Tag Archives: brussels

Brexit and the Brussels Brits

 

euukAmidst the shock and carnage of Brexit, Brits living in Brussels will be particularly shocked, and indeed horrified. An expat community is witnessing its own country tearing itself apart, lashing out in anger, inflicting pain and unleashing chaos on itself, but also on the rest of Europe. Adding to the shock for many is the questioning of our own identities: is this still the Britain that we left?

Beyond the political, economic, social and environmental questions, Brits in Brussels will eventually have their own concerns: what will become of them? Jobs, lives, families in Belgium have all been built by UK citizens taking advantage of the UK’s membership of the EU, so what will happen to them now? The statement of the (outgoing) UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, to Brits living abroad that, ‘there will be no immediate changes in your circumstances’ is hardly reassuring.

So what will the impact of Brexit be for those of us in the ‘Brussels bubble’?

The first harsh truth is that today, this is a very minor issue. The seismic shock of Brexit is so big that the minor rumblings of a few expats will have little impact on UK politics. Even when the question of UK citizens abroad rises up the agenda, the biggest issue will be the future of retirees in Spain, not working age expats in Brussels. This will be a long way down the list of priorities of the next British Prime Minister. And to be fair, for many British citizens working on EU issues in Brussels their own situation may be at the back of their minds today as they think of the impact on the UK, Europe, and the world.

 The legal uncertainty is perhaps the biggest issue: will expat Brits still have the right to live and work in Belgium once the UK has left the EU? Of course, this depends upon the nature of the new UK/EU agreement. EEA membership would safeguard the right to work in Belgium. But it’s extremely difficult to see how the UK could keep out EU migrants from Britain, whilst retaining the right for UK citizens to work abroad. Brits have the right to Belgian citizenship after living in the country for more than five years, so that will be a solution of sorts for some. Many Brits, of course, already live in mixed nationality families, with intertwined lives that make a Brexit even more complex and threatening.

So what future for the diverse range of Brits in Brussels?

  1. The ‘Eurocrat’

Brits working within the EU Institutions are in a state of shock. There are implications for their lives and careers, but these are also people who are committed to an idea of Europe, and an idea of Britain’s relationship with the EU, which has just been put in question.

When the UK leaves, will they lose their jobs? Jean-Claude Juncker has already written to them to promise that he will fight for their jobs. But whilst their contracts may continue, they risk marginalization within the Institutions, with no senior roles allocated for Brits. Those on fixed-term contracts are most under threat. And those working for UK MEPs will clearly be looking for new careers after the next Parliament elections in 2019.

  1. The Lobbyist

 Brits in Brussels have traditionally traded off two things: access and communication. For lobbyists within the public affairs agencies, uncertainty creates business. Expect a boom in the next couple of years for political lobbyists in Brussels as the convoluted process of negotiating a new UK / EU relationship begins. British lobbyists will be in demand, both from UK companies seeking to understand the regulatory impact of Brexit, and from EU companies who are concerned about their export markets and adapting to a new way of trading with the UK.

But at the same time, those dealing with the regular EU policy-making will take a hit. Who will employ a British lobbyist to steer a path through a legislative process that will not include the UK? The value of having British contacts in the EU Institutions has just gone through the floor. Understanding the Franco-German political axis will become more important, along with growing powers like Poland. So maybe it will be short-term gain for some, but long-term pain for all?

  1. The Communicator

The second advantage Brits have in Brussels is their ability to communicate in English. Unfair as it may seem, amongst all these polyglot Europeans the mono-lingual Brit is still valued for their ability to write in their mother tongue. English is likely to remain an important language in Brussels – within both political and business circles.

PR professionals, Communications Directors, writers and editors will all hope that their skills will remain bankable in a Brit-free EU. But whether they will have the right to continue to use those skills by working outside the UK is another question.  

  1. The Facilitator

 Brussels is full of trade associations, alliances, and coalitions, and the people who bring these groups together. British staffers in these offices will be feeling nervous: what future for them if they work for an association without any UK members in future? For those involved in the world of EU funding the prospects are even more uncertain. UK participation in EU programmes and funds is not guaranteed. And the role of British regional offices in Brussels, universities, and others who seek to build partnerships around EU funds is clearly under threat.

