After much preparation today was finally the day to show off the accumulation of knowledge we had gain over the past nine weeks on transatlantic relations. This was done in the form of our EU-U.S. simulation. The nineteen students of our program split into two teams. These two teams, one representing the U.S. interest and one representing the interest of the European Union, disputed three key policy foreign policy areas. We did this at Science Po, a renowned political science university in Paris. These policy areas being security policy (stance on the JCPOA), internet policy (stance on the GDPR and AI), and trade policy. For example, I found myself representing the interest of the European Union of the issue of security policy in regard to the United States withdrawing from the Iran Deal or JCPOA. Each of the six working groups came up with a two page policy stance paper that was then presented by a representation in a five minute speech at the beginning of the session. After each group presented their stance our teams split of to reconvene with our policy expert counterparts. As I was in the working group discussing the Iran Deal, I only gained this perspective in terms of debate. We discussed the current positions of both sides as well as what was plausible given Iran and other gulf countries’ stance in the region. It is an extremely complex issue with many moving parts and in our limited time discussing and deliberating our teams agreed to work towards policy that would bring the United States back into the agreement eliminating the need for secondary exemptions to tariffs put on European companies that do business with Iran.
This is a very different approach to what is being discussed currently in politics but isn’t completely outside the realm of possibility. After this portion of the simulation we went back to the entire EU team and presented our joint agreement. The other groups commented and added amendments then we returned to our policy expert groups to write up our stance that would then be combined to with the other groups pieces to make a two page Joint Position Paper that was then presented to the “press” at the end of the simulation.
After the simulation we left Science Po and headed over to IFRI by metro. IFRI stands for institut francais des relations internationals. They are ranked the second most influential think tank in the world and were founded by Thierry de Montbrial in 1979 to analysis international issues and global political systems. The information gathered and analyzed policy experts is used by political and economic decision-makers as well as academics, opinion leaders, and civil society representatives.
Our briefings at IFRI were done by Head of Security Division on French foreign policy priorities; expert on Ukraine crisis and relations with Russia; and an expert on counter-terrorism efforts and French security and defense policies. Our first speaker outlined 3 areas of focus that would be discussed during our time there. Those being European Defense policy, defense spending and a jihadi terrorist profile. He then went on to explain the first topic which highlights the French perspective in terms of defense policy. The speaker pinpointed the need for strategic autonomy while discussing defense policy and while this makes sense in theory there are 3 key problems that arise with this line of thinking. For one there is no exact definition for this term which can lead to asymmetry in its interpretation. Two, because of this strategic autonomy can be used to justify vagueness when it comes to coordination by the European Defense community. Thirdly, the defense community is also dealing with a burden sharing problem that is currently being addressed at the NATO summit and we will have to wait and see how this issue plays out among nation states. In terms of defense spending and budgeting specifically our second speaker gave us an update on where the French are. There are more than 30,000 soldiers in operations despite the tight budget. It is increasing however but still stretched too thin. France is conducting operations in Lebanon, Northern Africa, and the Balkan States as well as other regions. Macron has stated they plan to increase their budget by 1.7 million euros each year over the next 4 years and by 3 million the 2 years after that. Our speaker seems skeptical about the achievability of this plan, so it will be interesting to watch in the coming years. Our last and final speaker did a presentation on the jihadist terrorist profile that he had created using data analysis in his study. HE provided us with very interesting insight on the subject and open our eyes to the impact this struggle still has on their community overall. After our guests graciously answered our question the group then went back to change and spend our remaining few hours of the day watching all of Paris celebrate the return of France’s very own World Cup Champions as they paraded through the streets.