It’s good to see that the story that the UK government is cutting funding for the College of Europe is starting to be seen more widely – today’s FT has a story entitled “Funding cut for places at Eurocrat college“. I first wrote about the issue on Friday last week – maybe the FT Brussels people do keep an eye on this blog? Anyway, the FT has a quote from Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg who is an alumnus and he criticizes the UK government’s position – good.

There is one line I really dislike in the FT piece though:

Based in Bruges, it has for 60 years fed prospective civil servants an unabashedly federalist diet of courses for a post-graduate degree in political studies.

Oh come on folks, is that the best that FT journalists can do?

Of course the College of Europe by its very nature is not going to a bastion of opposition to the European Union. The fact that people are motivated to go there means, almost by definition, that they have an interest in EU politics and think that the EU is important in some way. But that does not equate to federalism, be that either the twisted British use of the word, or the correct political science definition of it.

The College of Europe in my experience was a rather practically orientated, non-ideological place. I would certainly count myself as one of the most forcefully ideologically motivated people who was there during my year in Bruges 2003-04. I was even criticised for having views that were too concrete and too stridently expressed.

No, the College of Europe is a place that fills students heads with facts about how the European Union works, and also equips them with some of the skills and approaches in order for them to deal with the EU’s machinery in Brussels. For a start the College’s own bureaucratic morass is a good training for the bureaucratic treacle that greets anyone in the European Commission.

Bruges is also a good place to meet people who will be in the corridors of power and to hence find a job in Brussels. If anyone’s in any doubt that’s a means of motivating people then see the enormous amount of comments on my posts about Commission jobs here and here (more comments there than on the rest of my blog put together) – a secure job is a much greater motivation that federalism is ever going to be.

But of course British journalists need to fit any EU story into the well-worn (and now increasingly broken) eurosceptics versus federalists frame. Problem is that the College of Europe does not fit the frame.


  1. No, there are not people immensely critical of the EU coming out of Bruges either… It’s something in the middle – career orientated, rather risk-averse, people with their heads filled with facts.

  2. christian

    I stumbled over that sentence a bit as well. But tell us, is it not true? Are there many people truly critical of the EU coming out of Bruges? (I guess not many are going in either… but perhaps that is part of the problem?)

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