I was tempted to call this piece Observations from the Brussels’ Bubble, but the Brussels’ Bubble isn’t complete without abbreviations. Any document out of the BXL car exhaust comes with at least half a page of abbreviations and their explanation, just as a belittling gesture to those who don’t really belong in the BXL Bubble.
The BXL Bubble is geographically located in the European Quarter of Brussels, the Belgian capital. All European Institutions have their offices at walking distance from the Schuman roundabout. That’s quite convenient of course, at the same time, I sometimes wonder how far we’ve all wandered from the ideals of Europe’s founding fathers. They dreamt of ‘a community of peoples in freedom, equality, solidarity and peace, and deeply rooted in Christian basic values.’ Playing the politician, I’d say this is ‘work in progress’.
The BXL Bubble is populated by diplomats, civil servants, politicians and their staff, and thousands of consultants and lobbyists. Correction: one day at the US border I was kindly suggested to call myself a policy influencer. So, let’s be politically correct for once. There are thousands of policy influencers in the BXL Bubble. Many of these consultants and policy influencers are well paid for by big companies and corporate platforms. But there are also the idealists, working for equality, solidarity, and justice. Even when you don’t agree with some of their positions or even none, their energy and passion can be contagious.
Walking around in the BXL Bubble, I admire the vision of the EEA leadership that, more than 25 years ago, decided to open an EEA BXL office. The BXL Bubble could definitely do with some Biblical truth and wisdom. And that hasn’t changed. Thank God we are not alone in this, but it can still feel quite overwhelming at times.
The BXL Bubble is working almost 24/7 on a wide variety of topics printed on a variety of colours: green papers, blue papers, white papers. And then there are the regular reports and resolutions in parliament. With about 700 MEPs, that easily builds up as well. You get the picture? So, the BXL Bubble is keeping itself busy.
For us, there are quite a few topics we are keeping an eye on. And we respond whenever needed such as with the recent Matić report. On these topics, we often work together with other Christian friends and organisations. That’s really helpful as digging through all the reports from the BXL car exhaust (remember the picture?) is definitely more than a day’s job. And even with the help of friends, it sometimes feels like you’ve just been scratching the surface.
On other topics, we try to take a more pro-active approach. That’s been the case with converts among refugees but also with Artificial Intelligence. The latter is quite a technical file with huge interest both from the European Commission and from BigTech. It has been a pleasure to work with committed Evangelical experts from within our European networks, on various aspects of artificial intelligence. Their technical knowledge and prophetic insights were key in drafting a meaningful contribution to the debate about the proposed AI Law. With that letter over the line, the next challenge is to make sure people are aware of our contribution, read it, and take it to heart. That sounds like a simple 3-step recipe for instant success but alas. MEPs are busy and receive hundreds of emails a day. So, getting an appointment can be quite frustrating unless they already know you as a valuable source of information. That’s where attending presentations, meetings, and conferences can come in handy. The events themselves can, being completely honest, be quite boring but the informal opportunities before and after often provide nice food and some good opportunities for networking. Who would oppose that?
In the BXL Bubble, you can easily spend your days attending meetings. Mind you, that’s even without reading all the papers relevant to these meetings. Did I already tell you that some of these meetings can be quite boring? So, you need to pick and choose wisely.
With the limited capacity we have, it is not that difficult to feel overwhelmed and insufficient. That’s why the help of friends both inside and outside the BXL Bubble is so valuable. That includes the various Hope for Europe networks and related organisations. I could not do my work without them, and without the faithful support of you praying for a meaningful presence in Brussels. And I daily remind myself that it is the Lord who is sovereign over the affairs of this world. Christians in the BXL bubble seek to honour Him. But the results, as well as the glory and power are the Lord’s.
The Biblical worldview and anthropology is still relevant for our societies and the Gospel is still Good News. That’s a message worth spreading in your own bubbles at home and at work, in your national political bubble, but also in the BXL Bubble!
By Arie de Pater