50 years of FES EU Office in 2023: We're celebrating!

On 2 October 1973, the FES EU Office opened its doors in Brussels. For half a century, it has actively shaped and strengthened a social and democratic European Union.

Birthday message from FES President Martin Schulz

Half a century ago, the FES EU Office in Brussels was opened. 50 years – a long time in which our office has followed and constructively accompanied EU debates at the epicentre of European politics. For me, the office has always had a specific personal significance – and responsibility. The topics that play a role in Brussels are multi-layered, complex and varied and permeate all areas of society: it is about democracy, gender equality and human rights; migration and integration; economic and financial policy as well as digitalisation. Trade and development policy also plays just as much a role as do foreign, security and defence policy, the European trade union dialogue and social policy.

"The heart of European unification and consolidation beats here"

The heart of European unification and consolidation beats here. A powerful and united European Union is required today more than ever before. As an interface between politics, economy and society, the FES EU Office plays an important and indispensable role here: facilitating political dialogue and providing political advice.

The EU Office also helps to incorporate assessments by experts and civil society from all over Europe, the USA/Canada and the Global South into the decision-making processesat EU level. In this way, our FES colleagues contribute to strengthening the EU as a community capable of action, both internally and externally. This is particularly important in these volatile and tense times, also with a view to the upcoming European elections next year.

I wish the staff continued success in their crucial tasks in these exciting times! Happy Birthday!

Martin Schulz, President of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung

History of the FES EU Office

The EU Office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) opened its doors on 2 October 1973 in Brussels, 16 years after the signature of the Treaties of Rome (1957). In the beginning, its main mission as a Liaison Office was to support international partners, trade unionists, civil society actors and business representatives in obtaining information and direct access to the institutions of the European Communities.

Integration of new policy areas

After the signatures of the Lomé Conventions (I & II) in 1975 and 1979, development cooperation – in particular with ACP countries – becomes a central pillar of the EU Office’s work. In the years to come, its portfolio was expanded to include more regions of the Global South, ASEAN, the Middle East and Latin America. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, new tasks and fields of cooperation are added: Eastern Europe, enlargement and the broader question of the future of the EU. Since 2014, we have also been reinforcing our work on the future of European Foreign and Security Policies.

From the creation of the European Economic and Monetary Union, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the Cotonou Agreement, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, the Eastern Enlargement, the European Neighbourhood Policy, to the European Pillar of Social Rights and the European Green Deal: The FES EU Office – together with its partners – continuously supports the formulation and implementation of EU policies, adapts its work to new challenges and integrates new policy areas to its portfolio. It employs a variety of different means to achieve its objectives: policy analysis, public conferences, closed expert seminars, visitor programmes, policy-oriented consultancy and publications. In 2021, two additional competence centres on the Future of Work and on Climate and Social Justice are opened to strengthen the overall work of the FES in Brussels.

Making progressive voices and perspectives from our partners heard in Brussels

Today, we – the FES EU Office, including our Liaison Office in Strasbourg – are focusing on six topics: Democracy and the fight against populism; Gender Equality & Human Rights; Migration & Integration; Foreign, Security & Defence Policy; Trade & Development Policy, Economic & Financial Policy; and European Trade Union Dialogue & Social Policy.

We provide expertise to our international and German network of progressive partners, always including members of the European and German Parliament, civil society, NGOs, the economy, trade unions and the media into the dialogue. But this is not a one-way street: To ensure that progressive voices and perspectives from our partners are heard in Brussels, we can rely on the knowledge and insights from over 100 FES offices worldwide. This approach remains just as relevant today as it was back in 1973.

We wholeheartedly thank each and every one of our partners for the excellent cooperation and joint efforts to shape and strengthen a social and democratic European Union throughout the years. We look forward to continuing this inspiring work for the challenging times ahead!

The entire Team of the FES EU Office