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EUISS Annual Conference 2024

11 June 2024

In the wake of the European parliamentary elections, the conference discussed the strategic options and choices facing the EU. How should it navigate a world of growing geopolitical contestation and intensifiying security threats? Amid talk of Europe being ‘mortal’ and in peril, what steps are needed to protect European citizens, interests and values?What is the right balance between ‘defending Europe’ and winning the ‘battle of offers’? 

We took stock of the achievements of the current mandate and explored ideas for the new EU leadership to take forward, as fostering security across all dimensions is becoming a central priority for the future of the EU project. 

The event was organised in partnership with the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU and Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations.


Steven Everts, EUISS Director and Sven Biscop, Director of the Egmont Institute gave the opening remarks.

Keynote speech by HRVP Josep Borrell (Watch on EbS).

Panel 1: can Europe defend itself?

More than two years since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and no less than 25 years since the start of the European Security and Defence Policy, Europe stands at a critical juncture as a security actor and must make fundamental choices. With the use of military power surging around the world, EU Member States and partners are rearming at a brisk pace. The EU is using various tools to strengthen the European defence industry and facilitate joint procurement, while NATO has expanded its membership and is overhauling its force and command structures. But defence is about more than military capabilities; it is also about hybrid threats, societal resilience, economic security and psychological defence. In this complex threat landscape, Europe must navigate challenging policy choices and engage in strategic trade-offs. The debate aimed to help clarify these choices.

Moderator: Méabh Mc Mahon (Euronews)


  • Admiral Michel Hofman - Chief of Defence, Belgium
  • Monika Sie Dhian Ho - Director-General, Clingendael Institute
  • Bastian Giegerich - Director-General, IISS
  • Tobias Gehrke - Senior Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)

Panel 2: The end of the Brussels effect?

The EU has long seen and portrayed itself as a normative power. Its advocacy for human rights and democracy as well as its commitment to climate action and higher environmental and labour standards, are a hallmark of its global identity. But the capacity to shape the world through norm setting – the Brussels effect – is eroding. Increasingly, the EU faces pushback, particularly across the so-called ‘Global South’,where resentment at perceived lecturing and double standards is growing. All this comes as competition with China is rising, with Beijing pushing a more transactional, ostensibly non-ideological stance on international trade and diplomacy. The question was: in an à la carte world, does the allure of no-questions-asked economic benefits eclipse normative considerations? In an era of geopolitics, can Europe still avoid choosing interests over norms and values?

Moderator: Andrew Bounds (The Financial Times)


  • Gunnar Wiegand - Visiting Distinguished Fellow, The German Marshall Fund
  • Indrani Bagchi - Chief Executive Officer, Ananta Aspen Centre, New Delhi 
  • George Mukundi Wachira - CEO Maendeleo Group and former head of the African Governance Architecture 
  • Belen Martínez Carbonell - Acting Deputy Secretary General, European External Action Service

Reception: “Elevator pitches” on the EUISS project “ten ideas for the new team”.

As a new EU leadership team takes shape and prepares for office, it will need concrete ideas on how it can revitalise EU foreign policy. The EUISS team has been working on a set of ambitious and sometimes iconoclastic proposals to equip the EU to survive and thrive in a power political world. At the reception following the conference, a selection of EUISS analysts briefly presented their idea, accompanied by impactful visuals, to explain what the EU can do differently and better.