GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Author: anonymous (Page 3 of 9)

EU Program 2017

Dr. Birchfield has always described the EU program as “real-world politics in real time,” and this summer’s program definitely proved that to be true. As we learned about the challenges of European integration in the classroom, we saw exciting political events up close.

We arrived in France just one week after Emmanuel Macron’s historical election to the presidency. After the Brexit vote, this election was critical to the future of the European Union. Because we were in France, students could discuss with French citizens (and even policymakers during our site visits) the importance of this election to the future of French and European foreign policy.

A few weeks later, we visited Paris during the French legislative elections. In another historic result, Macron’s En Marche! party won a majority in the National Assembly. This second show of support for a centrist, pro-European government in France was another indication that France will continue to positively contribute to the European Union.

Students also had the privilege of visiting the George C. Marshall Center in Paris. 2017 is a special year for the Center because it marks the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan. The success of this plan to break the cycle of European conflict endures today, and despite challenges to Transatlantic relations.

During a day trip to the German city of Trier (or Treves, as the French call it), we saw a protest through the city center. It was clear from the signs that the protest was about the refugee crisis, but we were uncertain at first whether the march was pro- or anti-refugee. Luckily, an English-speaking protester explained to us that the march was in support of refugees. Specifically, a family of refugees that had settled in Trier was then sent back into a dangerous country, and the people of Trier were protesting to bring them home to Germany. Seeing this show of support shed light on the complex and controversial issue of refugee resettlement.

Students visited the European Court of Justice while in Luxembourg, and they heard a briefing on a case against Google regarding privacy protections. While we were in Brussels, a major judgment against Google came down from the Court. Lucky for us, we had an appointment at Google Europe in Brussels the very next day. After a tour of the facility, we got to sit down with policy analysts and discuss the possible implications of the judgment for the future of tech companies in Europe.

Also while we were in Brussels, the European Parliament hosted a High Level Conference on Refugees, which we were thrilled to attend. The question of refugees is a critical current issue that we’d been discussing throughout the summer, so to learn more about viewpoints on the subject was a great opportunity. Furthermore, we’d learned about the big names in European politics — High Representative Federica Mogherini, Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, Parliament President Antonio Tajani– and we got to hear them speak on this pressing issue in person.

These are just a few examples of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences we took advantage of this summer! Getting to see these things in person after learning about them in class is one of the many unique benefits of a study abroad like the EU program.

Meeting Sophie in ‘t Veld

Today was our last day in Brussels, and we visited the European Parliament for our final time.

Our speaker was Sophie in’ t Veld. in ‘t Veld is a Member of the European Parliament from the Netherlands. She is currently a part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and she previously served on the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. She also was a member of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.

She briefly introduced herself to us, and we got to ask her questions right away. Our first question concerned women’s rights in Europe. in ‘t Veld began with a simple statement, “It is everyone’s duty to promote gender equality.” She emphasized that external policies are required to effectively fight against inequality. As well, she believes that standards must be set in terms of EU policy areas–issues such as abortion rights should not be dealt by the European Union but by local and national governments.

In terms of current immigration issue, she explained that she simply cannot accept the fact that many European countries are so unwilling to receive more immigrants. It is not fair to say, she said, that Italy needs to process paperwork for such a big number of immigrants simply due to its geographical location. She compared the percentages of accepted immigrants by different countries, and it was clear how so many countries can do so much more, yet many of them continue to live under fear of the new influx of unknown faces. Along with that, she talked about how the new rise of conservative beliefs and populist ideas are related to the “fear of the new” that the people have today. People tend to stick to what they know during the times of instability and uncertainty. They attempt to counter the flow of new development and go back to how it was in the old days, and such phenomenon can be explained through recent events such as the presidential election of the United States and Brexit.

She continued to respond to more of our questions in areas of environmental policies, data protection and privacy, and security. Despite the less-than-an-hour time that was given for this meeting, Sophie in ‘t Veld gave us so much insight and her own views on the issues that we considered pressing. One thing she said that stuck to me the most: “The fact that we can be sure that we will not have a war… that already means that we are incredibly successful.” We thanked her for her time and her passionate talk. I really wished we had more time to talk to her, because she was certainly my favorite speaker that we got to talk to throughout the program.

We headed back to our homes right after the meeting, and we got our (packed) suitcases and headed to the Brussels Central Station! Our last visit to the European Parliament was an excellent way of finishing our three-weeks-and-a-half journey in Brussels. We said final goodbye to the country of delicate chocolates, mannequin pis, frites, convoluted government system, and genuineness. On our seven hour ride to Berlin, I got to reflect on the days that I truly got to enjoy in Brussels. I am more than sure that I will come back in the future–hopefully with my much improved French.

NATO Part 2

As soon as we stepped off of the bus at the NATO stop, two daunting buildings came into view- one the new NATO building, not yet ready for use, and the NATO building that has been used by NATO since its establishment in Brussels. Immediately, security came up to us to lead us to the security booth. We had to leave all electronic devices at the gate, so sadly (but understandably) there are limited pictures from the day. We were given visitor passes and then ushered into a conference room for our first speaker.