  1. The Campaigner

There is a large community of Brits working for campaigning NGOs in Brussels, across all sectors. Almost all of them were strongly in favour of Remain, on the basis of preserving social and environmental rights and values. They are now already campaigning to ensure that the issues close to their hearts are not damaged by Brexit, whether in the UK or the rest of Europe. Many will argue that there is more need than ever for progressive British voices in Brussels. But will those voices still be heard? It is clear that the political landscape has changed, perhaps forever. Responding will certainly require new approaches.

  1. The next generation

Beyond the fate of the Brits who currently live and work in Brussels, perhaps it is more important to think of those who are to come. Or rather, those who may not be able to come in future. Brussels is a European city of movement – people arrive, work, live, love, and then often leave. Some of us stay, but many simply take advantage of free movement to experience living in another country for a few months or years. That right is now under threat. The ‘Brussels Brits’ who are already here have their own concerns, but the next generation may not have the right to come and live in this confusing, infuriating, complex, delightful, and wonderful city – or in the rest of the European Union. And that’s the real shame.

 

Simon Wilson is a long-term Brit in Brussels. This article is written in a personal capacity.

 

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5 things you should know about the Circular Economy Action Plan

I’ve recently started working for Green Alliance, the environmental think-tank, as their representative in Brussels. They are a UK think-tank, and it makes sense to have someone in Brussels to promote the great work that they do. At least, that’s the idea!

The main thing I’m focusing on is the circular economy, hence this piece I’ve written over at the Green Alliance blog:

5 things you should know about the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan

I’ll be writing some more blogs over there, and will link to them here.

As part of my work for Green Alliance I am coordinating an alliance of think-tanks and progressive business from the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands, the Alliance for Circular Economy Solutions (ACES).

Contact me by email or Twitter if you’d like to know more about what ACES is doing, or about Green Alliance’s work.

Brussels: a city of VIPs?

I’m not quite sure how I came to be reading the latest annual activity report of the Brussels Ixelles police force (Ixelles is a commune of Brussels, near the centre).

However I did come across some interesting statistics. The report lists the number of hours spent annually in providing police escorts for ‘Presidents, Ministers, and other VIPs’.

Those who live in Brussels will be familiar with the sight – and sound – of VIP convoys heading across town. One or more big black limousines is accompanied by a phalanx of police motorcycle outriders, who alternately zoom ahead or drop behind, blocking traffic at junctions with whistles and flashing lights, in order to let the VIPs pass unhindered through the rush-hour traffic.

They look pretty cool, and usually lend a certain panache and swagger to their maneuvers, aided by the inevitable black sunglasses. The constant convoys can be tiresome for those exposed to this on a daily basis. And it is on a daily basis: Brussels has an awful lot of VIPs.

One reason is the number of levels of government here.

A ‘Minister’ in Brussels can mean a federal (i.e. national) Minister, or a Minister in one of the three regional governments (Brussels-Capital, plus the Walloon Region and Flemish Region, both based in Brussels as well), or the French-speaking Community (the Dutch-speaking Community is merged with the Flemish Region, just to add to the confusion). Then of course there are the EU VIPs as well – national Ministers from all across Europe, here for EU meetings. Then there are the European Parliament VIPs and other dignatories. And of course the European Commission – each of the 26 Commissioners has their own driver and car to allow them to zoom up rue de la Loi (it would be much quicker by bike or metro of course). And not forgetting the diplomatic corps. There are huge embassies all along some of Brussels’ broad, tree-lined avenues, with delegations from around the world occupying huge, art nouveau mansions. There seems to be a rule that the smaller the country, the larger the embassy building, although it may just be that the bigger countries are a bit more discreet as a result of security concerns.

A ‘President’ can mean a Minister-President (regional level) a national President from another country who might be in town, or one of the European Presidents – the Commission, Council and Parliament each have their own President of course. Belgium is a monarchy, so no national President here, but  the royal family need to move around town too – the King’s official palace is an anarchist’s stone’s throw away from where I work in town.

I’m not sure who counts as a ‘VIP’ deserving of an official convoy, but there must be a lot of them too. Because in 2009 the Ixelles police spent no less than 6557 hours in escorting these convoys. Now that’s a lot. But by 2010 the figure had risen to 9499 – an increase of 44% in one year! Now that’s a lot of Ministers, Presidents and VIPs, not least because Belgium didn’t actually have a government in 2010.*

9499 hours per year already means that the Ixelles police are spending 26 hours per day providing VIP escorts, which is an impressive effort.

