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.