly accepted to open the session with a keynote speech outlining his reflections about how to build a viable Union in times of crisis. Other speakers, amoung others, were the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Hungary and the Polish Secretary of State for European Affairs and Economic Policy.
A 300 people did register for the closing session, which followed after several impulse statements and four workshops in parallel. The days credo 'direction comes before speed' and the heading 'viable' covered exactly the items that were discussed
Van Rompuy considered: 'Europe has achievements and shortcomings. The Lisbon Treaty delivers several new instruments, through which actions can be done or just not. We are content with a gradual, step-by-step progress in the right direction. Critisism from the European Parliament was rejected that the actions of the EU government are always too little and too late. He also emphasized that the agenda of European think tanks should not only include constructive support in order to address important challenges and should help to identify major challenges such as the economic crisis at an early stage and develop solutions to these challenges, but also should make recommendations on how to strengthen competitiveness and social cohesion in Europe.

The following subjects were dealt with during the workshops:

- What role for the EU in today's global climate governance? Key challenges and strategic choices
- Money for Nothing? The role of the EU Budget in European Economic Governance
- The Next Phase of EU Labour Immigration Policy: Adressing Incoherences and Advancing a Rights-Based Approach
- A Single Voice or Not? The External Representation of the European Union

Herman Van Rompuy: Directio comes before speed
CEPS reported:
Implementation was one of the major themes of the second annual Brussels Think Tank Dialogue, co-organised by CEPS and nine other Brussels-based think tanks in January. The event, which has already come to be seen as one of the main opportunities for the research community to engage with high-level policy-makers in a ‘state of the union’ debate, focused on four main themes this year: the establishment of the European External Action Service and the arrangements for the EU’s representation in international fora, the EU’s role in the global climate change governance system, labour migration and the role of the EU budget as an anti-cyclical motor for growth.

On the first topic, the debate centred on the pioneering book by Michael Emerson, CEPS, and researchers from three other institutions, which looks at whether the European Union is serious about becoming a global actor and whether it is prepared to take the steps necessary to that end, including a reform of the national diplomacies.
Among the participants, President Barroso dwelled on the importance of economic governance and the necessity to underpin it with political will.
President Van Rompuy pointed to the notable achievements of the past year in tackling the economic crisis and emphasised the importance of “direction over speed”, even proposing some topics of research to the assembled experts.
János Martony, the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Mikołaj Dowgielewicz, Poland’s Secretary of State for European Affairs also intervened, outlining the way in which their presidencies were planning to cooperate in the coming year
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The Dialogue was jointly organised by

the Bertelsmann Stiftung, BRUEGEL, the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), Confrontations Europe, Egmont – Royal Institute for International Affairs, the European Policy Centre (EPC), Friends of Europe – Les amis de l’Europe, the Institut français des relations internationales (Ifri), Madariaga, College of Europe Foundation and the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) and in co-operation with Agence Europe.

The Brussels Think Tank Dialogue brings together policy experts and academics to critically reflect on the State of the Union and to develop analysis and recommendations to improve EU policy on a wide range of issues. The Dialogue is designed to foster broad policy debates on overarching political issues during plenary sessions, and also provide participants with an opportunity for in-depth exchange on specific political issues during smaller workshops.