GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Month: July 2019 (Page 3 of 3)

The US Mission to the EU

For our last site visit in Brussels, we visited the US Mission to the European Union to get an American perspective on the transatlantic relationship that we have been studying throughout the program’s duration. While expecting to discuss issues like Iran, China, and trade, the briefer, who was an intellectual property and copyright lawyer in the embassy, discussed his work fighting copyright infringement. Even though we were not able to ask about general, large-scale diplomatic questions, his talk on the complexities of international copyright law was an interesting change of pace to the more technical, everyday work of personnel at the embassies.

The crew was waiting anxiously in the lobby!

Dr. Birchfield, ready to go!

He began his talk describing how the embassy is set up and the day-to-day challenges faced by those who work there. The larger embassy is broken into subsections that correspond to departments in the US. For example, the section he worked in was the US Commercial Service, which corresponds to the US Department of Commerce. He described the complexities of intellectual property (IP) law. IP touches other areas of law and is therefore not an isolated practice within the US Embassy. The briefer has to interact daily with other organizations and agencies within and outside the embassy when working. The US Embassy has to work especially close to Washington to make sure that there is a complete, cohesive position within the EU when it comes to IP law and policy. The IP office also has to work with American companies and all parties involved to get a comprehensive view for what is best for the US, its people, and its economy.

A case study examined at the briefing was the recent directive passed in March concerning copyright and IP rules for the Internet. He started off with the creative content on YouTube. Since there are many different aspects that go into a work, multiple parties have to contribute to the conversation in the US embassy to make sure the best policy for the US is pursued. As a group, we went over the interests the US had in that specific case compared to the EU. The US was mostly concerned about how the new law affects major US corporations and companies operating within the European Union while the EU was attempting to engage all sectors involved in the copyright process, giving a little bit to everyone while protecting the interests of the EU. The main takeaways that can be drawn from the briefing are that US interests are diverse, positions taken need to benefit the transatlantic economy, the day-to-day operations at the US embassy are complex, and various offices need to be flexible with different sectors of the economy to be successful.

Kyle Smith for President

After the official briefing, we were able to ask questions to the interns, Lizzy and Sam, who were working at the embassy. This was particularly interesting and insightful for me because I have a strong interest in working for the government, either for an internship or as a career. Some notable insights offered by the interns were that the day-to-day at an embassy is less lofty and theory focused and more in the weeds, the operations are more dynamic than initially was expected by them, and in working for the government, you are working for your country, not an administration.

Marc and Grace enjoying Lizzy’s company!

After our Q&A with the interns, we had a presentation by the Fulbright director for the Belgium, Luxembourg, and Schuman programs. This speaker was particularly dynamic and engaging as she regaled us with the story of her time as an intern with the state department and her surprise meeting with Hugo Chavez. The Fulbright program for students and professionals is an amazing opportunity to pursue what you are passionate about and get a global perspective while conducting research. After speaking to multiple people on the program, the general consensus from the group was that the presentation was eye-opening and the opportunity presented was an exciting one. Personally, I would be interested in pursuing the Fulbright Scholarship in the future, and I got the feeling that many others in the group would as well.

What a crazy Hugo Chavez story!

Fulbright Swag!

Our visit to the US Mission to the EU was a great way to finish off our leg of the trip in Brussels on a really positive note. The presentations not only covered concrete issues that are dealt with daily in the embassy, but also future career and research opportunities. Au revoir/Vaarwel to Brussels and Bună ziua Romania!

Normandy and Mont-Saint-Michel

On Friday and Saturday, after a very valuable but exhausting experience at Versailles, we travelled to Normandy and Mont-Saint-Michel.

I myself am a world war two history enthusiast. On a free weekend earlier in our stay in Brussels, I went to Bastogne on my own to see sites of the Battle of the Bulge. My grandfather took part in it, so it was incredible to stand on the very ground where he walked some 75 years ago. I not only visited the war museum, but also was able to walk in the Ardennes forest overlooking the town of Foy, passing by preserved fox holes that the men of the 101stairborne, the subjects of the book and miniseries Band of Brothers, would have shared in in -30-degree Celsius temperature. It was a very moving experience, and since our program did not have such a trip planned, I was incredibly grateful I could go on my own. Therefore, I was very excited to see Normandy on our weekend itinerary.

