GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Author: Gemma Park

Simulation and Security Issues with IFRI

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.


Happy 4th of July!

This morning we all jumped on the tram in Brussels and headed over the brand new NATO building with Dr. Markley. It was a great way to celebrate the United States and its contribution to peace in the world.The beautiful architecture depicts two hands coming together and symbolizes unity as well as cooperation of sovereign states in the world working together for a common defense. After walking around the perimeter, we took a picture in front of the building and returned back to Brussels to enjoy the rest of our free day. Everyone then went their separate ways for one last waffle or fries, to visit any last museums and/or to relax in one of Brussel’s many lovely parks and soak up the sun.

After going home to pack up, we all regrouped at 7pm for our Fourth of July party at Kwint in the city center. We had a beautiful view overlooking the Park Mont des Arts, especially when the sun started to set, which made for beautiful pictures that many took with their host families to remember this great experience by. The venue was also located right next to the Royal Library of Belgium which I got the opportunity to visit earlier on in the day.

It was an interesting experience to celebrate a holiday not as widely recognized  as it is in America. It gives us as Americans a new global perspective as every country has its own unique history that has great importance to its citizens. Given this experience I am excited to celebrate Bastille Day or Fete Nationale in a couple weeks which is the French equivalent and compare how the French celebrate their national holiday.

After all host families, special guests, and students had had the chance to have a bite to eat and get refreshments Dr. Birchfield honoured us with a speech. She spoke of the importance of unity in a time where it is seeming easier and easier to pull back the hand of friendship and hide behind borders. She also touched on the importance of a program such as this that aims to educate young Americans in the hopes of continuing the transatlantic relationship and supporting peace projects through partnerships and cooperation. And last but by no means least, I was touched by her emphasis on loving our country regardless of the fact that some might not support our current administration. I believe political rhetoric and the current media sometimes make it easy to forget that the United States has also done so much good throughout history to safe guard democracy and help others. We shouldn’t lose sight of the hope and opportunities the United States continues to generate despite bumps along the road and setbacks.

After our fearless leader’s speech, we then proceeded to sing the Georgia Tech fight song loud for all to hearand continued to mingle around until we all sadly had to go our separate ways once more around 9:30 PM to get ready for our early train to The Hague that next morning.

I will end with a quote from an article I read this afternoon: “I will celebrate not because I’m ignoring the stains in America’s past, but because I have an undying faith in those who struggle to weave a new fabric, one where families are cherished, and diversity is celebrated.”                    – Hannah Nguyen

Happy Independence Day! 

Transatlantic Relations with a European Commission perspective

After a fun night of dancing at Autoworld thanks to Jacob/Jack’s lovely host family and a beautiful weekend with our own individual host families, we were all refreshed and ready to go to the European Commission this morning.

The European Commission is the legislative body of the European Union. They are made up of 28 commissioners from each of the 28 member states. The current President is Junker from Luxembourg. We then went through security and took a group picture before going upstairs to our briefing room to first get informed by a representative of the Commission on the inner working of the European Union as well as a more detailed description of how the European Commission operates. Our speaker described an overall timeline of European Integration from the Schuman Declaration in 1950 to the establishment of the EEC in 1957 through all the enlargements and Treaties to bring us where we are today. The European Commission generates the ideas for proposals while the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament are the decision making bodies that approve the legislation. There are four main roles of the Commission that were described to us. Those being: right of initiative, policy and budget implementation, guardians of the treaty, and the international dimension. There are 20-30 proposals every year and there are also 10 key priorities of Junker’s Commission:

Our speaker then went on to describe these in more detail. He focused mostly on priorities one through six due to lack of time. When describing number one, increase in jobs and investment, I thought it was interesting that he stated Europeans would benefit from having a similar small business policy like we have in the United States. In regard to priority two, we learned that Europe still has many borders within the digital single market. There needs to be legislation to further integrate the telecom market and we were told to keep an eye on a new regulation coming up in November. For three through five his explanation was fairly straight forward. They highlight the need for a widening of EU integration in the fact that for priority three the commission can only give advice and allocate money from the budget towards climate change they unfortunate cannot enforce regulations. And for four and five to achieve a deeper and fairer market and union we need more agreed upon integration. Priority six was a good segway into a deeper conversation of trade policy as our speaker specialized in trade himself. He hit on defining topic such as the transition from a common market to a customs union, the four freedoms, the EU treaties, as well as standardization. One of the key issues that stood out to me was the problems that have arisen with the Free Movement of Workers. While this was initial brought to my attention as one of the core arguments of Pro-Brexit individuals, I was more struck when my host father brought up this problem at the dinner table one evening last week. He explained to us how his own individual company made up of Belgian engineers and architects was competing with workers from Poland and Romania that were offering to do the work for much less. This real life example helped put in perspective the EU legislation that we have been studying the past few days and I hope that the new legislation put in place two weeks ago will effectively be able to enforce a standardization across the EU.

After a quick coffee break we then heard from our next guest: Jan Vandenberghe. He played a key role in the TTIP negotiations and is a senior trade advisor as well as deals with U.S. Canada relations. He briefed us on the growing divergence between the U.S. and the E.U. ‘s trade policy, especially with the United States pulling out of the JCPOA and putting tariffs on EU products as of June 1st of this year. We also spoke about the EU’s retaliatory tariffs specifically targeting Levi’s, Harley Davidsons, Tennessee Whiskey and American farmers that are going into effect later this week. It still remains to be seen if this statement will be effective but regardless it shows that Europe will not be pushed around by the United States. It was interesting to hear about Europe’s reaction to the United States pulling out of the Iran Deal, and how they will continue to do business in Iran especially the smaller companies that don’t have an easy way around the tariffs. Mr. Vandenberghe also spent time going over procurement funds and describe to us how the EU is working on gaining further access at the individual state level instead of federally because of how closed off the current administration has been with the US markets. The EU wants to improve on the public procurement front before further liberalizing their markets. All in all, we gain so much valuable information and much more detail into transatlantic trade relations.

We then ended today a little early and split off to get lunch in downtown Brussels. After that Angelica and I headed back to our host family quickly to watch the soccer matches of the day. The Red Devils (Belgium) played at 17h and the British played at 20h. Both teams won their matches and it has been really fun being able to watch how supportive the Belgian people are of their team here in Brussels. There are flags in windows, every pub plays the game and people paint their faces as well as wear jerseys and scarves. They have a great team this year; who knows they might even win the whole thing!


Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén