EU-Australia Leadership Forum 2018

Following on from the success of the first event in Sydney in June 2017, the second EU-Australia Leadership Forum took place in Brussels in November 2018. This project was bringing together about 110 senior leaders from all over the EU and Australia and 50 emerging leaders from the EU and Australia to broaden and deepen the existing ties and in so doing, help shape the vision for the partnership, based on the future EU-Australia Framework Agreement and forthcoming EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

Participants come from a variety of sectors, including government and opposition, business, science and academia, civil society and media. The project funded by the European Union through the Partnership Instrument and supported by the Australian government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The German-Australian Chamber is part of the consortium that has been competitively selected to manage the project. The other partners in this consortium are the Australian Institute of International Affairs and a specialist consultancy, Stantec. I have been personally selected to be one of the three managers in the project, so the Forum has been the culmination of months of preparations.

The Leadership Forum consisted of an education and discussion part exclusively for the emerging leaders, followed by a joint program of emerging and senior leaders where specific ideas for an even deeper relationship between the EU and Australia were discussed by the experts. The topics of the roundtable discussions ranged from Industry 4.0, to space collaboration, women’s leadership, movement of people to environment and climate change. It proofed to be a particularly valuable approach to have experts from very different fields discuss those topics for closer collaboration. While the discussions were held under Chatham House rules, it can be reported that for example having cyber security experts provide input into the Industry 4.0 and space collaboration discussions has been very fruitful.

The roundtable discussions were conveyed by top-level panel discussions and a gala dinner with Herman van Rompuy as the keynote speaker. Panel speakers included Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Australian Ambassador Justin Brown, Duncan Lewis, Director General of Security, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Laura Tingle, Chief Political Correspondent at ABC’s 7.30 program, Cecilia Malmström, European Union Commissioner for Trade, The Hon Simon Crean, Deputy Chair of the European Australian Business Council (EABC), and many other outstanding leaders from both regions.

In addition to the highly interactive panel discussions and roundtables, the professional networking of the participants has been supported by networking events at Brussels Town Hall and for the emerging leaders as well as “nightcaps”, late evening discussions, in small groups covering topics such as Australian and EU values chaired by the Hon Brendan Nelson, the Free Trade Agreement or political culture.

The five-day event has been very successful with a large number of ideas and proposals developed by the leaders in the roundtable discussions, ranging from “low-hanging fruits” to ambitious and complex proposals; the leaders also deepened their personal understanding for the other region and their professional networks.

I want to thank the participants, including the large group German and German-Australian leaders, for their active participation and partners such as the EABC, German Australian Business Council and DFAT for the excellent collaboration in the lead-up and during this complex event.

Written by Dr Michael Zettinig, Director Policy, German-Australian Chamber of Industry and Commerce