Stoemp: 'Does Brussels still have a future?' - Lecture by Pascal Smet
For the second lecture of the 2013-14 academic year, Stoemp invited Minister Pascal Smet.
The minister was invited to give his views on the future of Brussels and the main challenges the city faces. In his opening remarks, he emphasized the importance of English as the third official language and underlined this point by speaking English himself. He added that the future of Brussels will either be international, or non-existent.
Pascal Smet proceeded to talk about the 2 main challenges he sees for Brussels, based on a screening of successful cities that showed the 2 factors that are always deemed as extremely important in those cities: governance and education.
Brussels scores very poorly on these two points.
The main argument made by the minister when it comes to governance is that it is too distributed and fragmented in Brussels. This is why he pleads for a single city policy, with one police zone, one city government and one social services organisation.
Because of the role the 19 municipalities play, setting out a single city policy is nigh impossible. This leads to a situation where "everyone is competent, but no one is responsible" and makes it very hard to instigate change and hold politicians accountable for their actions.
When it comes to the second point of education, the minister argued the situation in Brussels is quite poor and that many youths do not even graduate speaking one language properly, where they should in fact speak three. Changing this should be the main focus in the coming years.
The minister continued by suggesting small interventions in public spaces. This, together with reducing the attention given to the car as main mode of transport, could go a long way in changing the perception, use of and dialogue in the city. He suggests we rather invest in public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure.
In his closing statements, the minister appealed to a common "Brussels feeling" and identity that needs to be preserved, cultivated and proudly carried out.
Minister Smet was welcomed by iMind-SMIT-VUB's director, prof. dr. Caroline Pauwels, who emphasised the importance of research on and in Brussels. In this sense the Stoemp Lunch Lectures organised by SMIT fit perfectly in the recent emphasis on academia in Brussels by the rector of the VUB, Paul De Knop.
The photos can be found on our Facebookpage.
If you are interested in our Stoemp-lectures, be sure to register for the next one.
Anne Brumagne will be giving her vision on the role of Flemish media in a multilingual city.