GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Month: June 2018 (Page 1 of 6)

A Week to Remember!

Today we put our knowledge of international security to the test and finished the weeklong course with Brigadier General Cuzzelli. We were assessed through an oral quiz and an oral essay response to a question which was done in groups. This was a very effective way of reviewing what we had learned while also having the opportunity to be corrected with some of the answers that demonstrated ambiguity or misunderstandings of the subject before finishing the course. The oral quiz allowed us to receive feedback from our professor, Dr. Birchfield, and a retired Brigadier General who spent much of his career at NATO, thereby gaining multiple perspectives on issues.

The subjects we were tested on ranged from the structure and operation of NATO to the EU’s competences in the areas of defense and foreign policy, all topics that we were exposed to during our site visits to the European institutions and SHAPE. The securities course framed much of what we had learned at these site visits in the context of global issues such as the rise of China and its Belt and Road initiative, terrorism, and the threats posed by Russia to name a few. While the oral quiz tested us on knowledge of specific institutions, their functions, and NATO’s development over the years, the oral group essay allowed us to demonstrate our understanding of currents events in light of what we had learned throughout the week.

The question my group faced was “What should China’s role in the world be and the West’s response?” To answer this question, we cited examples ranging from China’s island building in the South China Sea, their Belt and Road Initiative, military expansion, and relations with developing countries. We concluded that much like Theresa Fallon had informed us previously, China is very subtle in influencing international affairs to their benefit in the long run. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the Belt and Road Initiative. Ms. Fallon used the example of a frog being boiled (as frogs can’t tell that they are being boiled until it’s too late) to describe China’s foreign policy, with the West being the frog. We concluded that our greatest hope in maintaining Western values and ensuring the importance of the West on the global stage was through sustaining strong intra-European and transatlantic relations while also opening up to more developing countries so as to prevent their tilt towards China. We can be much stronger in facing a threat such as the rise of China as a united front. However, unfortunately, this seems to be lost on our current president as NATO commitments, transatlantic relations, and even relations with our immediate neighbors to the north and south seem to be in question.

We of course could not say goodbye to Mr. Cuzzelli on an academic note which is why we were all treated to Lunch at the Euroflat hotel with great views of the Brussels skyline. This also provided an opportunity for the students to get to know Mr. Cuzzelli on a more personal level and without the confinements of the Q&A cessions during the lectures. The week had proven to be invaluable as we not only learned about the issues in international security, but also gained a brigadier general’s perspective.

Security Seminar Day 2: International Law and NATO

After a good night of rest, we found ourselves back at the First Euroflat hotel for our the 2nd day of our week-long security seminar. We began with an introduction to the intersection of international security and law. The basis of international law is two-fold. Laws are adopted out of necessity and the continuous application and compliance of the law gives it validity and legality in international community.

We then explored what international law states in relation to war. Specifically, in what context is war considered ‘legal’ and what are the rules and norms that govern conflict between nations. Additionally, we were introduced to the concepts of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and the Right to Prosecute. The former highlights the foundation of humanitarian intervention however, it requires legitimate action and authorization without ulterior motives in order for it to be justified. Right to Prosecute was developed in response to WWII coupled with the establishment of international laws such as the Convention Against Genocide and the Decleration of Human Rights. With this however, comes a double standard as although international law acts as a detterent, the concept of sovreignty influences the issues of jurisdition and the willingenss to prosecute.

As we continued to discuss International Law, Brigadier General Cuzzelli provided real world examples of the implementation and limitations of International law. Specifically, we discussed Russia’s involvement in International organizations and their adherence to International Law. This topic was interesting as we had previously discussed it with our briefer at the Council of Europe regarding Russia’s relation to the parliment and the European Court of Human Rights.

We then moved on to a discussion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a defense alliance at the heart of the transatlantic relationship. NATO orignated as a counter to the USSR and Warsaw Pact satellite states during the cold war. The treaty is built around the idea of collective defense and all decisions are made unanimously. Our visit to the Supreme Headquarters for Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE) and our lecture with a senior NATO official left us with a decent understanding of the organization and purpose of NATO in the international community. With Brigadier General Cuzzelli, we focused on the structure and workings of NATO, benefiting from his extensive background and insight in the organization and specifically, SHAPE.

NATO has been criticized recently, particularly by the Trump administration as being ineffective. We discussed the relevancy of NATO and its role as a security alliance that bridges the transatlantic relationship. Firstly, NATO provides necessary deterrence and a collective defense that is necessary in Europe, as each European member-state’s military would be extremely inadequate on its own. Additionally NATO, through collective defense, strengths solidarity within the European community and in turn, solidarity with the other transatlantic partners. NATO not only provides security for Europe but it also defines the security dynamic of Eurasia, northern Africa, and the Middle East. And Finally, NATO provides a military framework in which missions, under the auspices of the UN, can be conduced.

