On a sunny Thursday morning, myself and a wonderful group of other young professionals from various non-profit organisations in Brussels and beyond gathered in Holland House on Place de Luxembourg in Brussels. With a beautiful and fitting view of the European Parliament against the blue autumn sky, we embarked on an educational, exciting, high-speed journey along the EU policy and legislative tube line.
The two-day EU Academy course “Advocating for the public good: from one European Commission to the next” organised by EUChanger and Better Europe Public Affairs began with a brief summary of the outcomes of the 2019 European elections, followed by a more general overview of the EU institutions and policy cycle. Coming to the course in the hope to gain a better understanding of how the European Parliament, Commission and Council works, how decisions are made and most importantly how they can be influenced for the public good, I was not at all disappointed. On the contrary, the trainers – Marc-Olivier Herman and Joost Mulder – kept us all on our toes with pens dancing across the pages of our notebooks as they took us through the EU policy cycle and effective ways of lobbying.
Soon we went even further down the rabbit hole with a session on the policy and legislative ‘tube map’ of the EU, learning the essentials of EU policy-making and legislative procedures, as well as how to leverage influencing opportunities at EU as well as at national level. After lunch, we had the chance to exchange with a couple of EP Group advisors invited as guest speakers at the training – a welcome opportunity to receive valuable insider tips. Finally, we got to practice what we’d learned through a fun group exercise competition, before finishing a long day of learning with drinks and dinner.
On the second day of the training, the course zoomed in on the European Commission as two more guest speakers paid a visit. An official from the European Commission shared lessons learned from working on the Tobacco Products Directive, described by some as “the most lobbied dossier in the history of the EU institutions” and a great example of how organisations can effectively advocate for the public good in a high-stakes environment. Afterwards, a representative from the European Political Strategy Centre shared valuable information on how the Commission sets its policy agenda. Last but not least, it was time for us to work together and put knowledge into practice through an extensive, challenging simulation group exercise, helping us to get into the advocacy-mindset and put together the pieces of knowledge and tips we’d received throughout the course.
I am still digesting all of the information I received at the training. But one thing is surely clear: when embarking on a ride on the EU tube, the tube map provided by this EU Academy course is absolutely essential to have at hand.
Sofia Hansen (Oxfam EU Advocacy Office)
October edition of the EU Academy