At the current rate of increase, I estimate that by 2020 the police will be spending nearly 250,000 hours per year on escorting VIPs. We have a lot of Ministers, Presidents and VIPs, but there’s no way they can keep up with the demand, even if they all spent 24 hours per day driving around Brussels. Obviously, this means that we are going to need a lot more VIPs, Ministers and Presidents.  In fact, we will all have to be VIPs, with our own outriders to clear the traffic every time we go out to the shops.

Of course, even the current level of police escorts does seem absurdly huge. And bear in mind, that these 9499 hours are just the figures for one of Brussels’ communes (there are 19 in total!). This is all part of a trend towards greater levels of security for our politicians… as they become more and more unloved.

There are two responses towards the increased security threats which our leaders face. One is to find more and more remote, and secure places to meet. Hence the retreats in difficult to reach, easy to control places like Davos or the UAE. But I think that Brussels’ response is much smarter. Rather than isolating the VIPs, here they are safely hidden in plain view. After all, with so many convoys of political nonentities patrolling the streets of Brussels, another black limousine attracts no attention at all from the casual passer-by. It could be a minor diplomat from a low-ranking country, or a mid-ranking official from one of the regional governments. Or it could be Francois Hollande, sweeping into Brussels to a high-level meeting with Merkel and whomever is Prime Minister of Greece this week. But either way, no one is going to notice.

 

 

 

 

* ok, not exactly true I know. We did have an acting government it’s just that it took over a year post-election to reach agreement between the parties about forming a new one.

 

 

A Brit-free Brussels?

The UK is now isolated within the EU, and commentators are openly speaking about the possibility of the British leaving entirely. Most of the articles about the implications of the UK leaving the EU look at the big issues: the economic, political, and legal implications. But let’s imagine the more local consequences: the impact on Brussels. What would life in ‘Euro-Brussels’ be like without the Brits?

Close your eyes, if you will, and let me take you on a journey into the future….

The year is 2022, and President Sean Connery is negotiating the accession of newly-independent Scotland with EU President Elio di Ruppo….. woah, sorry, too far forwards. Let’s rewind a little.

The year is 2018, and the UK has finally left the EU after several years of argument and recrimination. The UK tried to argue that it was the 26 other Member States who should leave, since they were the ones who wanted to change things. In the end the 26 did leave, but took the Institutions with them, renaming the EU into EU United in the process. (For UK readers, I stole this scenario from the MK Dons / Wimbledon FC takeover, my apologies.)

With no right to benefit from the free movement of labour, the remaining Brussels Brits needed to apply for visas… or leave. The British Embassy helped the last wave to leave on 31 December 2015. Hundreds queued at UK Rep clutching their tattered copies of the Treaty of Lisbon. They waited to be flown out by the American helicopters which landed in the middle of rond-pont Schuman. Then they took off, making their way back to the UK (or US Air Force East Atlantic Base, as Britain has been formally re-named).

But these pro-EU Brits found no safe harbour for their unpopular views back home. Many were forced to travel onwards, a vast diaspora of displaced Europhiles, roaming the world in search of a new utopia. Many of them settled on a huge cruise ship, purchased from another organisation. Now they sail around the Caribbean listening to lectures on the life of Jacques Delors. The boat is commanded by Admiral Cathy Ashton, who thus became responsible for the EU’s first real flagship initiative.

For those who stayed in Brussels, at first their native English gave them a marginal advantage and helped their visa applications. But all this was to change in 2017, when English ceased to be one of the official languages of the EU. The new EU United rules made it clear that there would be only one official language per Member State.

Malta chose Maltese rather than English. But it was more of a surprise when the Irish chose to make Mandarin their official language. However, as Taoiseach Xiang explained, this requirement was included in the fine print of the agreement signed in 2016, when China bought the Irish Republic during the ‘Euro brocante’.

The British citizens working for the European Commission fared badly as well. Once the UK had left, they managed to negotiate a right to keep their contracts, but they were rapidly consigned to the lowliest, least desirable parts of the Commission. Philip Lowe was made Director General for DG Maintenance Services, staffed mainly by the remaining Brits, who finally got the chance to clean up the Commission. Room by room.

