At the pulse of Europe
The European Office of the German Insurance Association (GDV) is located in the heart of Brussels. In this interview, Lenka De Mauro, Head of European and International Affairs, talks about her responsibilities, her team, and the special fascination of this European metropolis.
Ms. De Mauro, what fascinates you about Brussels?
As the seat of the EU, this city obviously attracts politically interested Europeans like me. It is here that the European Commission, the Council of the EU, and the European Parliament work together to create laws that affect 450 million EU citizens. That in itself is fascinating and one of the most common reasons why people come here. But Brussels is more than just politics.
What do you mean by that?
Museums, botanical gardens, concerts, and cultural events can easily push politics into the background. The city has magnificent landmarks like the Grand Place, known for its historic charm. And art lovers appreciate the many museums and galleries, with works by famous artists such as Magritte and Bruegel. If you were to ask a thousand people in Brussels why they liked the city, you would certainly get a thousand different answers. Brussels is a place that inspires me as well as provides me with food for thought, and I think that is a unique combination.
How important is Brussels for the GDV?
The GDV is one of the most important representatives of the insurance industry in Europe. We act in the interest of more than 460 German insurance companies with more than 500,000 employees and millions of customers. They rightly expect us to address major challenges of the future. And Brussels is a good place to do this. Here, we work alongside the legislative process. We listen where it matters. And we speak out when we need to. In short: We advocate for the positions of our members. More than 60 percent of legislation that is relevant to our sector is decided by the institutions in Brussels. This is where the heart of the European project beats.
How do you work with your team in Brussels?
Our team is international, young, and full of energy. That is exactly what we need to work successfully. You can think of us a bit like interpreters between our member companies in Germany and the policymakers here. On the one hand, we explain to our members what is happening in Brussels and what European legislators expect from the insurance industry. Conversely, we also explain to the representatives of the institutions what they should be taking into consideration regarding our industry. Another important aspect of our work is the international exchange with associations and representatives from the different EU member states.
What are the issues you are most concerned with?
The insurance industry plays a part in almost all policy areas that are discussed here in Brussels, meaning that we have a comprehensive view of the issues in question. However, the most important areas definitely include financial market regulation, sustainability, and digitalization. These are the megatrends that are being discussed at a European level and that also need to be discussed here.
How is the GDV involved in this?
We have various levers. One of the examples of our involvement in European legislation that I would like to mention is the Climate Resilience Dialogue. This is an initiative by the European Commission, which we support by providing our special expertise as insurers as well as content-related assistance. As a result, we are helping to shape the process of ensuring that millions of policyholders in Europe receive the best possible protection against the impending consequences of climate change. In the area of financial market regulation, we are primarily concerned with the Solvency II Directive and, more recently, the Retail Investment Strategy. We contribute position papers and statements, engage in discussions, and organize events to advocate for the interests of our members in the best and most effective way at every stage of the process and to all co-decision-makers.
You also mentioned digitalization – how is Europe influencing our digital understanding?
Well, for one, Europe is driving the development of the world’s first regulatory framework for Artificial Intelligence, to regulate the use of this technology and to ensure that there are ethical standards, transparency, and accountability. In doing so, the EU is helping to shape a digital understanding that is based on the principles of fairness, trust, and sustainability. As insurers, we are committed to creating a framework that builds on these principles and enables us all to reap the benefits of digitalization.