When asked recently what interested me most about European politics, my answer was that this is a sector that is constantly evolving. Europe never stands still. This constant change brings with it exciting new ideas, challenges and opportunities that I find fascinating to follow. It seems appropriate, then, that I have arrived at QCEA at a time when everything seems to be changing…
Firstly I can speak about change on a personal level. I rang the doorbell of the magnificent Quaker House Brussels last Sunday evening, a little over 24 hours after finishing my final day of work in my previous job in Bath. Adjusting to a new culture, language, work schedule and way of life can seem like a huge upheaval, but I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly this move went. I am sitting at my desk now, one week after my arrival in Belgium, feeling like I have been here a month already! I look forward to settling in further, learning new things and seeing how my new adventures will shape my own outlook and ideas.
But I am by no means embarking on this new adventure alone. As well as my fellow Programme Assistant, Chris, who arrived a day before I did, the new representatives, Alexandra and Gordon, are in the process of settling in, too, and the time has come for QCEA to say farewell to Liz and Martina, who, after ten years at QCEA, are returning to London to enjoy their well-earned retirement. As the new programmes and projects for this year are discussed, responsibilities shared out, valuable skills passed on and the office coffee-making etiquette established, it is exciting to see how the new faces here at Quaker House Brussels will put their own touches to the organisation and guide it into a new era.
Meanwhile, the European Institutions have settled back into their rhythm after their summer break. As new and pertinent issues are addressed and old policies modified, our work throughout the coming year will no doubt contribute to a number of watershed moments in European issues. Last week I attended my first event as Programme Assistant: a debate hosted by the European Policy Centre entitled “The Climate Is Changing – Is Europe Ready?” This interesting conference, which addressed the issue of climate change adaptation (as opposed to mitigation), reminded me that the European Union still lingers at a crossroads between continuing with a business-as-usual approach, and pursuing a more innovative, fair and sustainable path through the challenges that it currently faces. With this in mind, one of the most important developments in the coming months will be the finalising of the new EU budget for 2014- 2020, which will enable us to better predict which route Europe will take at this crossroads and in what shape it will eventually emerge from the Eurozone Crisis. On the subject of sustainability, other interesting developments to come include the debate on the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which is set to enter a new phase in 2013, and decisions on vehicle efficiency regulations, which could determine whether the EU reaches its Energy 2020 targets on lowering greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy efficiency.
All of these new cycles bring with them their own unique challenges and opportunities. I hope you will continue to follow our journey via the QCEA blog.