As Summer Ends, C’est La Rentrée for European Officials

In most French-speaking places ‘La Rentrée’ refers to the return to school for eager, and not-so eager students, as classes begin for the new scholastic year.

Here in Brussels it’s a bit different. When someone here refers to ‘La Rentrée’ it is more likely that they are speaking of the return to work of various eurocrats, officials and parliamentarians after their summer holidays.

‘La Rentrée’ brings with it a burst of energy and enthusiasm after a languorous August.

The restaurants and cafes around the International Fund for Animal Welfare offices are suddenly teeming with people discussing all manner of European affairs and policy.

Much of the chatter in the last couple of weeks has been about just how surprisingly busy Brussels was this summer with the financial situation in numerous EU countries subject to much conjecture and intrigue.

From an animal welfare point of view things were largely quiet over the summer. The European Union (EU) brought a complaint against Canada to the World Trade Organization (WTO) about one Canadian province’s renewable energy policy.

This is only interesting given the context of Canada’s WTO complaint against the EU over the seal ban whilst negotiations continued between both parties on a free trade deal as well. Both the EU and Canada swear that the WTO disputes and the free trade negotiations don’t have any bearing on the other initiatives yet I have to believe that, at the very least, they make discussions a bit more difficult.

The European Parliament was back in Brussels this past week for the first time in ages and they planned for the plenary session to occur in Strasbourg next week.

From IFAW’s perspective the most interesting discussion there will be on Thursday, Sept. 15th at a meeting of the Parliamentary Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals. Hence the reason why my colleagues Satyen and James will be travelling by train there this week.

The meeting, which has simultaneous interpretation into English, French, German and Polish, will discuss a written declaration on dog population management in the EU. At the last Intergroup meeting in July our Brussels Director, Lesley O’Donnell, presented footage from the 2011 Canadian Seal Hunt that IFAW had gathered. This was powerful stuff and important footage to share with European Parliamentarians who had been so instrumental in getting the EU ban on seal products ratified.

‘La Rentrée’ is, in many ways, my favourite time of year in Brussels; there’s an undercurrent of energy and enthusiasm afoot. We’ll do our best to harness that energy for the good of animals.

-- AH

For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to save animals in crisis around the world, visit

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
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Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy