Blog post

10 years of Bruegel

Guntram Wolff reflects on the time when he joined Bruegel and its next 10 years.

Publishing date
09 September 2015

In 2005, when I first came across Bruegel in a newspaper interview, I was immediately fascinated. Here was a truly European think tank that intended to achieve something with its economic research: to apply rigorous analysis to the most important topics of our time and effectively communicate conclusions to improve policy. I had just published research on fiscal accounting tricks in Greece and experts were discussing this – but as the basic political consensus was that we were living in stable times, and therefore debates on economic policy mistakes would never be front-page news, a wider discussion would not take place. Six years later, when I joined the Bruegel team, things had changed.

Joining a think tank in times of economic crisis was daunting. My new colleagues were a team of excellent scholars and we were not afraid to ponder the tough questions of our times and set the agenda in these discussions. Does the euro need a fiscal union and what should it look like? Should we restructure public debt? How can we shape a banking union and resolve banking fragilities? How should the EU deal with tensions between euro and non-euro area countries, and with tensions in the Troika? How do we deal with low inflation and which reforms trigger growth? Working on all of these issues with Jean Pisani-Ferry, André Sapir, Nicolas Véron, Zsolt Darvas, Reinhilde Veugelers and others was very rewarding. I was engaged in intellectual pursuits that had real-world impact.

After 4 years in a management position at Bruegel, first as Deputy and then as Director, I have learned that Bruegel’s success is not just down to its research. Good research is key to any think tank’s success, but if it is never taken up in policy circles it can become a pointless exercise. Effective communication has been essential in delivering messages to key stakeholders and in helping to set the policy agenda and Bruegel’s communication team has been crucial to Bruegel’s achievements in this area. They are also responsible for generating lively debate in the 80 or so events organised every year.

Messages not only need to be heard, they also need to be credible. Credibility comes from a track-record of honest and fact-based research. Bruegel carries out its work independently; but it is important that everyone can see this. We are ranked as a think tank with the highest transparency standards, documenting every euro raised and spent in our annual reports. We have also introduced public disclosure of all financial and non-financial interests of our core scholars. Thanks go to our Secretary General and his entire team for the steady work regarding this and many other issues that maintain Bruegel’s reputation as a think tank of the highest standards.

Our membership - both public and private – is also central to our success. Without our membership Bruegel would not only lack the necessary resources, we would also lack partners that ask pertinent research questions, raise relevant topics and interact with us in many forms, while of course respecting our independence.

Last but not least, our Board, under the chairmanship of Jean-Claude Trichet, is an indispensable source of inspiration, guidance and support. I want to thank all Board Members for their dedicated work. Back in 2005 I was excited by a think tank carrying out research to improve economic policy. Little did I understand then just how many people and organisations contribute to all the many elements needed for Bruegel to be a success.

Celebrating 10 years also means reflecting on the next 10 years. Judging from today, the next 10 years will be characterised by increasing uncertainty, new economic difficulties around the world, rising tensions in Europe’s neighbourhood, uncertain transformations in our labour markets and industries, climate change, energy transition and slowing growth. It is essential we offer solutions that are not based on reactionary populism, which is already a danger. Political tensions as a result of economic difficulties in the EU will continue to dominate the front pages. In such times, Bruegel’s voice of reasonable, pragmatic, rigorous and fact-based analysis, together with its credibility and independence, will be needed more than ever. We will continue to develop visions, arguing for radical changes in policy direction whilst also promoting technical improvements to existing policies.

I am confident that with the support of our members and stakeholders, Bruegel’s team will continue to improve economic policies. Let me thank all those who have supported us in the past and who support us now for sharing in our mission to contribute to better economic policies.

About the authors

  • Guntram B. Wolff

    Guntram Wolff is a Senior fellow at Bruegel. He is also a Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. From 2022-2024, he was the Director and CEO of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and from 2013-22 the director of Bruegel. Over his career, he has contributed to research on European political economy, climate policy, geoeconomics, macroeconomics and foreign affairs. His work was published in academic journals such as Nature, Science, Research Policy, Energy Policy, Climate Policy, Journal of European Public Policy, Journal of Banking and Finance. His co-authored book “The macroeconomics of decarbonization” is published in Cambridge University Press.

    An experienced public adviser, he has been testifying twice a year since 2013 to the informal European finance ministers’ and central bank governors’ ECOFIN Council meeting on a large variety of topics. He also regularly testifies to the European Parliament, the Bundestag and speaks to corporate boards. In 2020, Business Insider ranked him one of the 28 most influential “power players” in Europe. From 2012-16, he was a member of the French prime minister’s Conseil d’Analyse Economique. In 2018, then IMF managing director Christine Lagarde appointed him to the external advisory group on surveillance to review the Fund’s priorities. In 2021, he was appointed member and co-director to the G20 High level independent panel on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response under the co-chairs Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Lawrence H. Summers and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. From 2013-22, he was an advisor to the Mastercard Centre for Inclusive Growth. He is a member of the Bulgarian Council of Economic Analysis, the European Council on Foreign Affairs and  advisory board of Elcano.

    Guntram joined Bruegel from the European Commission, where he worked on the macroeconomics of the euro area and the reform of euro area governance. Prior to joining the Commission, he worked in the research department at the Bundesbank, which he joined after completing his PhD in economics at the University of Bonn. He also worked as an external adviser to the International Monetary Fund. He is fluent in German, English, and French. His work is regularly published and cited in leading media. 

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