First time in a European Project Meeting. Meeting not only Project Partners but also getting stuck in Brussels for 10 days because of the Volcanic Ashes… Aslıhan Kagnıcı, Assistant Consultant of TAGES, shared her experiences of Brussels trip which is mandatorily prolonged because of Icelandic volcanic ashes.
Once I have been working on developing EU projects, being and finding partners for the projects for about one year, I found myself in a world of the ‘networking’. As long as I worked, I gained a lot of experience on the importance of networking and how it should be. I have always witnessed that successful works have arisen by means of the good communication with the partners. Although all communication tools are effective for this, of course face to face meetings are the best way. In this purpose I often meet the partners in Turkey and lastly I have experienced in working with the European partners by coming together in Brussels for an EU project.
We are a partner of a project which will be submitted in the 1st of June in the area of ‘open innovation for future internet-enabled services in smart cities’. In the consortium there are 17 partners including EU partners and two Turkish partners except us. All partners have been working seriously and meticulously for months to prepare this project. Because of the project subject, which is about the moving the successful existing e-participation projects to another cities, all partners were quite excited and eager. After the weekly Skype meetings, we, as all partners, finally have caught the chance to come together for a workshop activity in Brussels. This workshop has a special importance for me, because in this workshop I met not only the European partners, but also I have met the Brussels, but the capital of the European Union!
From the first moment I got off the plane, a great feeling of confidence lined into me. I did not feel the excitement of being in a new place this time. With this great confidence and a subway map in my hand I reached my hotel in Louisa Avenue as if I had known Brussels for years. The subway system was the first thing I liked in Brussels. It is possible to go around throughout the city only with a subway map.
After arranging my accommodation at the hotel, I left to meet the other Turkish partners to work together for the workshop. The Grand Place is one of the first places to be visited in Brussels for the people who are in Brussels for the first time. Therefore, with the same idea we have met in the Grand Place so that we would both enjoy the light square and then would also work for the project. I was quite impressed from the beautiful view of the square and took many photos. When I was on the way to the hotel at about 10:30, I noticed that the streets were very empty and there were very few people in the city centre. This solitude around at that time surprised me. On the other hand, there were lively and extraordinary people in the subway. However, these people were different from the subway people in Turkey; these weren’t bothering me in any action.
I was the first person in the workshop day and then the following one was the other Turkish partner. We, the Turkish partners, were more punctual than the others. Then the European partners came one by one. It was exciting to meet the partners with whom we were in contact in Skype meetings for several months. When we came together, we had a better understanding of the project, we had the chance to discuss new issues and new ideas developed and shaped. Some of the European partners were friendly and some of them were a little serious. Therefore, I couldn’t generate a common idea of the ‘European Partners’. After an efficient workshop, we had a dinner with all partners in Luxembourg Avenue. I thought that the dinners of the project meetings should be the most enjoyable part. It was such a good atmosphere that we both had fun and have known each other personally and talked business at the same time. All partners hung the evil eye beads which were given as a gift by the other Turkish partner and they promised that they would keep them until the project submission. By the way our project coordinator has noticed us about the Icelandic volcanic ash. I was sorry for the delay of their flights, surprisingly I thought that our flight was not cancelled, even we would leave the next day! I suddenly noticed that my confidential feelings on Brussels were too much when I learned the news of closing of the Airport and when all the flights were cancelled at the time I was leaving the hotel. After this news, a real adventure in Brussels actually began…
Once I have arranged a place for accommodation with other Turkish partner, we went to the Turkish Airlines Brussels office. Our tickets were delayed for the next day. Of course it wasn’t certain. Since the telephone of the Turkish Airlines was never answering, the first thing in the mornings was to go to Turkish Airlines office and to be informed about the flights. Actually it wasn’t bad, we created a new network there with the Turkish people who were coming there everyday for the same reason with us. Since Turkish Airlines office was closed at the weekend even during this extreme case and there was no answer for the telephone, we went to the Airport to learn the situation of our flights too.
Although we had the hump because of being stuck there and there had been no certain information about the flights, our business trip was suddenly turned into a tourist trip. Thanks to the weekend, I took the opportunity to go around Brussels. Sunny weather was one of my biggest chances during my stay. Even on Sunday I was encouraged to wait in one of the longest lines in the Central Station because of the volcano and took the ticket to Amsterdam trip only for 4 hours.
Since Brussels has two national languages as French and Flemish, all the signboards in Brussels were written by these two languages. Actually, I liked this approach. However, on the other hand it was so strange to me that there weren’t any English explanations in the museums of such a sensitive country.
During my stay, I visited European Commission, NATO, European Parliament. They were very fascinating. The biggest unluckiest thing for me in Brussels was that the European Parliament was closed because of the 19-22 April 2010 Strasburg plenary meeting. Going around in Luxembourg Square at lunch time was so delighted. The crowd of the people who work at EC Offices has a very different atmosphere than that of the city centre. Also I visited the EU offices of some important Turkish NGOs such as KAGIDER, TÜBİTAK TURBO and TUSİAD. The efforts of the people working in these offices in Brussels are really appreciated for Turkey. During the visits, I understood better now that the lobbying and networking activities in Brussels are so important for the future of Turkey.
Besides the trips in Brussels, I didn’t forget to come back to the work even though the flights were cancelled every day. Since the internet connection was too bad in the hotel, everyday I tried to find a place to work and access the internet at around 9 a.m. (GMT+2) as in Turkey. However, all cafes, and stores opens after 9:30 a.m. in Brussels. Conversely I always had thought that the people in Europe start to work earlier than us. But here is Brussels. I kept up with this order and started to work at 10 a.m.
On my tenth day in Brussels our flight wasn’t delayed and the time was to return to Turkey. I was so happy to get rid of the being stuck and going back to work. On the other hand I was sad because I was getting used to live in Brussels. Brussels was very hospitable for me and I am so glad to meet Brussels!
Our project will be submitted within this week. Now I hope that our project will get a good score and will be funded by the EC so that we would go on working with the partners in their countries and again in Brussels. I look forward..
Wait for us and see you again Brussels!