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Money and the City (EN)

Money plays a crucial role in the city. A look at the skyline of buildings in Brussels shows us the headquarters of private banks and financial regulators, the offices of European lobby firms, and the activities of private funds investing in high value real estate developments. Money is also part of people’s everyday life: when taking a loan to pay off your house, when using a financial service app, when investing in shares through your local bank, when shopping at your local cooperative shop. But also when we pay taxes to see it reinvested in society through the city’s public services and infrastructure. Ultimately, money takes centre stage in political decisions on trade agreements, banking regulations, interest rates, and complex financial product – policy domains seemingly outside our reach and comprehension.

While money plays a crucial role, its workings and effects remain somewhat mysterious. What happens behind the doors of financial offices? What control do you really have over your own money? Following an introductory session, we shed light on different spaces inhabited and shaped by finance, such as housing and real estate; art; the banking industry and FinTech; taxes and lobbying and financial alternatives in everyday life.

03/02 Intro: How does money make the city? – David Bassens (VUB), Frank Vanaerschot (FairFin)
While a world without money seems unimaginable, we do not always think deeper about what money exactly is, where it comes from, or who actually owns it. What is money? It is something we build cities with; something we give to banks, to provide us loans and savings; dealing in money is a business in itself, a realm populated by bankers, lawyers, consultant, lobbyists, and tax specialists… Yet, money is also something that gives citizens the power to shape and make the city. This introduction offers a first cut at the concept of money and provides a background to the different topics of the series.

10/02 Who owns the city? Brussels and its real estate – Manuel Aalbers (KUL), Laura Deruytter (VUB), Geert De Pauw (Community Land Trust)
Brussels has not been built in a day. Layer after layer, brick after brick, building a city requires a huge investment and the built environment literally ‘sets in stone’ enormous amounts of value. High-rise buildings, offices or social housing? Where the money flows to triggers a discussion about who ultimately owns the city.

17/02 On art, value and the built environment – Ronny Heiremans & Katleen Vermeir – “Masquerade” (factual-fictual reportage)
David Bassens (VUB) – Art & Finance
The relation between art and finance is two-sided: art is the object of a global market where enormous amounts of money is circulating. Yet, art can also challenge the central assumptions underpinning our notions of money and value. This session starts with the factual-fictual reportage Masquerade, “situated in the ephemeral worlds of ‘high finance’ and the ‘global art markets’” ( introduced by the artists Katleen Vermeir and Ronny Heiremans, and ends with a discussion by David Bassens.

24/02 The future of banking. Debating the FinTech revolution – Reijer Hendrikse (VUB), Hilde Verschaeve (Trafiek vzw)
Recently, banking has been going through rapid rounds of innovation. New digital technologies are changing the way customers are using money and how banks are making money. Will the Ipad be the bank of future? Will ‘physical’ money disappear? And what about the future of bank branches in our neighbourhoods? The session reflects on the nature and implications of the so-called FinTech revolution.

10/03 Brussels, lobby and tax avoidance capital of Europe? – Rodrigo Fernandez (KUL/ SOMO),Lora Verheecke (Corporate Europe Observatory)
What do we know really about the functioning of the political capital of Europe? It appears that its central mechanisms – lobbying and tax avoidance – often remain well below the radar. This session wonders about the geographies and activities of lobbying firms in Brussels. Where do lobbyist meet up with EU parliamentarians and commissioners? At the same time, Brussels has been revealed by activist journalism to be an important hub for private tax avoidance, while Belgium is ranked high on tax offshore lists. How are fellow citizens getting away with their taxes? And what role does Belgium play in global tax avoidance routes?

17/03 Banks and our money: What about the alternatives? – Charlaine Provost (Financité),Frank Vanaerschot (FairFin)
If the lectures in this series show us something, it is that money always has an impact somewhere: it ends up in real estate, in art, offshore in Panama… But do you know where your money is going? Does your bank invest it in fossil fuels or renewable energy? Do you become shareholder of a local grocery shop? There are many things your money can do, so better think about it.


David Bassens Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
Frank Vanaerschot FairFin
Manuel Aalbers KULeuven
Laura Deruytter Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
Laura Verheecke Corporate Europe Observatory
Rodrigo Fernandez KULeuven / SOMO
Geert De Pauw Community Land Trust
Hilde Verschaeve Trafiek vzw
Reijer Hendrikse Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
Charlaine Provost Financité


14:00 > 16:00


Maison des Cultures et de la Cohésion Sociale de Molenbeek


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