Since 2001 I have had the pleasure to give a talk to incoming stagiers (interns). I do it twice a year. The groups consist of 500-800 professionals who have come to do a 5 month work stint at the Commission or another EU institutions.

These lectures are a definite highlight for me. Every one of the 12 groups that I have talked to have been great.

For the past three years I have given a lecture on ”The State of the Union”. I like the title because the same title is often used in grand speeches of US Presidents. The title is supposed to be taken with a pinch of salt, but it does describe what I end up talking about.

This year I divided my talk into three parts. God bless Descartes…

First, I laid out my pendelum thesis (which I have borrowed from Helen Wallace). I argued that the EU pendulum is swinging back and that there are three reasons to be optimistic: the EU has found its raison d’etre (or at least a new project) in climate change and energy; the political trio of Merkel-Sarkozy-Brown is a hell of a lot more dynamic that Schröder-Chirac-Blair; and that the EU is currently focusing on essential legislation.

Secondly, I highlighted three key challenges on the EU agenda: the dual challenge of deepening (the Reform treaty) and widening (enlargement); the economy (competitiveness); and foreign policy. I tried to be as provocative and politically incorrect as possible. I think I succeeded…

Thirdly, I developed three visions for the future of the EU: the pessimist thinks that it will end in tears; the optimist believes in EU salvation; and the realist just faces up to the facts that the EU moves from one crises to another and manages to survive.

We had a good half an hour for questions and answers. The audience was brilliant. The questions were to the point and I tried to deal with them as thoroughly as possible.

Every time I come out of that lecture I feel reinvigorated. For me it is simply a great event. I hope the audience felt at least half as good as I did.

It would be great to get some some feedback from those present. All comments, observations and questions are welcomed.