Episode 26 of POLITICO's EU Confidential podcast has just been released, featuring a deep dive into the EU's capital city. We discuss how to improve Brussels as a city with regional minister Pascal Smet and debate the thorny topic of racial diversity in the EU bubble.
Brussels the "whore": There's no doubt Smet has a way with words. He compares Brussels, a city and region he hopes to transform, "with a whore, with a prostitute." He says the city is "attractive and at the same time unattractive. It's nice in its ugliness and ugly in its niceness.”
Battle for Brussels: Smet casts governance reform in the city as a generational fight. The current leadership class are “dinosaurs” and act like a “junta.” He wants to transform Brussels into a place where things get done quickly. "We could do so much better [but] everything is fragmented.” Hear his plan to overhaul how the city is run.
Smet’s city role models: Hamburg, Berlin and Vienna.
Big picture = no cars: Smet want to get rid of all private cars in 15-20 years and replace them with autonomous shared vehicles.
A deal for Eurocrats: They should be able to get all their government documents and transactions done in English but should be required to vote at both local and regional level, according to Smet.
Surreal Brussels horror stories: There's a good selection, starting with host Ryan Heath's frustration at having to send tax payments to two different Brussels communes because the border runs through his kitchen.
EU WTF moments of the week — #BrusselsSoWhite and David Davis foot-in-mouth disease: Brussels is one of Europe’s most diverse cities, but the EU's decision-making elite is 99 percent white. The podcast panel ponders what that means — and asks what it feels like for people of color working in Brussels. And what, if anything, should people in the EU bubble do about it? Meanwhile the U.K. Brexit secretary is told to think through the reality that everyone in Brussels speaks English, and remember it when he plays to his Brexit base at home.
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