Although I was frustrated that we could only spend about an hour in Normandy, it was still incredible. We visited the American cemetery and museum at Omaha Beach. Of all the five beaches stormed on D-Day, soldiers on Omaha by far faced the fiercest resistance. Because bombing runs the previous night had largely missed their inland targets, German artillery overlooking Omaha was still relatively intact. That, combined with the fact that Americans would have to run across upwards of 300 yards of open beach, was a major factor contributing to the 3,000 casualties on Omaha alone.

I think Americans today generally see D-Day as a strictly American operation, with films like Saving Private Ryan, while an incredible depiction of the battle, overlook the contributions and suffering of others. The museum really highlighted how the invasion was truly an allied effort.

The British, dropping paratroopers the night before and landing at Sword and Gold Beaches, had over 62,000 troops participate in the invasion, suffering over 1,600 casualties. The Canadians suffered approximately 1,000 casualties from the 21,000 who landed at and captured Juno Beach. Even outside of the military operations, the civilian sacrifices were massive. In one Allied aerial bombardment of Caen, a city crucial to the Allied advance, almost 3,000 French civilians lost their lives. As the Allies moved further inland, the French resistance was also important, providing information on German movements and encampments

The museum as a whole was fantastic. It laid out in great detail the specific operations of the invasion, had timelines to show how the day unfolded, and told personal stories of individual sacrifice. It displayed many artifacts, including uniforms and an old transport jeep, but perhaps what was most powerful was the last item before exiting into the cemetery. In a glass case by itself, light shining from above, was a rifle dug into sand, a helmet rested on top. When bodies were buried on the battle fields during the war, these were used to mark their graves. From there, we could walk through the cemetery where over 9,000 Americans are buried. On a hill overlooking Omaha beach, it was an incredibly moving sight. The national anthem was played and there was a ceremony that appeared to be honoring several veterans who were visiting. It was hard to imagine that many of those men buried were just a few years older, if not the same age, as I am now.

Omaha Beach

Reflecting pool at the cemetery

After about fifteen minutes walking in the scorching heat, it was time to hop back on the bus for about two more hours, finally reaching Mont-Saint-Michel around 6:00 pm. We arrived at a perfect time: all the tourists were starting to leave. After getting off our coach bus and taking the shuttle to the gates of the island, we were led to our rooms, which were spread between four different hotels. My room was a bit more of a hike, but that meant it had an excellent view! After a delicious three course dinner, many of us took a walk on the muddy beach at dusk, enjoying some Frank Sinatra as the light at the top of the abbey shone through the growing darkness.

The next morning before we departed, many of us also led ourselves through a tour of the Abbey, able to see where the monks would have eaten, studied, and prayed, in addition to having even more breathtaking views of the surroundings. Back in Brussels, before we left for the weekend, my host family was incredibly jealous when I said we were spending the night on the island. I understand that reaction now, it truly was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

View from the beach at night

View from the abbey garden

Our nine-hour bus ride back to Brussels allowed for some reflection on the weekend as the whole. Normandy and Mont-Saint-Michel painted very different pictures of humanity, yet both brought me back to this same idea of peace

Looking over the seemingly endless rows of white crosses at Normandy is really intense. Of course, everyone in the United States knows about D-Day, but I don’t think anyone can really come to terms with a sacrifice and suffering on such a tremendous scale without visiting for themselves. At least I hadn’t experienced it the same way before. And this was just onebattle in a six-year war.

When visiting Verdun several weeks ago, overlooking an even larger cemetery, I asked myself, what was all this for?Learning more about the futile nature of the first world war and the failure of Versailles this summer invoked many similar questions. The tremendous effort that went into rebuilding a collective Europe after the second world war, however, meant that, when looking at thousands of American tombstones in Normandy and thousands of German ones in Bastogne, the answer to that question is clearer. Although it was a war to that needed to be fought, it is still hard to fathom that we are capable of such devastation. It is a sight that will make you much more appreciative of the relatively peaceful world we live in today.