British MEPs found themselves unemployed of course. Sharon Bowles used her experience as Chair of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee to secure a senior position within EU United’s monetary transition team, responsible for conversion to the new Euro-Yuan currency in 2017.

Nigel Farrage, however, found that the UK Independence Party’s success in getting Britain out of Europe left him in charge of a campaign with nowhere to go. He moved to national politics, but soon pronounced that the UK was too federal and centralised, and that local independence was the answer. Following a split in the Kensington & Chelsea Independence Party, he joined the Independence for Kensington campaign, finally ending up leading the Kensington Avenue (north end) Independence Party in its attempts to declare independence from Kensington Avenue (south end).

Meanwhile, Andrew Duff put his constitutional expertise to use, as an advisor to the drafting group for the new Belgian constitution. After only three years’ pain-staking work, the joint Flemish / Walloon group has just agreed on what colour chairs they should sit on, and is now negotiating whether the chairs should be bought from Ikea Zaventem or Ikea Arlon.

Place Luxembourg has changed too. Without the clientele of the boozy Brits, the bars have suffered, and have been forced to diversify, selling ‘I love Europe so much… that I bought it!’ T-shirts to wealthy Arab visitors.

Place de Londres has been renamed Martyrs’ Square in honour of those European politicians who were forced to eat English food during previous UK Presidency dinners.

And the statute of Field Marshal Montgomery next to Montgomery roundabout has been replaced with a bust of Mario Draghi, honoured for negotiating the ground-breaking sponsorship deal for the Emirates European Central Bank. Of course, the roundabout itself (a British invention) was replaced by the re-introduction of the priorite a droit rule at every junction in Europe, a decision directly responsible for the economic stimulus which lifted the EU out of recession during the so-called ‘bodyshop boom’.

And what of the British lobbyists? Well, with their backs to the wall, they mounted their most intensive lobbying campaign ever. They convinced the European Parliament that since lobbyists are the only ones who actually pay it any attention, throwing the vast number of British consultants out would jeopardise the egos of hundreds of attention-starved MEPs. The Parliament promptly voted a budget-line for the Supporters of the UK Union of Parliamentary Professionals (SUK-UPP), which funds British lobbyists to lurk within the Parliament’s bars and cafes, ensuring that an MEP need never worry about buying their own drinks.

Oh – but I forgot about the British journalists. What happens to them in the future? Well, the same as all the other professional journalists to be honest. What? Did you seriously think that there would still be newspapers in 2018 ?

 

They’re back – it’s European Summit time again

I see that the European Council is about to roll into town again. No, the photo is not a satirical comment about our leaders  – it’s just that the replacement of metal rubbish bins with cardboard boxes on the Metro platforms is a sure-fire sign that the EU’s Prime Ministers are on their way. I presume that this is done for security reasons… unless putting up signs for ‘waste’ in 3 languages is a subversive form of protest from the STIB (Brussels’ transport authority)?

Anyway, this set me thinking about what would be occupying the thoughts of our leaders this time. Of course, there are always two agendas – the one which is prepared, months in advance, by a host of diligent civil servants through a process of negotiation, discussion, and deal-making. And then there is the agenda which will actually get discussed – which is determined by whatever is on the rolling TV news channels the night before. Al-Jazeera will be trumping Euronews this time, I think.

Nothing wrong with that – Egypt is on the brink of monumental changes, and the EU should try to make sure that it has its diplomatic ducks lined up, and does what it can to encourage democratic reform. European Summits are almost always sidetracked by crises, and this time it really is a big one, with implications stretching well beyond Egypt itself.

But I do wonder whether the Heads of State & government who gather in Brussels don’t feel more comfortable dealing with international crises, rather than domestic policies. After all, it’s probably a little easier to pull together a few lines about democracy and the people of Egypt, than to find the solutions to Europe’s energy and innovation problems (which is what the Summit is supposed to be about). Because in the end, the EU won’t solve Egypt’s problems (nor should it). But the EU does have to solve its own problems.

Perhaps this is unfair: it’s inevitable that all the real work of a Summit is done long before the leaders arrive. You can’t actually negotiate an agreement in a meeting of 27 Prime Ministers. By the time you’ve worked out who wants coffee, who needs a whiskey, and how to seat the Italian Prime Minister away from the Finnish Prime Minister (you can never be too careful), it’s time to go home. And the Prime Ministers themselves are not the experts on the policy detail, they leave that to their Ministers and civil servants.

