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Message from the chief executive

General news / MESSAGE
Fabian Zuleeg

Date: 24/07/2020
As we are entering a rather different summer holiday season, I am writing to inform you about how the EPC has adjusted to the new situation, including some recent successes, as well as looking forward to exciting new developments at the EPC.

At the beginning of lockdown, the EPC decided that the new challenges could not mean that the EPC would do less or even shut down for a period but that we would have to deliver differently. Our staff responded magnificently to this challenge, going over and above what we do in 'normal' times. In the four months in lockdown mode, the EPC successfully switched to online events, and re-focused a significant part of the analytical work to look at the impact of COVID-19 on a range of policy areas.

Our output has been remarkable. We have invested in new online technologies carrying out over 100 events online, more than tripling attendance and reaching new audiences far beyond the immediate Brussels environment. Our analysts have written over 50 publications, with well over 40,000 downloads. More than half of all European Commissioners have been happy to speak at our virtual briefings, alongside other high-level opinion formers such as Martin Wolf, the FT's Chief Economics Commentator. We also introduced new formats such as the EPC Friday Update, ably moderated by Jacki Davis, which continues to attract large audiences.

We will be closely monitoring the progress of the German Presidency of the Council, which has a pivotal role to play in brokering a deal on the recovery plan. Together with our think tank partner the DGAP in Berlin, we launched "Project Presidency" in early June at an online event, including Michael Roth, the German Minister for European Affairs. That was followed by an online briefing on the presidency priorities by Germany's ambassador to the EU Michael Clauss, which attracted an online audience of more than 560 people. We will continue to put the spotlight on the key policy issues, including through the prism of the impact of COVID-19, focusing, inter alia, on the EU budget, the EU's health sector, Europe's relations with the rest of the world, on EU social policies, on the economy and economic governance, on the Single Market and trade, on migration and mobility, as well as on developments related to the EU's institutional framework.

More specifically, we are working on exciting projects on strategic autonomy, differentiated integration, ethics in policy advice, the circular economy, investment in housing, digital governance, EU-Africa relations and the New Pact on Migration & Asylum, amongst others.

We are also stepping up our activities on Brexit, building on the work done with the European Commission Task Force on Relations with the UK through the Brexit Think Tank group. The Conference on the Future of Europe will be a major focus of analysis and a forum for more long-term thinking about the European Union's future role. We will undertake a thorough process of reflection with our foundation partners and other think tanks across Europe on Europe's future, including on the role of philanthropy.

To help with our strategic thinking, we have some excellent additions to the EPC Strategic Council: Lionel Barber, former Editor of the Financial Times; Shada Islam, a well-known and highly regarded, now independent, commentator on EU affairs with particular expertise on Asia and Africa; and Constanze Stelzenmüller who is an expert on German, European, and trans-Atlantic foreign and security policy and strategy and currently a senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings.

We will be assessing when it is safe to return fully to our premises, including, hopefully, a return to events in our conference facilities in the autumn. But, at the same time, we want to retain some of the innovations the crisis has brought, recognising the benefits these technologies bring in engaging a wider range of speakers and audiences.

To help us deliver on all of these issues and to take the EPC to the next level, we also intend to carry out a significant new investment in our team. The EPC is embarking on a restructuring exercise aimed at strengthening its analytical capacity by investing in several senior appointees at the Associate Director level. We will be recruiting for these new positions in the autumn with an open call to attract the best talent, further enhancing our capacity to impact and shape policy at such a crucial time.

I have been greatly encouraged by our ability to adapt to changing and, indeed, challenging circumstances. None of the remarkable successes over the last months could have been achieved without the commitment and professionalism of the EPC team, and I would like to thank them for all they have done. I would also like to thank our members, partners and all the organisations who have supported us during this period for the confidence they have placed in EPC. I thank our President Herman Van Rompuy for his wise counsel and our Chairman David O'Sullivan and all the members of the Governing Board for their support.

I wish you all a safe and restful summer break.

With best wishes

Fabian Zuleeg

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