News from the IES

What impact will the fascinating, but also challenging drone technology have on our daily lives in Europe? This was only one of many questions discussed during the international conference “The Drone Age: Issues, Actors and Perspectives”, held at the IES on Friday, 22 February 2019. With speakers and participants from Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Germany, this conference provided a great occasion for both academics and stakeholders from different backgrounds to exchange their views on challenges and concerns, but also potentialities of drones today. 

IES postdoctoral researcher Ferran Davesa was invited to act as a facilitator of the MasterClass ‘The Future of the Council of Europe’, an event organised by the ALL-YOUTH project at the Tampere University (Finland) on 4 February 2019. It consisted of two main parts: 1) a series of expert and academic lectures on the CoE, the European Court of Human Rights and the international system for the protection of human rights; and 2) a hands-on workshop in which the youth participants elaborated a list of Recommendations for the Finnish Presidency of the Council of Europe (21 November 2018 to 17 May 2019). 

On 12 February, Jamal Shahin spoke about the GIPO project at a workshop hosted by the European Cyber Security Organisation, specifically their subworking group on telecom, media and content (SWG3.8). There, Jamal talked about the importance of bringing together different stakeholders in shaping the future of internet governance.

Jamal Shahin, who works with colleagues Trisha Meyer and Olof Soebech on the PARENT project, was invited to speak on a plenary panel session at the JPI Urban Europe Policy Conference on 12 February in Brussels. Jamal was invited to talk about experiences in working on the project, and how the project experiences feed into future of the JPI Urban Europe programme. The conference itself has been summarised here.

Copyright: Michael Chia,, 2019

Alexander Mattelaer and Jordan Becker contributed to a new report by former U.S. Permanent Representatives to NATO Ambassadors Douglas Lute and Nicholas Burns, entitled "NATO at Seventy: An Alliance in Crisis." The report coincides with NATO's 70th anniversary, as the world’s most successful alliance faces perhaps the most daunting and complex set of challenges in its history. 

NATO Photo

On Tuesday 12 February, the PILC students of the IES had a rare opportunity to witness an important piece of EU law being created. In the landmark case C-619/18, the Commission has boldly taken Poland to Court for breaching the rule of law. More specifically, Poland is charged for failing in its obligation to provide remedies sufficient to ensure effective legal protection in the fields covered by Union law (Art 19(1) TEU & Art 47 EUCFR), because it had unilaterally decreased the retirement age of the judges in the Polish Supreme Court. The change effectively forced the judges to leave the Court against their own will, which threatens the independence of the judiciary. This is in the Commission’s view a serious failure that jeopardises the mutual trust on which the entire EU politico-legal system is based.


The Institute for European Studies (IES) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is proud to announce the appointment of Prof. Dr. Alexander Mattelaer as its new Academic Director, as a successor to Prof. Dr. Luk Van Langenhove. With this new appointment, the IES sees a familiar face take charge of its academic activities. Indeed, Prof. Dr. Mattelaer is not only a senior member of the IES’ International Security cluster, he also has a longstanding affiliation with the Institute in different managerial capacities, having served as Assistant Director and Acting Academic Director for several years in the past. Beyond the IES, Prof. Dr. Mattelaer held posts as Director of European Affairs at Egmont Institute, and Fulbright Schuman Fellow at Harvard University and National Defense University. With a research background on diplomacy and defence issues, he currently teaches several courses at VUB related to EU and international security.

Climate policy is currently high up on the political agenda in Belgium, not in the least because of the public demonstrations taking place in various cities since the beginning of 2019. On 5 February, Sign for my future was launched, a new initiative aimed at a more ambitious Belgian climate policy. This initiative is supported by companies, universities and civil society organisations alike. IES researcher Tomas Wyns is one of the members of its Steering Group and, together with VUB rector Caroline Pauwels, also acts as one of its ambassadors.

A new 4-year research project entitled “Policy integration: decarbonisation and security of supply in the European Union's external energy policy” is currently taking off at the IES’ cluster on Environment and Sustainable Development. The project explores varying levels of integration of the key policy objectives of decarbonisation and security of supply into the European Union’s external energy policy toward third countries. It specifically focuses on the EU’s external energy policy toward and gas relations with key partner countries (Russia, Norway, Algeria/Azerbaijan).

The European Commission and antitrust regulators worldwide are focusing their policy and enforcement priorities on key aspects of the digital economy including e-commerce, big data and algorithms. Blockchain appears to be now next in line for scrutiny.  On 16 January 2019, the IES assembled a unique expert panel to explore and debate the “promises and perils” of this emerging and transformative technology in the antitrust context.  The panel was led by Dave Anderson, IES Associate Researcher (and Head of the Brussels office of the law firm BCLP LLP), and it included a diverse spectrum of expertise on blockchain and antitrust: Fabio Falconi from the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, Pontus Lindblom who has been commissioned by the Swedish Competition Authority to advise them on blockchain, Thibault Schrepel from Utrecht University who is a leading commentator on the antitrust risks involved in blockchain and Falk Schöning from the law firm Hogan Lovells who participated e.g. in the OECD Blockchain roundtable last year as a private sector expert.