Karel De Gucht becomes President of the VUB’s Institute for European Studies

The Institute for European Studies is delighted to announce that Karel De Gucht has been elected by the IES Board to serve as its new President. An eminent figure in the Belgian and European political arenas, De Gucht is most widely known for his former role as EU Commissioner for Trade. Karel De Gucht takes over from Prof. Dr. Em. Bart De Schutter, former VUB rector, who was the president since the Institute’s inception in 2001. De Gucht praised the work that has been carried out over the past fourteen years, saying “I was involved in setting up the Institute and I am pleased to see that it has been very successful so far. Not only has it grown tenfold in size it has also seen the completion of over twenty doctorates and can boast an impressive list of publications on European affairs.”

De Gucht is no stranger to the Brussels academic environment. As Professor of European Law, he has taught at the VUB, his alma mater, for over twenty years. He helped establish the Institute for European Studies in 2001. The IES went on to become a prestigious ‘Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence’, rewarded for its excellent educational programmes and top-quality research on the EU. Now returning as its President, De Gucht is very optimistic about the future of the Institute: “I think the IES has an excellent foundation to further consolidate its expertise on the EU in international affairs. With its flagship conference coming up in 2016, the IES has a fine opportunity to showcase its research at the international level.”

De Gucht also highlighted the importance of European studies as an academic discipline to deal with the challenges of our times. “There has never been a more crucial time to get to grips with the many issues and questions facing the EU today. Whether it concerns economic governance, the migration question, pressing environmental challenges or the contemporary security environment, Europe needs well-trained and critically minded individuals to help shape the policies of the future. The principles underpinning the teaching and research at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel help address today’s challenges and have indeed been a source of inspiration for my career. I have had the pleasure to both study and teach at the VUB, both of which helped me form my policies.”

Karel De Gucht was the European Commissioner for Trade during President Barroso’s second Commission, from 2010 until 2014. From 2009 until 2010 he was also European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid. Prior to this, Karel De Gucht held numerous senior political positions in the European, Flemish, and Belgian Parliaments. Karel De Gucht was a member of the Belgian House of Representatives from 2003 until 2009, during which time he held the portfolios of Minister for Foreign Affairs and European Affairs (2004-2009) and Minister for International Trade (2007-2009). From 2008 until 2009 he was Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium.