‘I focus on the people behind the facts’
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Hanneke Siebelink has always been intrigued by the stories that lie behind European cooperation. Born in Brussels, she studied at Leuven University where she gained a degree in applied economics. She went on to study the Italian language in Perugia, after which she obtained a Masters in European Studies at the London School of Economics. She then worked in Brussels for ten years as an advisor to the US Mission to the European Union, where she gained a deep understanding of both EU and US policy.
‘When, after ten years of intensive work in the Brussels bubble, I became a full-time Researcher and Writer, I realised that people don’t really know what is happening in the European institutions. And yet everything that is decided at European level has a profound impact on our lives. This is why I wrote The 50 Days that Changed Europe,’ says Siebelink: the European Union explained in 50 stories.
The book, also available in Dutch, gives readers a keyhole view inside meeting rooms in elegant châteaux while eavesdropping on the key decisions taken over the past 60 years. It shows with poignant clarity how Europe has been shaped, not by anonymous technocrats but by fallible human beings in moments of intense pressure. It reveals the failures, the crises and the blunders but also the extraordinary achievements like the removal of frontier posts, the reunification of Germany and the introduction of the euro.
In the midst of the current financial crisis, many voices have predicted the imminent collapse of the European project. But Siebelink shows there have been equally difficult moments in the past that have been overcome through the EU’s mechanism of dialogue and inclusion. ‘I would like people to think of themselves as a part of Europe,’ she says, ‘and also to feel more confident about Europe. We have achieved something valuable in a relatively short period. Now it’s up to us to create Europe’s future story.’
Hanneke lives in Brussels with her husband and two sons. She loves listening to people and finding out what drives them. She is Research Partner and Writer at HRS Business Transformation Services, a global business consultancy supporting leaders and their teams in multinational and cross-cultural environments. Her current research focuses on how the quality and effectiveness of collaboration across business units, companies and cultures determines success. She is particularly interested in China and East-West relations and is learning Mandarin Chinese.