Flags representing the 28 member countries of the EU.

Our first week in Brussels was quite a busy one. We spent the week at ULB learning important information about the European Union and its institutions in preparation for our site visits. This week has been equally as packed with new information and even more things to do. Yesterday, May 25th, we had the opportunity to visit NATO and the European Parliament. Following lunch at NATO, we headed straight for the Parliament building where a plenary session awaited us.

Before the plenary session, we were briefed by a representative of the European Parliament. She went in depth about the basic structure of the European Parliament and its political parties as well as explained where it fits into the institutional triangle of the European Union. Since we had already covered so much material in our lectures, she could tell we knew a lot and was able to answer a few questions and speak more on the issue of transatlantic data flow.

After introducing the agreement’s official name to us, the EU-US Privacy Shield, the representative further explained how the agreement would better protect EU citizens and their personal data. The agreement ensures that U.S. companies wishing to import personal data from Europe will have to follow strict procedures on how data is processed and how rights are guaranteed. Transparency is also a new requirement that has never been mentioned in previous agreements.


The floor of the European Parliament

As soon as our briefing ended, we were escorted into the gallery to view the ongoing plenary session. There sat roughly twenty MEPs preparing for their turn to speak. Upon entering, we were able to catch the tail end of discussion on preparation for the G7 Summit. Up next was the debate on transatlantic data flow. It was fascinating to hear MEPs from all different countries and parties give their opinions and suggestions. Lucky for us, we were able to hear from Sophia in’t Veld, an MEP from the Netherlands and member of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). It was awesome to have the opportunity to watch the session take place.

Today, May 26th, was a free day. Much of the day was spent exploring parks and enjoying the most beautiful weather we’ve had thus far here in Brussels. A few friends and I popped into La Brace, a pizzeria near the Commission, where we enjoyed delicious margherita pizzas. It was a much needed day of rest for all of us. Back to work tomorrow!