Brussels think tanks on Twitter: a performance ranking

In 2012 there has been a visible positive trend within the engagement of Brussels-based think tanks on Twitter. Here is an attempt to assess their performances.


According to European Agenda there are some 64 think tanks in Brussels. However, in this study I present findings from those participating in the next Brussels Think Tank Dialogue on 22 April 2013 (With the exception of Egmont, Royal Institute for International Relations that does not have a Twitter account.

This data has been processed via Twitonomy. I envisage to provide a more global and comprehensive report on the full list of Brussels-based think tanks in the future.


From the table below you can see how Bruegel is the most followed profile (11184 followers), SWP gets the highest retweet rate (83.06%) while Bertelsmann Stiftung got so far the highest number of absolute retweets (10493). Friends of Europe is the think tank which is listed the most (285). Let’s now have a look at the full ranking by followers:

Figure 1 Overview


  1. Bruegel (11184 followers): Bruegel is a European think tank specializing in economics. Established in 2005, Bruegel is independent and non-doctrinal. Recently nominated Best Think Tank in Western Europe and Best International Economic Policy Think Tank for 2012 in the McGann Go to Think Tanks report
  2. Friends of Europe (6255 followers): Friends of Europe – Les amis de l’Europe is a leading think-tank that aims to stimulate thinking on key global and European political challenges. Our insightful and timely publications and animated debates provide access to sharp analysis and information. We promote the confrontation of ideas that is vital to policymaking and encourage wider involvement in Europe’s future.
  3. CEPS (5863 followers): Founded in Brussels in 1983, the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) is among the most experienced and authoritative think tanks operating in the European Union today. CEPS serves as a leading forum for debate on EU affairs, but its most distinguishing feature lies in its strong in-house research capacity, complemented by an extensive network of partner institutes throughout the world.
  4. IFRI (4601 followers): Founded in 1979 on the model of Anglo-Saxon think thanks, Ifri is the principal institution for independent research and debate in France that is dedicated to the analysis of international questions and global governance. In 2012, Ifri was the only French research institute ranked among the 100 most influential think tanks in the world, including the United States, according to the “Global Think Tank Report 2012
  5. FRIDE (3038 followers): FRIDE is a European think tank for global action, which provides innovative thinking and rigorous analysis of key debates in international relations. Our mission is to inform policy and practice in order to ensure that the EU plays a more effective role in supporting multilateralism, democratic values, security and sustainable development.
  6. Lisbon Council (2664 followers): Founded in 2003, the Lisbon Council is incorporated in Belgium as an independent, non-profit and non-partisan association. As part of their commitment to environmental sustainability and in an effort to reduce our carbon footprint, the Lisbon Council offsets all greenhouse gas emissions resulting from its travel and operations and furnishes its Brussels-based office with MBDC-certified cradle-to-cradle technology. Through these efforts, the Lisbon Council is certified as a “climate neutral organisation.”
  7. Bertelsmann Stiftung (2499 followers): In keeping with the longstanding commitment of its founder, Reinhard Mohn, the Bertelsmann Stiftung is dedicated to serving the common good. Its work is based on the conviction that competition and civic engagement are fundamental for ensuring social change. The foundation aims to identify social problems and challenges at an early stage and develop exemplary solutions to address them.
  8. ECIPE (1382 followers): The European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE) is an independent and non-profit policy research think tank dedicated to trade policy and other international economic policy issues of importance to Europe. It was founded in 2006 by Fredrik Erixon and Razeen Sally. ECIPE is rooted in the classical tradition of free trade and an open world economic order. Progressive reduction of barriers to the movement of goods, services, capital and people across borders creates prosperity, and improves the conditions for peace, security and individual freedom.
  9. The Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) (1069 followers): The German Institute for International and Security Affairs of the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) is an independent scientific establishment that conducts practically oriented research on the basis of which it then advises the Bundestag (the German parliament) and the federal government on foreign and security policy issues. The analyses and publications produced by SWP researchers and their participation in national and international debates on key issues help to shape opinion in their respective domains.
  10. Madariaga (423 followers): The Madariaga – College of Europe Foundation is dedicated to promoting original thinking on the role of the European Union in an era of global change, engaging citizens and international partners in a creative debate on the issues that shape Europe’s future. Through research and action, the Foundation pursues a three-fold mission of challenging the citizen, empowering Europe, and preventing conflict.
  11. Confrontations Europe (421 followers): The association acts as a laboratory to develop analyses and ideas with regard to changes occurring in France, in Europe and around the world, as well as proposals for social, economic and political changes. It works in collaboration with 45 major business organisations and banks, with social partners from member States and Europe, with towns and regions, numerous associations and research centres, and members of the European parliament, as well as several European Commission’s Directorates General. Confrontations Europe is continuing its methodical revision of the Lisbon Strategy, largely to provide the EU with new industrial policies and services.
  12. EPC (99 followers): The European Policy Centre has two official accounts, @eupolcent which is inactive since July 2011 and the new @epc_eu opened on 25/02/2013. This data refers to the latter[1]. The European Policy Centre (EPC) is an independent, not-for-profit think tank, committed to making European integration work. The EPC works at the “cutting edge” of European and global policy-making providing its members and the wider public with rapid, high-quality information and analysis on the EU and global policy agenda. It aims to promote a balanced dialogue between the different constituencies of its membership, spanning all aspects of economic and social life.

