An innovative method for governments and business to inject creative ideas into EU policy making, which he is steering as secretary general, is the independent tripartite High Level Group on Innovation Policy Management, an initiative launched by the Polish Presidency of the Council in 2011. Prof. Klaus Gretschmann, former director general at the Council Secretariat and a former colleague at EIPA, is its chairman.
In 2016, its success let to a similar initiative, this time to review the conceptual framework of EU trade policy and to better manage collateral side effects. This High Level Group on Trade Policy Innovation is chaired by John Bruton, former prime of Ireland and former EU Ambassador to the USA, with him as secretary general.
However, he has been repeatedly invited for other assignments in the public sector, such as helping prepare membership negotiations, advising during a Council Presidency, or stimulating common market developments with Europe’s trading partners.
His bridge building experience started to accumulate at the European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA). It was established by the European Heads of State and Government in 1981 to innovate public management and to facilitate cooperation between the national governance systems and the European institutions. Having designed it for the Dutch Presidency, he build up EIPA as its first director general, working with governments and business during the ‘golden years’ of the Commission led by Jacques Delors, who gave Europe the Single Market and the first steps towards the Eurozone.
His knowledge was recognised also academically, giving lectures at universities and business school in Europe, the USA and South-Africa. He is visiting professor European Studies at Henley Business School, University of Reading (UK).
His interest in Africa led to design a similar constructive government-business interaction consultancy in Africa, AEAC, a group of leading, Africa-based consultants focussing on trade and investment issues of mutual interest for both continents.
Recently, he became executive director of the newly established African-European Centre for Investment and Trade at Henley Business School in Johannesburg. This Centre focusses on research and executive development for managers operating in the new trade framework of the European Partnership Agreements with Africa.
This centre goes back to an initiative of the think tank Mazungumzo, the Africa Forum in Brussels, which he founded and of which he is executive director.
His experiences in collaboration between the public and private sectors and its effects on the Common Good, and his academic work brought an interest about the state of our democracy. He co-created the Montesquieu Forum ‘for re-inventing democracy’, of which he is one of the scholars.
A member of various professional organisations, he was elected in 2008 as a member of the Academia Scientiarum et Artium Europaea (Class Law, Economy & Social Sciences), and he became in 2015 a member of the Senate and dean of the Class Corporate and Public Governance.
A Belgian national, he has Master degrees in Law (University of Leuven, Belgium), in European Studies (University of Strasbourg, France), and a PH.D. in Political Science (University of Edinburgh, Great Britain).
At the King Baudouin Foundation of Belgium he is a trustee of the Fund Schepers-Lijnen which supports projects for disadvantaged children in Europe and Africa, as well as cultural projects.
English, French, German, Dutch, and (moderate) Spanish are his working languages.