GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Category: Foreign Policy (Page 2 of 4)

A Visit to the Riksdag

Our second site visit of our last full day in Stockholm was a trip to the Swedish Parliament, where we took a short tour of the building and spoke with a representative about parliamentary procedures as well as its interactions with the EU. We learned that the Swedish Parliament, or the Riksdag, has numerous sectoral committees monitering EU affairs within specific policy areas. The Committee on EU Affairs deals with all areas of cooperation with the EU , and the Government consults both the Committee on EU Affairs and parliamentary committees when it needs to gain support for its EU policies before meeting with the Council of Ministers. It was particularly interesting to learn that consultations ahead of the meetings with the Council are open to the public, and the stenographic records are published. In many previous site visits, we’ve seen that a certain percentage of European citizens feel that they lack access to or knowledge of policymaking processes within the EU, so this visit gave us some valuable insight into how Sweden tries to make its interactions with the EU as transparent as possible to its people. It’s also important to note that the Swedish Parliament checks all of the EU drafts before approving them, but not all countries do. There have been discussions on finding a way for national parliaments across member states to work together on subsidiarity checks, which would make agreement and implementation of EU laws more efficient.
Another interesting point the representative made was that since Sweden currently has a minority government, there are often cases in which the government must negotiate with other parties, sometimes changing its position.
We also discussed some of the issues the Riksdag is currently dealing with, the most pressing of which is the migration crisis. The same day we visited parliament, they were voting whether to adopt new legislation on migration that would last for the next two years. We had the unique opportunity to witness the vote, which ended with a majority agreeing to pass the legislation. The new regulations will make it more difficult for refugees to attain permanent residency, and will impose serious restrictions on family reunification. Sweden has always taken a more liberal approach on migration than the rest of Europe, and this legislation was not without strong opposition, which was demonstrated in protests that took place outside the building. The legislation and the protests were further evidence that the migration crisis is only becoming more serious, and highlights the need for a more cohesive, effective strategy across EU member states. The visit to the Swedish parliament was an interesting look into Swedish politics, and gave us valuable insight into the Nordic model as well as prominent issues like the migration crisis. After visiting institutions in both Copenhagen and Stockholm, it will be very interesting to compare Scandinavian perspectives on European issues to those in other member states.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry


Today, after a weekend spent learning about Swedish history and walking around Stockholm, including a visit to the Vasa Museum, we visited the Swedish Foreign Ministry and the Swedish Parliament. I will talk about the visit to the Swedish Foreign Ministry and my colleague will talk about the visit to the Parliament tomorrow.

At the Swedish Foreign Ministry, we were briefed by an Ambassador who now heads up the European section of the ministry.  He last served as Ambassador for Sweden to the Netherlands so his view points were unique and interesting.

He started off his presentation by talking about the complicated relationship that Sweden has with the European Union and about the history of Sweden. He made a point on the wars with Russia in the 18th century which changed Sweden and led to the policy of neutrality that it successfully upheld during both World Wars. After the Cold War, and during the economic crisis in the 1990s, Sweden saw the benefits of the European Union and joined in 1995 (with Austria and Finland) after a positive referendum in 1994. However, Sweden is not part of the Eurozone and in the last referendum on whether Sweden should join the Eurozone, the public voted not to. As with other site visits, the Brexit issue emerged and the official stated that the UK is an important ally for Sweden within the European Union and that a Brexit would force Sweden to seek other similar minded allies. Interestingly, he also mentioned that about 65% of Swedes are for TTIP and that public backlash has been minimal. This is certainly interesting since in other countries the same percentage is opposed to TTIP.

Sweden is one of the EU member states that is not part of NATO, but Sweden allows NATO to conduct exercises on Swedish territory and with Swedish troops. Sweden also contributes to NATO missions as well as to EU missions. I think that the most important point that the official made was that the EU allows small countries like Sweden to influence global politics.

Tomorrow we had back to Brussels!

