The past few weeks in Brussels have been nothing short of a whirlwind! In the first week, the students situated themselves with their host families, explored Brussels’ multi-ethnic and diverse city, and got up to date on some of the basic knowledge about the European Union, NATO, and the transatlantic relationship. This past week, the students began site visits and were able to finally see the European Union in action! The Tech students visited the European Parliament, where they were given an in-depth look at how the Parliament works, where it fits into the institutional triangle of the EU, and how MEP representatives not only acquire their positions, but how they divide along political groups within the European Parliament.
The students then had the privilege of hearing from Richard Corbett, Vice-President of the European Movement in the UK, leader of the Labour Members of the European Parliament. Corbett served in Herman Van Rompuy’s cabinet and has been noted as one of the most influential leaders in the European Parliament. He answered the students’ questions about the complexity of the European Parliament and how political groups align or face off with one another over various issues that are presented. Corbett’s UK background also allowed him to shed some light on the way in which the recent UK elections could affect the UK’s participation in the European Union, including David Cameron’s proposed referendum and the possibility of a “Brexit.”
Later in the week, the students were also given the opportunity to sit in on a real-time European Parliament plenary session. The session specifically covered each member states’ expectations and what they wanted to see at the upcoming 41st G7 Summit. The session allowed the students to get a feel for how each member state is represented as well as how the logistics of a plenary session function.
On Sunday, the students had the chance to step into the shoes of MEPs through the Parlamentarium’s Role Play Game. They were divided into four imaginary political groups which represent similar ones found in the European Parliament today: solidarity, ecology, liberty, and tradition. Each group was further divided into two, examining and discussing the issues of water solidarity and micro-chipping.
The game was fast-paced, highly interactive, and a fun way to learn about the European Parliament. Not only did the simulation teach students how European legislation is drafted and the stakeholders involved in the procedure, it also provided them with a deeper understanding of the process of forming alliances, negotiating with other members, and communicating with the media.
But the fun doesn’t stop here! This week, students will get the chance to explore some of the other EU institutions in Brussels including the European Commission and the Council.