Sue Bird: My appreciation of being together as the European Union springs from an innate connection with people

Age: 55
Nationality: United Kingdom
Occupation: Policy Coordinator at the European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
Languages: English, French, and a little Spanish
Hobbies: involved in religion and politics, travel, music (classical or rock ‘n’ roll, choral or instrumental), sport
Deutsche Zusammenfassung
Sommaire en français

Sue Bird 2013You are British. How did you come to Brussels?
I grew up in the rural Midlands, where my parents were both local bankers. Studying French introduced me to other European countries, and I spent a formative year in the coalfields of northern France teaching conversational English to lycée (high school) students. I began a career in banking, but soon left to focus on new opportunities in UK local authorities. This put me in touch with – and soon brought me to – Brussels and the European Institutions. And I have been in Brussels for some 23 years now……

International relations and travel had always fascinated me. Early on in my career, I soon discovered that even city life in the UK could seem rather limited, as people around me focussed only on the everyday ups and downs of British life and culture. I started to “get itchy feet”, and wanted to be able to use my French, as well as to return to some of the thrill of international projects I had known during my student holidays. Bradford City Council seconded me to Brussels as a trainee with the European Commission at a time when the Commission was looking to recruit new officials to temporary contracts. I was taken on… and I stayed…

What drives you after all these years?
I have a streak of idealism in me, and working for the European Union has always been a vocation for me – what could be more satisfying than working at a strategic level to bring people of different backgrounds together in a way that has not been done before?

I am a Christian believer and see working for a better European Union to be perfectly in keeping with the values of my faith. In fact, this is something I am writing about in the context of the UK’s relationship with the EU……My appreciation of being together as the EU springs from an innate love I have for people. You can learn so much from others, and meaningful interaction is so enriching.

Maybe I am old-fashioned, but for me the European Union’s biggest achievement remains that we are now at peace with each other for 70 years, after the horrors of two world wars during the 20th century.

What are you doing in your job?
I am in charge of corporate social responsibility policy. We try to encourage the private sector to be more inclusive socially and environmentally in its everyday business practices.
A typical working day will consist of reading many documents; on average two meetings per day with Commission services, with Member States, or with stakeholders; writing reports or briefings and keeping up with emails throughout the day. And, I like to fit in a visit to the swimming pool on the days that I can.

What do you like most in your job?
Firstly, it is a unique experience to be working with up to 28 different nationalities within such an important policy area as employment, social affairs and inclusion. To be able to work constructively together, we need to maintain high standards of respect for and attention to each other. Secondly, with the good education systems in the European Union, I welcome the intellectual challenge from those around me, as this spurs my own personal and professional development. Thirdly, I really enjoy having a lot of contact with officials in Member State administrations, as well as with our stakeholders who are concerned about how to optimise European policy-making and to better fight unemployment and the social crisis. This dialogu enables the European Commission to have a good sense of what is happening on the ground within Member States, regions and local communities.

What is the greatest success of Europe for you and where could it do better?
Maybe I am old-fashioned, but for me the European Union’s biggest achievement remains that we are now at peace with each other for 70 years, after the horrors of two world wars during the 20th century. Looking to the future, we have created an institutional structure and ways of working together that hopefully make war among us unthinkable.
The greatest challenge for the EU today, in my view, is creating a positive vision for its future development with which citizens can identify, and which carefully balances who does what, while gaining genuine integral commitment from Member State governments.

Has there been a moment when you were particularly proud of being part of the European project?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A significant moment for me historically in my career with the Commission was the day in May 2004 when 10 new Central and Eastern European countries joined the EU – the EU’s biggest enlargement to date. At the time I was in charge of the Structural Funds for Slovakia – which are designed to narrow the gap between the richer and poorer parts of Europe – and remember being at their Ambassador’s Brussels residence when the clock struck midnight……

Is there a negative myth about Europe you want to rectify? What is your biggest wish for Europe?
I come from the UK – my roots are in Northamptonshire – and so am quite concerned at the state of my country’s relationship with the EU, against the backdrop of a possible referendum on its membership. The UK media promote such a deceptively negative view of the EU that my perpetual cry is, when will the truth come out?
If there is a referendum, my hope is that we vote to stay in and commit ourselves to working positively within it for a common vision everyone can agree on. With our systematic and value-for-money-seeking approach, I think we British have a lot to contribute. But we can also learn much from other people’s norms and cultures – a mutually enriching experience.

Peace, Diversity and Mutual understanding. Europe is our future. It is up to all of us!


Sue Bird: Gemeinsam Lösungen finden – das ist, was mir an Europa gefällt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Man mag das altmodisch finden, aber für mich ist und bleibt der größte Erfolg der Europäischen Union, dass wir nach den Schrecken der zwei Weltkriege im zwanzigsten Jahrhundert nun im Rahmen der EU seit mehr als 70 Jahren in Frieden leben.”

Nach ihrem Studium der französischen Sprache und einem Aufenthalt in Frankreich startet Sue ihre berufliche Laufbahn zunächst in einer lokalen Bank in England. Der Wunsch Neues zu entdecken und mit anderen Menschen etwas gemeinsam aufzubauen, führt sie nach Brüssel, wo sie in der Europäischen Kommission im Bereich Beschäftigung und Sozialpolitik tätig ist. Für Sue ist ständiger Dialog Kern ihrer Arbeit, sei es in Brüssel mit den Kollegen aus anderen Mitgliedstaaten oder den nationalen Regierungen der Europäischen Union. Um gemeinsame Lösungen in Europa zu finden, muss Vertrauen bestehen. Dazu braucht es Dialog. Sue ist davon überzeugt, dass ein gemeinsames Europa ein Gewinn für alle EU Staaten ist, da jeder Staat etwas Wertvolles beiträgt. Das Vereinigte Königreich sei z. B. deshalb ein Gewinn für Europa, weil es eine ausgeprägte politische Kultur in der Findung pragmatischer Lösungen mitbringt. Dass man weiterhin gemeinsam vorangeht in Europa, das ist Sues Hoffnung.

Frieden, Vielfalt, und gegenseitiges Verständnis. Europa ist unsere Zukunft. Es liegt an uns allen!


Sue Bird: Etre ensemble, c’est ce qui me plait dans le projet européen

« Peut-être que je suis vieux jeu, mais pour moi la plus grande réussite de l’Union européenne reste que nous sommes maintenant en paix les uns avec les autre et cela depuis 70 ans, après les horreurs des deux guerres mondiales du 20ème siècle. »

Après avoir commencé sa carrière dans la banque en suivant l’exemple familiale, Sue s’est tracé un tout autre chemin en prenant celui de Bruxelles. Au départ démangée par une curiosité de l’autre et une passion pour l’échange, elle a fait du lien social son quotidien en rejoignant l’équipe en charge de l’emploi, des affaires sociales et de l’inclusion à la Commission européenne. Les notions de respect et de dialogue continuent d’irriguer son travail au quotidien, que ce soit à Bruxelles ou avec ses interlocuteurs dans les différentes capitales européennes. Sue estime que l’Europe a beaucoup à gagner de chacun de ses pays membres, et que l’approche pragmatique et économe de son pays d’origine, le Royaume Uni, n’est pas inutile dans le débat européen ! Même si elle est convaincue que c’est d'”être ensemble” qui reste le plus précieux.

Paix, diversité et compréhension mutuelle. L’Europe est notre avenir, cela ne tient qu’à nous!


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