My European family

My first five years as the director of Vienna House Brussels

Michaela Kauer

Exactly five years ago, on July 1st, 2009, I was appointed as director of the „Vienna House“, the liaison office of the city of Vienna, in Brussels. I wanted this job, I had been working for it. Because I knew than and know now that women careers do not come by mere chance. They do not „just happen“ to you. I am a little bit older today, of course, and I have gained new knowledge, made interesting experiences, found new friends. They have added to my truly European family.

Working for Vienna in the Brussels bubble is inspiring

To put it blankly: when I started, I was simply overwhelmed by the amount and density of information flooding in each day. How can one make a difference between the really important bits and parts and the things you better skip from your mind and desk? I will never forget the magic moment of enlightment when suddenly it all fitted together in my poor brain and my scattered heart. I was sitting in my enchanting garden in Brussels and I did not only know, I truly felt that I was ready now to take part in the game. All these weird puzzle parts suddenly fitted together and made sense. Since then, the two worlds of my professional and private life – the European policy field and my Vienna home base – are stably linked up with each other.

Routine helps, and feeling your European home base as well

Today, a lot of things in the job are much easier, logically, There is some redundancy, of course, especially now when we start a new five year term on EU-level. The whole architecture of the European Parliament has changed, we are observing the power play between Member States for the new Commission and all the other high level posts. Not a lot of women names dropped among the proposals, unfortunately we are far from a fair share. But all of this is less intimidating than five years ago. Now, I understand most of the processes and procedures, I can translate this for all those who might find it useful.

A lot of people did make my start a smooth and easy one. The great team at Vienna House, of course. Excellent colleagues! All the women and men working in and around EU institutions, in regional offices, city representations, networks, social partner, civil society, NGOs and many more. Some became really good, close friends. They are part of my European family now. We helped each other in finding good strategies on common goals, but we also were there for each other in the sometimes difficult moments expats can experience  abroad. This is very comforting and reloads the batteries.

Working for smart, social and sustainable cities

Every five years, there is something like a déjà-vu momentum in EU politics. Of course, there is a clear line to take in my main areas of work: public services, public finances, all issues around cities and the urban agenda. International trade, TTIP, human rights need to be observed as well with respect to their possible influence on local and regional policies. Making women visible has always been and will always continue be a compass of my professional life as I am convinced that true democracy will only be achieved with full participation of women. There is lot to do here, still. But with all my empathy, my experience and my routine I feel well prepared for the next round, despite the redundancies.

The strong emphasis of the EU on internal market issues will clearly continue to trigger challenges for city politics. Why do we get a proposal for a 4th railway package without awaiting the implementation of the 3rd? How sure can we be of the respect for the principle of subsidiarity with all the continuous attempts to interfere with social housing systems in the Member States? And had we the worst really behind us with the crisis – why is there no boost in the economy, creating new opportunities and jobs?

The people I work for are my best source of inspiration

All of this is only possible with the inspiration I receive from all those I have the chance to work for since five years: the 1,8 million inhabitants of the city of Vienna. The have a right to a rich and beautiful life. They shall have access to safe and affordable housing and a decent job as a starting point to build their lives. This is what I am working for. Securing, defending, developing the chances of the people of my home town in a European policy context. I am proud of my job and grateful to be able to do that. And I am looking forward to even more of it.

Read more on Vienna House here.

(c) Courtesy for nice pictures to Julie de Bellaing/Wien-Haus Brüssel, Harold Naaijer/Graz, Ermeson Vieira/Brüssel.

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