Eric Corijn is Professor of Social and Cultural Geography at the Free University of Brussels (VUB). Besides this, he is also the Director of COSMOPOLIS City, Culture and Society Research Group. In his article ‘Brussels as an international city’, Corijn claims that “a true ‘Capital city’ should be more than the mere location of the power echelons and administrative offices. It should (…) be a place where the global vision is created, produced and represented”. In order to be successful, internationalisation at the top needs to be linked to internationalisation at the bottom.

 

 

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Picture by Fred Ernst

 

“Cities make the world today. They are the centres of activity and innovation: they contain the businesses, information technology and multicultural aspects that attract talent and thus the majority of economic activity. The success of the cities increasingly make the success of the national economy, as economic activity needs the urban centres, or some coherence in the urban centres, to thrive.”

“In present day planning, we should adopt a mindset towards a triangular relationship between the world-system, nation-state and cities, instead of the current hierarchical relationship. In this way, big cities can develop their own relationship with the world-system, and that relationship will then form a subsequent relationship with the nation state. It is comparable to a ménage à trois: where two can arrange themselves together to ‘cheat’ on the third one.”

“The sociology of Brussels cannot be told in terms of a common tradition and common roots, as this simply does not exist. What Brussels does have, however, is a common destination. The inhabitants of Brussels are forced to share the city with each other, and this is their common destiny, which needs to be formulated. Unifying the city of Brussels is therefore more related to building a project than related to a shared history and tradition.”

“In order for Brussels to truly represent Europe, it needs to develop the elements of European hybridity and mixity. In this sense, Eric Corijn’s advice for Brussels is to move away from being the capital city of Europe, but to instead develop it as the capital of Europeaness; “whatever that may be”. This broader title offers a more accurate representation to work towards: it has no given outcome, but an ambition of celebrating the presence of the different cultures and people.”

“The ultimate question, however, is not simply about city marketing and imaging. It is about more than simply labeling the city and selling it as the international capital of peace and justice. Having an international court is not a sufficient requirement in automatically making it a capital city. The Hague should therefore be a real example of peace and justice within itself. It should be ahead of other cities in terms of peace and justice.”

 

The report of the lecture and expert meeting held at the University of Leiden, Campus The Hague on January 26 and 27, 2012 can be downloaded here.