Our first speaker’s name is Allison Hart, and she is the Executive Officer of the Public Diplomacy Division of NATO. The first thing that she said was that we all must agree that everything that she and the next speaker said was strictly off of the record. Because of this, I cannot cover the exact things that were said and discussed; however, I will give a general overview. She laid out the structure of NATO and how decisions are made and actions are implemented. NATO is an organization where decisions must be made unanimously, meaning more times than not it takes extensive talks and debates before any actions are decided upon as a body. She also reiterated the point that the well known Article 5 has only been used once, and that was after the 9/11 attacks. Surprisingly, the United States was not the one to ask to invoke the article. Rather the other nations were the ones asking to help. Additionally, the initial help was not to begin attacking in the middle east, but to come to the United States and assist with securing the air space. After outlining NATO’s structure and past actions, we were able to ask questions about her opinions on current events. As stated previously, I cannot state her responses, but topics that were covered include the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Crimea, and cybersecurity.

The next speaker’s name is Diego Ruiz Palmer, and he is the Special Advisor to the Secretary General and a part of both the Economics and Security Assessments Unit and the Emerging Security Challenges Division. He went over his roles in all three parts, as well as covering some of NATO’s history in decision making. His views on why NATO sometimes chose to not take action or could not agree on an action to take were insightful. He too left time for questions, and the class mainly asked questions regarding his role on the Emerging Security Challenges Division. NATO has to think both in the short term and long term when it comes to this division to ensure that they will be prepared for any risk that could come their way, including things like nuclear deterrence.

Both speakers engaged all of the students and provided us with information and insight that we could have not gotten anywhere else.


EU-US Transatlantic Relations Simulation

About a week ago, 18 of us were split into two teams: the European Union and the United States. Within each group, we were split once again into two topics: economy and security. Today was the day of the simulation.

We seated ourselves based on our topic, and the room was split into two groups of different topics. Our goal was to successfully discuss the future of the transatlantic relationships on the two specific issues in order to achieve cooperation in responding to such global matters. Theme of the economic policy was “The Global Aluminum Market,” and that of the security policy was “Russia: Partner, Competitor, or Threat?” The simulation began with presenting policy position statements of each working group. The four statements primarily included the current concerns of each group and future direction that the group wishes to work towards together with other groups.

Discussions began right after the final position statement was delivered. The main points of the four groups’ positions were as follows:

Economic Policy: The Global Aluminum Market

🇪🇺 European Union 🇪🇺

🇺🇸 United States 🇺🇸

• Bilateral collaboration
• Section 232 and tariffs on steel imports harmful
• Wishes to discourage china’s destructive behavior
• Disturbance of balance by chinese aluminum production
• Focus on aluminum’s role on trade and circular economy
• Developed anti-dumping claims
• Circular economy to reduce inefficiency and combat climate change
• encourages free global market

• Value multilateral trading system
• supports china’s development into open economy but not its illegal practices
• Encourages more effective
anti-dumping policies
• China subsidizes enterprises to sell
aluminum for cheaper prices
• Many jobs lost due to China
• Seeks implementation of tariff on
semi-manufactured aluminum and
aluminum classification, global tracking of imports
• Reaffirms right to regulate tariffs as it deems appropriate

Security Policy: Russia: Partner, Competitor, or Threat?

🇪🇺 European Union 🇪🇺

🇺🇸 United States 🇺🇸

• Increasing support to sovereignty,
democratic future of Ukraine
• Sanctions until Minsk Agreement implemented
• Wishes US reaffirmation of US commitment
to Alliance and its operations
• Hybrid warfare concerning
• Concern over protection of information
• Reliant on energy imports from Russia;
wishes to diversify energy supply
• Open to cooperation with Russia in future

• Russia as potential partner while
recognizing her as security threat
• Russian expansionism must be stopped
• Does not recognize Russian annexation of crimea
• Determined to reduce strategic importance of oil
to ensure free and competitive marketplace
• Plans to act as needed on case-by-case basis
in Syria on behalf of NATO interests
• Control cybersecurity through data sharing

After actively discussing our ideas for an hour and a half, we talked to our country groups while we had lunch. We attempted to make sure that each country did not have conflicting views. When lunch was over, we sat in our original seats and finalized views of both countries in one declaration. The declaration of each policy area was completed after about an hour of drafting, and afterwards, all groups combined the declaration into one document in order to create one joint declaration addressing both policies. The joint declaration was finally complete.

The simulation was really interesting especially because the EU and the US have very similar views and ideals on many aspects. Since they were so similar, true cooperation was key in order to settle any discrepancies. In many cases, compromise could be achieved fairly easily; for example, although EU was at first against extensive sharing of data with the US, after the US agreed on guaranteeing the privacy and re-sharing of information with other countries, it agreed to work with the EU to improve cybersecurity through data sharing. Likewise, it was difficult for the EU to have one strong voice for all policy areas because of the sheer number of different voices among 28 member states. There were some times when some countries in the EU favored a certain policy suggested by the US while other countries in the EU disapproved the idea. I think it was really great that we were able to simulate the cooperative process; it was a very interactive way to understand the challenges of such processes in transatlantic relationships.

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