What Happens Inside the ‘Brussels Bubble’? Students Find Out at the Public Affairs in the EU Seminar in Brussels

Students at the European Commission

University of Stirling’s postgraduate students in Public Relations, International Journalism, Public Policy and Gender Studies have spent two days in Brussels at the annual Public Affairs in the European Union seminar. The event introduces students to public affairs, advocacy, public policy, lobbying and communication practices as well as career opportunities in the EU through a variety of talks with high-profile experts and visits to the European institutions. 

On the first day, the students visited the European Commission, Parlamentarium and the European Parliament.

At the Commission, Diana Barglazan (Directorate-General for Energy) first introduced students to the European Commission and its work as the political executive of the EU. Her presentation was followed by Carolien Peeters (Directorate-General for Communication), who talked about the EU’s communication strategy and introduced the latest communication campaigns and initiatives. 

After the Commission, the group visited Parlamentarium, interactive and dynamic visitors’ centre, where they experienced and discovered the history of the EU as well as familiarised themselves with how the European Parliament and other EU institutions affect the daily life of its citizens.

At the European Parliament, the students visited the famous Hemicycle and learnt more about the Parliament, its role and decision-making processes though the presentation by Henry Wasung. Two other speakers addressed the group during the visit: Ciarán Carey, Foreign Policy Advisor from Alyn Smith’s MEP Office and Schams El-Ghoneimi, former EU policy adviser at the European Parliament. Both talked to the students about their extensive experience in the EU foreign policy and also addressed the issue of Brexit from the EU perspective.

On the second day, students attended seminars and talks with public affairs, policy and communication experts at the Scotland House.  Marija Ivoninaite (EU Policy and Funding Executive, Scotland Europa) introduced Scotland Europa and how it represents Scotland’s interests in the EU.  Sabine Seeger-Regling (Brussels Head of Office) and our graduate Andreas Schwenk (Consultant) from WMP EuroCom AG talked about public diplomacy and its relevance for the candidate countries to become members of the European Union.  Lisa Bauer (Transparency Unit, European Parliament) presented Transparency Register and background processes of lobbying/influencing registration, verification, code of conduct and complaints.  Vincenzo Conforti (Manager EU Government Affairs, Eni) highlighted lobbying challenges in the energy sector as well as good and bad practices in public affairs. Jonna Byskata (Director Government Relations Europe, United Technologies Corporation) talked about lobbying and public affairs from a global business perspective, particularly in building and aviation industries, as well as various careers that the students could pursue in Brussels. Luis Cervilla (Account Director EU Public Affairs, Webber Shandwick Brussels) introduced the work of public affairs consultants in Brussels and how it is to work for an agency.

The trip to Brussels is a great opportunity for Stirling students to gain first-hand knowledge of current issues and developments in the EU public affairs, to network and to explore their career opportunities in the EU. Students with public relations and public affairs background are highly sought after professionals in Brussels, where there is an increasing recognition of relevance of public affairs, lobbying and communication knowledge and skills.  Several of our graduates currently work in Brussels, either at the European institutions or in communication/public affairs consultancies.