The first few days of December usually turn people’s attention to the upcoming Christmas festivities, shopping and looking forward to a well-earned rest. Well, such was not the case for the postgraduate students in European Public Affairs from the European Institute of Communications as they undertook the course’s first study visit to Leuven, just as the decorations went up around the city.
Communication was the buzz word for the three day programme organised by the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe. Opening the programme Mr Harold Tor from g (+) europe public affairs agency outlined the role of social media and its function as a tool of influence for engaging with MEPs. Presentation were also delivered by Ms Aoife Doyle from IBEC’s Europe office on engaging with the EU institutions as an Irish based interest representative and also from Mr Daniel Freund, Transparency International, who explained the importance or ethics in public affairs and the need for greater transparency in EU decision making.
The highlight of the visit was the day trip to the EU institutions in Brussels. Starting at the European Commission, the students got to meet senior officials and to learn more about how the Commission communicates its work and how it engages with stakeholders. A short hop across the street brought the group to the European Council where they got a behind the scenes look at the media and press centre of the Council. The day concluded with a tour of the European Parliament. Many thanks to Irish MEPs Brian Hayes and Lyn Boylan for meeting with the students and giving their insight into the work of an MEP. As the Parliament was in session the students had the opportunity to watch the parliamentary proceedings which include a debate on the digital economy led by Commissioner Jyrki Katainen.
The students left Leuven, enthused and inspired with the knowledge and experiences they gained on their study visit.