With the early bird registrations coming soon to an end, we spoke with the AIJA Organising Committee members Grégoire Ryelandt, Partner at deprevernet, and Marie Brasseur, Partner at ALTIUS in Brussels, to find out more about this year’s Congress and the host city, Brussels.
Q1: What should participants expect from this year’s Congress?
Grégoire Ryelandt: Participants should know that Brussels is a genuine mix of cultures and a diverse city: more than half of its residents were born outside of Belgium. The city is home to around 200 embassies – more than any other in the world. The presence of the European institutions also makes the capital one of the most important decision-making centres in the world. Brussels is an international business hub at the heart of Europe. NGOs, consultancies, international institutions, media and law firms, among others, have set up their offices in the Belgian capital. This makes it the perfect venue for young legal professionals to meet and discuss the impact of globalisation on the practice of law.
Marie Brasseur: This year, the Congress venue is Radisson Blu Royal, a hotel conveniently found at the heart of Brussels. The central location of the venue will allow participants to get a ‘real-time’ pulse of the city and its vibrant atmosphere. Once you are here, you will see that many great attractions are within a 10-minute walk from the hotel, so you get to experience the best of Brussels. The Organising Committee promises a fun social programme with indoor and outdoor activities for everyone. In addition to the social programme, this year’s scientific programme has been tailored to respond to a wide range of interests so regardless of your field of law, you can benefit from all working sessions and workshops. The full programme is available here.
Q2: What are the top 5 things to know about Brussels during the Congress?
Grégoire Ryelandt: Brussels is a very easy-going city. Walk out of the hotel. Go in one of the many small bars on one busy street corners in the city. Sit at the bar and start talking with your neighbour. You will learn a lot more about Brussels and our way of life than in any guide.
Comic strips are one of the treasures of the Belgian culture. The Belgian Comic Strip Center is just a few hundred meters away from the Congress hotel. You should take the comic strip tour. It will take you to very nice settings.
On Sunday, have breakfast at the Museum of Musical Instruments (MIM) or in Parc d’Egmont. Then go for a walk around the Sablon district to visit the Galleries and the many antique shops, which are real gold mines.
During the Summer, drinks are organised almost every evening in a pop-up location somewhere in the city. Ask a local when you arrive in Brussels and he/she will tell you where to go during the week.
As a lawyer, you can’t leave Brussels without having visited the Court of Justice. The building is poorly kept, but it is full of small stories that local lawyers will be happy to tell. Go to the Court of Justice between 9 and 10 am and follow the lawyers in courtrooms to feel the atmosphere of the building. Also, have a look around the 1st floor. Many doors are unexpectedly open. Don’t be shy, local lawyers will be happy to show you around!
Q3: What are the main highlights of the social programme?
Marie Brasseur: As always, there are plenty of opportunities to network and make friends during the Congress.
On Tuesday 28 August, we will host a Welcome Reception at the Saint-Hubert Royal Galleries, a stone’s throw from the Radisson Blu Royal and the Grand Place. Former President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy will open the Congress with a keynote on the benefits and drawbacks of globalisation. During the same evening, you should also join us for our inaugural speed dating session where all delegates get to meet each other. Our former AIJA President Dirk Nuyts will be for sure a great host.
On Friday 31 August, the Day Out will bring you to one of the most popular Summer spots in Brussels, Bois de la Cambre. Enjoy the afternoon with your Congress friends in the middle of the nature with a selection of typical Belgian indoor and outdoor activities. Teamwork and creativity will be key to bringing the (fun) challenge to a good end!
On Saturday 1 September, we will invite everyone to a Gala dinner at the Halles de Schaerbeek. Nestling in the heart of Brussels in a metal and glass structure dating back to 1901, this former covered market has been saved from destruction and wonderfully renovated. Its space is unrivalled and perfectly suited for celebrations. Les Halles de Schaerbeek will offer the ideal setting to this farewell festive evening of the Congress.
Among the various social events organised during the Congress, I think that the most special and anticipated evening of all is the «Home Hospitality Dinner», where local lawyers open their homes to welcome AIJA members from around the world with delicious, often typical, food and drinks. This is a unique occasion for participants to find out more about the hospitality and way of life of the city hosting the Congress in a friendly atmosphere. This Belgian edition is certainly not to be missed!
Q4: How would you describe this year’s Congress in three words?
We only need two: Feel welcome!
See you in Brussels!
The 56th International Young Lawyers’ Congress will take place from 28 August to 1 September at the hotel Radisson Blu Royal in Brussels. Early bird fees are available until 5 July. To register, visit the event website: brussels.aija.org.