(This is my introduction to Bruegel's Annual Report for 2012. My last)
As our rules fortunately prevent the director to succumb to the temptation of serving for too long, this will be my last introduction to the Annual Report.
The years spent with Bruegel have been the most rewarding of my professional life. If I were to choose a word to encapsulate what started more than ten years ago as an improbable project – that of creating a European think tank – it would be trust. Trust is what, against all odds, made Bruegel possible.
Trust is what made Bruegel thrive. Trust has been our membership’s most precious bequest.
Trust has been from day one what the Chairman and the Board endowed the director with. Trust is what
makes a small collection of individuals a formidable team.
It is not my role to comment on our successes (and I would actually be
more tempted to discuss our shortcomings). But I may perhaps try to summarise in a few words what
makes Bruegel unique and why it has been a privilege to contribute to its development:
• We believe in ideas. The birthing and nurturing of ideas is our raison d’être. As John Maynard Keynes, we think that “the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas”. We consider that by contributing ideas we can greatly help improve economic policies;
• We believe in evidence. We have respect for facts, not prejudices or ideologies. We think taboos were made to be challenged;
• We believe in independence. Bruegel’s credibility rests on its uncompromising tradition of impartiality. It is this very independence that makes dialogue with various stakeholders both possible and fruitful;
• We believe in discussion. Not all ideas are the child of an argument, but most grow out of arguments. Within the Bruegel team we never miss the opportunity for a good dispute. We are equally keen to submit ideas to the critique of our members;
• We believe in persuasion. There are more good ideas on offer than opportunities to turn them into reality. Our work does not end with the production of a paper; it also requires to convey and convince;
• We believe in dialogue. Europe is not run from Brussels. It is diverse – even, these days, divided. This makes dialogue with all its components essential;
• We believe in openness. Europe is a small place with a long memory and a wealth of experience. We aim at making it more outward-looking and focused on its future.
I should add also,but it is of a different nature, that we believe in people. A think tank is a community of talents. We have an outstanding one. Our duty is to offer to all of our colleagues an environment in which they can grow, thrive and be creative.
I remember visiting a US think tank about ten years ago, when Bruegel was still little more than a concept. When I asked one of the fellows why she had chosen to work with it she replied immediately “because I want to change the world”. We are Europeans, so we do not speak so frankly. But I suspect many of us secretly share the same hope.
A change of guard is a fantastic opportunity for improvement. I trust my successor will break taboos and lead Bruegel in the exploration of new horizons. This is what I wish for Bruegel.