Studying the connection between International Law, International organizations, and security is crucial to understanding the security dynamic of the transatlantic relationship. As we continue our security leg of this program, tying them to our previous site visits, our understanding of security will give us the ability to analyze the current issues of an upcoming NATO summit, the Iran Deal, China’s expansion, and more.

Back to Lecture We Go

After a two-week break from lecture, we had the privilege of starting our Monday off with a lecture from former Colonel Cuzzelli in the First Euroflat Hotel. He is a soldier from Italy who has become a scholar. His experiences and knowledge of security and military issues are reflected clearly in his lectures.

Image result for first euroflat hotel brussels

Our first day back in lecture was split into two parts: the first was about the concept of security and the second part was focused on crisis management. While they are interconnected, the former focused on the theory and general overview of security and the latter was more application.

Security is complex. It is something that we all knew, but Colonel Cuzzelli made it very clear that it is impossible to achieve it entirely. According to the Oxford Dictionary, security is quite literally “the absence of danger and fear.” It is a core value of human life. It is also central to most issues and highly interconnected with many other issues, like human rights. Security was broken down into three distinct fields: National, International, and Human.

National security is focused on the well-being and security of Nation-States people. Individual personal security and well-being depend on the promise of security from Nation-States. International security focuses more on an international society with common aspirations for peace. There are a few dilemmas, like how much deterrence is acceptable before it becomes dangerous for neighbors? Finally, human security is a state responsibility. National and international security cannot exist unless human security is in place. This is called spillover.

Our next lecture was focused on crisis management. We discussed the processes that take place when a crisis occurs. There is an overall procedure that states follow when there is a crisis. The process goes: indications and warnings, assessment, development of options, planning and then finally execution and transition. It was interesting getting a step by step process of how crises are handled, especially with the crises that are occurring all over the world right now, not just Europe.

After a quick lunch and coffee break, we headed to the Belgian Foreign Ministry. We had the absolute privilege of getting briefed by a seasoned diplomat, Thomas Lambert, as well as someone who works with the European Union budget, Bernard Latour. They gave us a wonderful briefing on the importance of the European Union budget, and how they intend to change it with the events of Brexit. A point that stuck out to me was the amount of the European Union budget that focused on agriculture, and how they would like to change it and allocate money to technology and innovation.

It was interesting to hear about the change that was coming to the budget. The effects of Brexit are demonstrated in every aspect of the European Union. We have heard quite a bit of information about Brexit and how each different institution has processed the information. In the case of the European Union, the effects are large but nothing that cannot be handled.

Transatlantic Relations from an American Perspective

After a hectic week fillied with briefings and site visits to many of the European Institutions in Brussels, we found ourselves at the U.S. Mission ot the European Union. At 1:30pm we gathered outside the US Mission building, appreciative of extra hours of rest that left us ready to ask plently of questions.

Soon after, we were lead in the building and through security. A large portion of the building appeared to be under construction which, although insignificant, is a good sign the US Mission to the EU won’t be going anytime soon. We were led into a nice conference room in the basement of the facility which was suprisingly confortable and nicely decorated, unlike a typical US goverment office.

While in the conference room, we were joined by another study abroad program from the University of Pittsburgh. They too have been visited European institutions in Brussels and it was interesting to compare Our briefer soon entered the room, and like many other visits, requested that our briefing be structured as a fluid discussion rather than a lecture. He began with asking a little bit about our programs and what we’ve done in Brussels thus far. He then introduced himself as an economic expert and gave a brief introduction.

He described the function of the US Mission as a physical link between the European Union and its Institutions and, the United States government. This dimplomatic connected has been in place since 1953. Throughout this program, we’ve learned of the depth and historical basis of the Trans-atlantic relationship. The Mission was preceeded by the US diplomatic mission to the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community). Our visit to the US Mission only solidified our understanding of that bond. Along with the Department of State, the mission housed over 100 employees from the Department of Commerce, Homeland Security, Justice, and Agriculture.

We then moved to a Q&A format, in which our briefer accepted questions on any topic related to the US and the EU. There were many of hard-hitting questions, mostly centered around the recent trade developments in the Transatlatic relationship, the impact of the Trump administration’s policies on our relationship with the EU, the influence of China on the Transatlantic relationship and, the US position on the WTO. Hearing the perspective of our briefer and more broadly, the Trump administration was an interesting parallel to the viewpoints given by their European counter-parts.

This was an intersting time to visit the mission. Particularly in the context of the senate conflirmation hearings of Gordon Sondland, President Trump’s nominee for the Ambassador for the EU, US-EU Trade relations, along with the upcoming NATO summit, in which Trump will be attending. As these topics continue to develop, it will be interesting to keep in mind how US organizations implement US policies in relation to Europe and, how the Trump administration’s changes impact their day-to-day work.

After the briefing, many of us joined Dr. Birchfield at a nearby cafe, continuing the conversations that we begun during the briefing. This was a relaxing end to a long but incredibly informative and exciting week in Brussels and I’m sure all of us are looking forward to our next 2 weeks here.

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