So what use are such special Summits, when all the work is done in advance, the agenda usually overtaken by news events, and the leaders have very little time to discuss real issues?

There are lots of serious reasons I could give, but the less serious one I shall choose is this: European Summits are a way of giving structure and meaning to the lives of  the inhabitants of EuroBrussels.  They give us the framework around which the EU can build the rest of its calendar. They bring meaning to our lives.

Ministerial meetings are timed to prepare papers for the Prime Ministers to approve, or to react to their latest edicts. European Commission roadmaps need a European Council meeting to exist, otherwise they would never get published. NGOs and lobbyists need them to bring a focal point to their campaigns.The press needs them to persuade their editors to give them more space than the usual half column buried on page 13.

European Summits are very like royal visits. They are designed to make us all feel important, to feel like we matter.  We must be, otherwise they wouldn’t keep coming, surely? So we shouldn’t be asking what they are going to actually produce. We should just be grateful that they keep coming to visit us. In fact, we should really offer a present as a token of our gratitude. Traditionally (well in my country, anyway), a royal visit is marked with a bouquet of flowers. But 27 of those don’t come cheap, and it’s a bit short notice. Hmmm… I think I could probably find 27 very nice cardboard boxes though. Very useful for putting all those policy proposals in. They come with a pre-printed label in three languages too.

Finding a job in EU-Brussels

Every once in a while I find myself sitting in Place Lux, drinking coffee with someone, in order to share my limited knowledge about how to build a career in Brussels. (I always pay for the coffee as an apology for my less than stellar insights.) These new arrivals are usually introduced via a friend or colleague, who has selected me on the basis (I assume) that people with more successful careers don’t have time to give free career advice.

I usually try to make time for such meetings, for several reasons.

1) I well remember trying to work out how to find a job in Brussels myself a dozen years ago, and wishing I could find someone to help me work out this strange place
2) It’s always nice to meet new, eager faces on the Brussels scene
3) The chances are that whomever I’m meeting will end up with a much more glamorous career than me; they can buy the coffee when they become a European Commissioner or MEP.

In order to avoid disappointment for future seekers of wisdom, I thought I’d set out the limits of my insights here, starting with an overview of the jobs market.

I should start by saying that I don’t offer advice on obtaining employment within the EU Institutions since a) I’ve never been a Eurocrat myself, and b) if you are thinking about entering a concours I’d recommend a pursuit where the odds are more in your favour and the rewards more enjoyable.
So we are talking about jobs in the Brussels EU penumbra – the shadowy area which surrounds those Institutional colossi, its occupants darting out of the shadows here and there to feast on the crumbs dropping from the Berlaymont.
More prosaically, that means:

  • NGOs
  • industry & trade associations
  • think-tanks and researchers
  • regions
  • consultants and lobbyists
  • media, assorted others

I may write about each of these sectors in more detail over time, but here’s a quick summary of the prospects within each grouping.

NGOs: can be a good way in to EU-Brussels employment, although contacts can be short-term, and pay lower than other sectors. NGO jobs are either supporting the core operations of the network (policy, communications, membership support etc), or linked to specific projects. Working for an NGO project offers the best chance for a Brussels outsider. Many NGOs are almost constantly in the process of applying for project funding, and the number of staff they employ can vary from year to year, depending upon whether they are successful or not.

If the Commission approves a project, then the NGO may find themselves needing to recruit staff very quickly in order to make the project happen within the required time-frame. The downside to such positions is that they are invariably fixed-term contracts, lasting for the duration of the project (often one year or so). But they can be a valuable way into the jobs market, and the economic downturn has not yet hit jobs in this sector as hard as the private sector.

There are a huge number of trade associations in Brussels, representing almost every imaginable economic sector. Jobs tend to be better paid than NGOs, but experience within the sector is often a pre-requisite for anything beyond an internship position. Although driven by different objectives, the structure of trade associations can be very similar to that of NGOs, with communications, policy, and member support functions dominating. Secretariat size varies from single-person operations through to offices of 20 or more. Many larger companies have EU public affairs offices in Brussels, as well as relying on their membership of trade associations to track and influence EU policies. But such jobs are rarely advertised in Brussels, an are often filled internally, or by those with substantial public affairs experience within another company, trade association or consultancy.

