GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Author: Simon Brozek

Track 17, Wansee House and German MFA


Joined by our amazing Berliner Stevie once more, we began our day by visiting Track 17 at Grunewald Station. Track 17 is the primary location where the Nazis kidnapped deported the Jews of Berlin. The majority of which went to Theresienstadt and later death camps such as Auschwitz. The track was hidden, in a less populous part of town surrounded by a rich forest. Because of this, the Nazis viewed the track as the best location in which Jews could be deported out of the public’s sight. Nowadays, the track features a memorial listing the number and locations of the deportations alongside a monument. Stevie pointed out the Israeli flags nearby, most likely from a memorial gathering a few days prior. Besides this, the area was still filled with bikers and joggers, as well as a small grocery stand. This environment, much like what we saw at the bunker site of Hitler’s suicide, shows how Germany seeks to remember the past while remaining careful not to glorify it. This visit was a nice precursor to the Wannsee house, which we made our way to shortly after.

As we approached the Wannsee house however, it was interesting to note the area in which we were entering. The Wannsee area is a beautiful suburb of Berlin on the shores of the Havel river. The neighborhood was calm and lavish, hardly preparing us for what we were about to experience. The Wannsee Conference was held at this house, property seized by the Schutzstaffel (SS) a few years beforehand. The conference was a meeting of senior officials of Nazi Germany ordered by Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich. The purpose of the meeting was to establish the logistical implementation of the “Final Solution” plan, previously agreed upon by Hitler and other high-ranking officials. Although the conference lasted a mere 90 minutes, the decisions and planning implemented here had an unimaginably destructive impact of Europe, WWII, and society as a whole. When touring the museum on the inside of the building, it was made apparent that something of this caliber could and possibly will happen again. Antisemitism, bigotry and institutionalized violence and oppression did not start with the Holocaust and it will not end with it. The house served as a reminder of scale on which these atrocities were committed. What was simply at short meeting out of thousands at the time, is now remembered as a crucial and devastating part of world history.

After leaving the Wannsee house, we made our way to a biker restaurant and indulged on some homestyle German food. We then made our way to the German Federal Foreign Office. As we were walking in, it was interesting to see a world cup viewing area, complete with a giant tv and refreshments. We then made our way to the briefing room at were greeted by a high-level official rom the Office of European Correspondent. Our briefer began by describing her role within the MFA and how her office coordinates between German’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and the European Union. The office was busy as the EU would hold a FA ministerial meeting the following Monday, a monthly attempt to coordinate member-state foreign policy according to the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and bring awareness to various issues of concern. We then moved into Q&A and discussed several current topics include migration, tariffs, and the Iran Deal. Many of us asked similar questions to those we asked in Brussels as it was interesting to hear the purely German perspective on various topics. In the realm of security and tariffs, Germany has distinctive positions, somewhat contrary to those of France and the rest of the EU. Exploring this dynamic was an interesting way to examine the issues from varying perspectives. We then delved into the transatlantic relationship and specifically, the German-US relationship which has transitioned from the Obama-Merkel bond towards a weaker relationship. We finished up with a few more questions, putting a busy and informative week in Berlin behind us.



Security Seminar Day 2: International Law and NATO

After a good night of rest, we found ourselves back at the First Euroflat hotel for our the 2nd day of our week-long security seminar. We began with an introduction to the intersection of international security and law. The basis of international law is two-fold. Laws are adopted out of necessity and the continuous application and compliance of the law gives it validity and legality in international community.

We then explored what international law states in relation to war. Specifically, in what context is war considered ‘legal’ and what are the rules and norms that govern conflict between nations. Additionally, we were introduced to the concepts of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and the Right to Prosecute. The former highlights the foundation of humanitarian intervention however, it requires legitimate action and authorization without ulterior motives in order for it to be justified. Right to Prosecute was developed in response to WWII coupled with the establishment of international laws such as the Convention Against Genocide and the Decleration of Human Rights. With this however, comes a double standard as although international law acts as a detterent, the concept of sovreignty influences the issues of jurisdition and the willingenss to prosecute.

As we continued to discuss International Law, Brigadier General Cuzzelli provided real world examples of the implementation and limitations of International law. Specifically, we discussed Russia’s involvement in International organizations and their adherence to International Law. This topic was interesting as we had previously discussed it with our briefer at the Council of Europe regarding Russia’s relation to the parliment and the European Court of Human Rights.

We then moved on to a discussion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a defense alliance at the heart of the transatlantic relationship. NATO orignated as a counter to the USSR and Warsaw Pact satellite states during the cold war. The treaty is built around the idea of collective defense and all decisions are made unanimously. Our visit to the Supreme Headquarters for Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE) and our lecture with a senior NATO official left us with a decent understanding of the organization and purpose of NATO in the international community. With Brigadier General Cuzzelli, we focused on the structure and workings of NATO, benefiting from his extensive background and insight in the organization and specifically, SHAPE.

NATO has been criticized recently, particularly by the Trump administration as being ineffective. We discussed the relevancy of NATO and its role as a security alliance that bridges the transatlantic relationship. Firstly, NATO provides necessary deterrence and a collective defense that is necessary in Europe, as each European member-state’s military would be extremely inadequate on its own. Additionally NATO, through collective defense, strengths solidarity within the European community and in turn, solidarity with the other transatlantic partners. NATO not only provides security for Europe but it also defines the security dynamic of Eurasia, northern Africa, and the Middle East. And Finally, NATO provides a military framework in which missions, under the auspices of the UN, can be conduced.

Studying the connection between International Law, International organizations, and security is crucial to understanding the security dynamic of the transatlantic relationship. As we continue our security leg of this program, tying them to our previous site visits, our understanding of security will give us the ability to analyze the current issues of an upcoming NATO summit, the Iran Deal, China’s expansion, and more.

Transatlantic Relations from an American Perspective

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.

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