Researching eurozone governance reforms, a workshop on travel photography, an away day to Antwerp – plus speeches by Carl Bildt and Helle Thorning-Schmidt – fill the week of College of Europe professor Michele ChangSunday
Attended an all-day photography workshop dedicated to composition. Apparently I have issues with 'foreground'. I hope to be able to take some nice shots over the summer. I went for a quick workout at the gym before heading home. I had a phone date with a friend who used to live in Brussels but moved away a few years ago. The best thing about living in Brussels: it is so international that it is really easy to meet lots of interesting people. The worst thing about living in Brussels: these people move away quite frequently.
Research day in Brussels, most of it spent at home reading up on the euro area governance reforms for a couple of research projects I have going. Trying to keep up on everything is really time consuming, and I also have to work on my own research project today. The morning was spent working at home while having a new boiler installed. My gym was closed for renovations, so I went for a run in the park in the afternoon. Coming home to shower was heavenly – never underestimate the magic of hot water. In the evening I went to a workshop on travel photography. Most interesting discussion was the issue of privacy: Europeans consider their photo being taken by strangers as an invasion of privacy but think nothing of going abroad and taking photos of the locals bathing or doing their laundry in the river.
Gorgeous day outside, finally. A group of MBA students from Villanova University visited the College today, and I gave them a lecture on economic and monetary union and the sovereign debt crisis. They seemed surprised to see how well the euro area is doing economically compared to the United States, they had the impression all of Europe must be a huge mess. In the evening I went with a colleague to an event in Brussels celebrating the anniversary of a consultancy at the Cercle Gaulois. European Commission vice-president Olli Rehn was supposed to give an address, but he sent someone else instead. Disappointing, but Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt gave an interesting talk on Europe and globalisation.
Today I was in Brussels, but instead of sleeping in I got up at the usual time so I could go to the gym and work out. Sitting in meetings all day – and eating a lot of catered food – made this seem like a better option. The 2012 European Summit for Government Transformation took place today in Brussels. POL students worked on case studies in public sector reform with consultants from Accenture, and along with the Lisbon Council organised a summit during which students deliver their results and prizes are awarded. Watching the students give their presentations is a real treat, I see how much progress they have made over the course of the year, and it makes you think that the future really is in good hands. The keynote speaker, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, is a great role model for them – not only is she the current Prime Minister of Denmark, she is also a POL alumna. That evening I attended an evening event at Representation of the State of Baden-Württemberg on the fiscal pact and political union. Very interesting, and good practice for me as I haven't been practicing my German very much since my course at VUB in Brussels ended last month. Afterwards I saw one of my former students – working at the College makes living in Brussels feel a little like being on Cheers
. Ok, so not everybody knows your name, but you constantly run into people you know.
Headed to Paris to give a talk at the European Association of Paritarian Institutions' Transatlantic Conference. Paris is so close to Brussels by train, yet of course I almost never go. I was a little worried if my talk was relevant to the conference – I do not normally talk about pension reforms, so I focused on the impact of European governance reforms on the ability of the state to undertake reforms – but I got some positive feedback afterwards, so I think it went well. And after the conference I was approached by a former student. The Cheers
effect again. Conveniently – and dangerously, at least for my wallet – the conference was located around the corner from the Galeries Lafayette department store, and the sale season just started. I leave what happened next to your imagination.
The POL department has an annual away day, and this year it was in Antwerp. We had a cruise of the industrial harbor, briefly visited the MAS museum for its city view, enjoyed a delicious lunch and capped it off with a visit to the Rubens House. Perhaps it is more accurate to say it was capped by a visit to Starbucks, after the Rubens House.
Sleep, finally. Went a Pilates class, cleaned my apartment, and relaxed. Read a few chapters of the novel for my next book club meeting next week. In the evening I went on a picnic on the lawn of the Chateau de la Hulpe, followed by a drive to Lake Genval – great evening.Michele Chang is a professor in the department of European political and administrative studies at the College of Europe's Bruges campus