The private sector is recovering, with a few more jobs around than last year, but companies are still being cautious, and trade associations are often experiencing budget pressures as well.

Think-tanks can provide a refuge for itinerant academics who wind up in Brussels, but their agenda is strongly linked to EU policy, and they are just as likely to be seeking strong project management skills as pure research experience. Plus, there are not a lot of vacancies in the sector so employment prospects are limited.

The doors around Place Lux are widely festooned with the logos of various EU regions and municipalities. It helps to be from the region in question if you are looking for a position there. You should also bear in mind that one of the main preoccupations is how to channel more of the EU’s budget back home, so experience working on structural funding or research funding is useful. The availability of jobs in this sector tends to shift with the political winds, and regional offices are vulnerable to cuts in funding back home. Definitely not a good time to seek a job in one of the UK’s many regional offices, for example, where the outlook is not good…

Consultancies exist in all shapes and sizes in Brussels, from small specialist one-person offices, through to the larger networks like Burson Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton, and Edelman. The larger offices are almost always recruiting, in the sense that they will keep their eyes out for anyone who could prove an interesting recruitment, but entry-level positions tend to follow-on from  a period as a stagiaire. Consultancies definitely suffered early on in the downturn – since such contracts are one of the first things which companies looking for budget cuts can terminate – but they are also now one of the first to pick up again, for the same reason: their flexibility means that clients can engage them quickly if they no longer have the capability in-house. If you have transferable experience from another sector, then it can prove possible to make the leap to consultancy (as I’ve done myself), but bear in mind that consultancies usually need people who are flexible enough to work across a range of policy areas, and with a range of skills, so that they can adapt to a range of clients.

Beyond these core groups, there is also the Brussels press corps, filled mainly by journalists seconded from national publications, but also featuring some ‘local’ EU media such as EurActiv, and specialist publications like ENDS Europe. You would usually need substantial media experience, though, to get a break in the press corps, plus a high alcohol tolerance of course.

The positive news is that there are jobs in Brussels… but there are a lot of people chasing them. Competition is particularly hot for ‘entry-level’, where the large number of stagiares in Brussels makes it particularly difficult to get that first job. (At some point I’ll write something about the stagiaire system – which is great for getting experience, but can turn into a cheap / free workpool which some organisations definitely abuse).

Brussels is a stagiare town – with a large influx of graduates arriving in Brussels every few months to undertake work experience within the EU Institutions. Some of them party for a few months, then go straight home, but many are looking to stay, which means that there is always a large pool of highly-qualified graduates from across Europe looking for a paid job after completing a stage in Commission, Parliament, or Council. The problem for them, of course, is differentiation – how to make yourself look different from all the others applying for the same job. And there are a lot – when working in the NGO sector I would regularly have to sift through over 100 applications from ex-Commission stagiaires, with numbers particularly high around the end of the Institutional stage periods. Excellent qualifications and language skills are taken almost as a ‘given’ (unless you are a Brit, where the ability to order a coffee in French is taken as evidence of advanced polyglot status), so that it is experience which makes a difference.

Even so, you can give yourself a better chance to stand out from the crowd just by doing something different. I once got a job interview with a youth organisation solely on the basis of writing a joke essay about Britney Spears and inter-generational solidarity in place of a regular cover letter… Beyond such gimmicks, perhaps the best way to find an entry point is to be curious. Ask to meet people who do interesting jobs, find out about what they do, and think about whether your skills could match their sector. Whilst many jobs are advertised, many opportunities arise quickly, and a meeting can often lead to unexpected opportunities at a later date, when a position is created, a new project funded, or the organisation suddenly realises that it needs more support.

Brussels is full of small offices which are essentially satellites for larger organisations (the regional government back home, the NGO or company headquarters, etc). This means that you won’t be working with 500 people, where you can keep your head down for a few months, but are more likely to be thrown straight into delivering a part of the organisation’s work programme. For that reason, one of the main qualities which is sought is the ability to get on with the job yourself: show initiative, manage time, and manage projects effectively.

This skill of execution is perhaps the most prized in Brussels. A cynic might say that is because it is so lacking in most of these organisations, but what do cynics know… they spend most of their time drinking coffee in the bars around Place Lux.