At the Foreign Ministry



Our visit to SHAPE

Today, our day started with a taste of social action in Belgium, since there was no public transportation due to a strike. It shows that there are economic and social issues that Belgium is dealing with and also illustrates how strong Unions are in Belgium.  Despite these challenges, everyone somehow made it on time to the meeting spot. After a two and a half hour bus ride, we finally made it to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers of Europe (SHAPE) in Casteau, Belgium near Mons.

SHAPE is the headquarters of the Allied Command Operations (ACO) which controls all North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operations worldwide. The commander of the ACO is known as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and is General Curtis Scaparrotti as of May 2016. His predecessor was General Breedlove, a Georgia Tech alumnus.

We had an introduction presentation by a NATO official and then another presentation by a EU Military Staff Officer.

The NATO official gave us a general overview of both NATO and SHAPE and reviewed information that we had learned in our security course and on our site visit at NATO earlier in the program. The presentation reiterated that NATO is a political and military alliance between sovereign states which are each responsible for their own and collective defence. One notable figure from the presentation was that in 1993, NATO has 32 different headquarters whereas in 2016 that number has been reduced to 11 to reduce redundancy.

Today, NATO has to react faster to local conflicts meaning that it needs a lighter and more capable structure. Risks today are harder to predict and can come from new challenges. The Very High Readiness Joint Task Force was created to be able to react to these challenges in a fast and effective manor (i.e. Within 48 hours).

The active NATO missions and operations are KFOR in Kosovo, Ocean Shield in the Gulf of Aden, Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea, Air Policing Mission in the Baltic States, Resolute Support in Afghanistan and a Deployment in Turkey. KFOR’s goal is to ameliorate the security situation. Ocean Shield’s goal is to combat privacy in a dense trading zone. Active Endeavour’s goal is to counter terrorism and deter weapons, drugs, and human trafficking. The Air Policing mission aims to preserve the integrity of the NATO Airspace in the Baltic States and has 25 fighter jets. The Resolute Support Mission’s goal is to train, advise, and assist Afghani military and police forces.

Our next presentation was by a EU Military Staff Officer. He gave us an overview of the EU structure and then discussed the European Common Security and Defence Policy as well as EU- NATO Relations. One important point that he made is that the EU often has a complimentary job to NATO in terms of defence so as to not duplicate effort from common member states (of which there are 22). It was interesting to note that NATO has a Permanent Liaison Team to the EU and that the EU has a Cell at SHAPE. The EU Military Staff are the military experts within the European External Action Service (EEAS). Our present or then discussed common areas for deployments, the Berlin Plus Agreement and EU Military Operations.

The common areas for deployments were (and are) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Somalia, and Afghanistan. The Berlin Plus agreement assured access to NATO planning capabilities, availability of NATO command operations (through the DSACEUR- who is also the commander of EU operations), presumption of availability of NATO capabilities and common assets as well as the adaptation of NATO Defence Planning. This agreement was the most important step in developing EU NATO relations.

The EU Currently has 6 ongoing military operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mali, Central African Republic, Somalia, the Gulf of Aden, and the Mediterranean Sea. Past operations have occurred in Macedonia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic.

We had the honour of having lunch with a NATO official who shared several interesting points of views on different issues before returning to Brussels.

A Global Effort for Human Rights

Greetings from Brussels! After spending an incredible week in Paris, we are back in Brussels for our final week here. Our European Security course has wrapped up, and this week we have started our Human Rights course with Dr. Fabry. After spending the past (almost) two months discussing security and European institutions in lecture and at our site visits, I think it will be refreshing to have a new topic, human rights, to round out our general understanding and analysis of European current and past issues.

Yesterday, our lectures focused on a general introduction to the topic of human rights by defining what constitutes a human right, the emergence of international governance on human rights as well as global and regional human rights institutions. After laying that foundation, today we discussed the role that human rights plays in foreign policy considerations and actions, both in the European Union as well as the international system as a whole.

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