[1] At this regard, I did ask EPC to clarify their position on that (See here). Still, a response is awaited

Table 1 Brussels think tanks on Twitter in alphabetical order. Data collected on 28 February.


Table 2 Brussels think tanks on Twitter ordered by opening date from the oldest to the newest.


Table 3 Brussels think tanks on Twitter ordered by tweets per day (total number of tweets divided by days of activity) from the highest to the lowest value.


Think tanks and communication

On 23rdof May I attended an event in the Brussels-based foundation Madariaga entitled “Les Think Tank Européens et la crise” Apportent ils des solutions à l’UE? . Many promiment academics and managers from the most prestigious and renouned think tanks in Brussels were invited including Guntram B. Wolff, Pierre Defraigne, Benoît Lechat and Martine Royo et Stephen Boucher, co-authours of the book “Les think tanks, cerveaux de la guerre des idées.”

During the event many aspects of European intergarion were discussed and of course a lot of the debate revolved around the contributions think tanks have given to the current debates on the European crisis. Although the conversation slightly diverged from the original topic (the influence of think tanks), we did touch the issue of think tanks’ independence, financing, power, and polarization. An interesting point was made by Bruegel deputy director Guntram Wolff who explained how think tanks have a three-fold role of generating, selecting and promoting ideas. While Pierre Defraigne pointed out that Europe is experiencing richness in expertise but poverty in research his approach was more critical.

A crucial point of the discussion had been basically left untouched. During the Q&As session I commented that I expected this debate to cover the aspect of promotion. Compared to their American counterparts, European think tanks invest on average relatively very little (35-40% against 5-10%). We are in a situation where academics are building up a massive and monotonous information melting pot of European affairs research while they should be more focused on the implementation of information filtering.

Consequently, the panel asked me “Do you think it is matter of means, budget or business model.” In my reply I pointed out on how Sony Kapoor , the founder of Redefine became a prominent opinion leaders because he was the first European think tankers to provide some serious live-twitting about EU institutional events and at the same time he has been able to provide timely policy recommendations via his digital and social media planning. This happened with relatively low financing.

The lack of modernity in the communications strategies of European think tanks is also due to the fact the EU institutions themselves still remain highly anachronistic in their communications strategies. After attending a seminar a few months ago on the communication of EU funded projects I was astonished to see how so much money is still spent on paper-based communication and printed materials while at the same time there are also some 65.000 projects-related website that are unmanaged or simply abandoned. As an example, during this interesting event, I wasn’t given an internet password nor a Twitter hashtag to interact with other present participants

Secondly, European academics are very elitists. I have personally noticed a quite accentuated tendency from prominent academics  in European TTs to be rather stand-offish and believe that implementing solid communication strategies to promote their research is absolutely secondary.

To sum up, European think tanks could learn a great deal from their American counterparts in dealing with, investing a coordinating promotion of their activities.