Spending time at Mont-Saint-Michel right after Normandy was really interesting. The first sanctuary on the island was built in 708, it resisted siege during the Hundred Years War, and during the French Revolution was used as a prison until 1863. Its history, obviously, is very diverse. To the people of the Middle Ages, however, it was paradise. Although now parts of it are quite touristy, I shared that feeling of paradise. I can only dream of what life as a 10thcentury monk here would have been like, yet I imagine it as incredibly peaceful and fulfilling.

I was reminded of this in particular in a small garden on the top of the abbey. The destruction of the second World War, the pain and suffering of Normandy and Bastogne, was a fight to preserve a life of and world of peace. The inhabitants of the abbey and many soldiers during the war, at their cores I believe, had similar hopes for the world: one of harmony.

When aweing at the tranquil and bare French coast from this garden, I thought of the final line of Dwight Eisenhower’s letter to soldiers right before they left for the invasion of the very land I was standing on.

“Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.” A noble undertaking indeed.

The European External Action Service

This Tuesday, June 25th, we got the privilege to visit the European External Action Service (EEAS). The EEAS is the European Union’s version of the State Department, handling a common foreign and security policy as well as a common security and defense policy. We got to hear from two speakers: Chris Kendall, the coordinator for the Commission Group on External Action and Michal Adamowicz, a Political Policy Officer for the United States and Canada Division.

Mr. Kendall has worked for the European Union for 24 years and left working for the Commission to join the EEAS in 2011. Of the 4,300 staff Kendall said 1/3 of EEAS employees come from the Commission, 1/3 from the Council of the EU, and the remaining 1/3 from the member states. His briefing was a general overview of the EEAS, including the role and priorities of the EEAS as the EU’s foreign and security policy service. The EEAS is not an institution or an agency, it’s a service. The EEAS was officially established in 2011 under the 2009 Lisbon Treaty. It guides the work of 140 EU delegations and offices.

The “leader” of the EEAS is Federica Mogherini, the former Italian Foreign Minister. She currently holds the titles of the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and the Vice President of the Commission. She is the European Union’s Chief Diplomat. Mogherini chairs meetings every month with the Foreign Ministers from the member states as well as the heads of the European Defense Agency. Her role in the EU is one of the most monumental offices.

The EEAS represents the European Union bilaterally with all non-EU partner countries and multilaterally with partner organizations like NATO and the UN. One of the EEAS’s main goals is to help promote peace and stability globally. The EEAS does this through a common security and defense policy (CSDP) and a common foreign and security policy (CFSP). CSDP falls within CFSP. There have been 32 CSDP operations since 2013 and there are 16 ongoing missions. The personnel, budget, and equipment needed for these operations is supplied by the individual member states. It is not paid for by the European Union. In order for a policy to be implemented, it needs to be agreed upon unanimously. The EEAS takes an intergovernmental approach to decisions instead of a community approach. They use external policy outside of the EU to help secure the member states by stabilizing insecure states. The EEAS is also the world’s largest aid donor. Aid is unconditional where there are not standards that need to be met in order for a country to receive aid; it just has to be agreed upon unanimously.

Michal Adamowicz talked to us about EU / US relations through the EEAS. Because Chatham House Rules applied during both these briefings, I can not quote too much. The main discussion topics were about trade / economics, security, the environment / energy, and foreign policy. We talked about how the current presidential administration is affecting the current relationship between the EU and the US, and how the EEAS is adjusting to the changes. The EU and the US do not always see eye to eye in any of the issues discussed, but the EU is still trying to preserve the relationship between the two.

The overall theme we learned was that the European Union will always want to work with the United States. The two combined represent almost half of the world’s GDP and are two of the biggest superpowers. A positive and connecting relationship between them will help them both grow. While the EU is trying to overcome challenges presented to them from the United States, the future still remains bright for their relationship. All in all, the two can protect their identities as well as preserve democracy and freedom by working together.

Thanks to the EEAS for the stress balls!

Visitor badges!

Entrance into the EEAS

Itinerary for the day


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