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20 years of BEF

When the Brussels Economic Forum was launched 20 years ago, its ambition was to increase the transparency of the European Commission’s economic policy deliberations and to expose its ideas to greater external scrutiny. From its earliest days the forum attracted the brightest economic minds in the private sector and academia, as well as the engagement of the most senior Commissioners, including President Romano Prodi, who delivered the first opening address.

As the European economy passed major milestones including the launch of the euro, EU enlargement, the sovereign debt crisis, economic recovery, and the welcoming of new Member States to the euro area, the Brussels Economic Forum continued to evolve and only gained in importance. Today, the Brussels Economic Forum is about more than simply exposing the Commission’s ideas to external scrutiny; it is a lively forum for genuine debate about new ideas with a wide variety of prominent and innovative thinkers.

  • The world is struck by the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic crisis. The EU responds with a number of coordinated stimulus initiatives in line with its European Green Deal including a € 750bn recovery package (NextGeneration EU) and targeted support for job subsidies.
  • Due to precautionary health measures, the Brussels Economic Forum is held online for the first time.
  • The United Kingdom leaves the European Union.
  • Next Generation EU
  • #EUROat20
  • The euro celebrates its 20th anniversary as an accounting currency and Europeans turn out in record numbers for the European parliamentary elections.
  • Ursula von der Leyen becomes the first female President of the European Commission and Christine Lagarde, the first female president of the European Central Bank.
  • The EU introduces the General Data Protection Regulation, a landmark in global data privacy legislation.
  • Single-use plastics are targeted for phasing out as part of the EU’s plastic strategy.
  • GDPR
  • EU-Japan
  • Europe places social rights at the heart of its agenda by adopting the European Pillar of Social Rights.
  • The EU and Japan sign an Economic Partnership Agreement, the largest ever free trade deal.
  • UK citizens vote narrowly in favour Brexit, kicking off years of uncertainty and negotiation.
  • The EU and Canada sign a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
  • Brexit
  • Migration
  • Fleeing deadly conflict in Syria and elsewhere, over a million refugees seek safety in Europe.
  • Lithuania becomes the 19th country to adopt the euro.
  • The EU signs the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • The European economy recovers from the economic and financial crisis and centralises supervision of the euro area’s most important banks in the Single Supervisory Mechanism, led by the ECB.
  • European economy recovery
  • Croatia becomes the 28th country to join the European Union.
  • Croatia becomes the 28th country to join the European Union.
  • The European Union is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its contribution to advancing peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe for over 60 years.
  • The ESM is established as an international financial institution by the euro area Member States to help euro area countries in severe financial distress.
  • The European Union is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
  • EU adopts the ‘six pack’ reforms
  • Estonia adopts the euro and the EU adopts the ‘six pack’ reforms to strengthen economic governance in the Member States.
  • The EU and the euro area work together to provide financial assistance and implement economic reforms in Greece.
  • Greek flag
  • Slovakia joins the eurozone.
  • Slovakia joins the eurozone.
  • Malta and Cyprus adopt the euro.
  • Overstretched US mortgage borrowers and the collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers trigger a global financial and economic crisis.
  • Lehman Brothers
  • Romania and Bulgarian join the European Union
  • Romania and Bulgaria join the European Union and Slovenia adopts the euro.
  • The EU sees a 3.5% GDP growth compared to the previous year, a record-high since 2000.
  • The Brussels Economic Forum debates competition and innovation; fostering social models and the possible economic consequences of the upcoming enlargement.
  • Brussels Economic Forum 2006
  • Angela Merkel
  • Angela Merkel is elected chancellor of Germany for the first time.
  • The European Union welcomes 10 new Member States: Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
  • Facebook is launched and the era of social media begins.
  • The European Union welcomes 10 new Member States
  • Brussels Economic Forum 2003
  • The Brussels Economic Forum is held for the fourth time with the European Convention, globalisation and ageing on its agenda.
  • Euro notes and coins replace national currencies in 12 European countries.
  • Euro notes and coins replace national currencies in 12 European countries.
  • 9/11
  • Terrorists launch deadly attacks in the United States on 9/11 triggering US military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The dawn of the new millennium.
  • The euro starts its second year as an accounting currency.
  • The Brussels Economic Forum is held for the first time.
  • First BEF
as well as the engagement of the most senior Commission officials