Brussels-Headquarters of the European Union

Trip Start Mar 10, 2014
Trip End Mar 21, 2014

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Flag of Belgium  ,
Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Goal: To learn more about the EU. Click here for a brief overview of the EU. 

Our first meeting was inside the European Union Consilium, with Zoltan Matrinusz, EU Council of Ministers, Director of Enlargement, Security, Civil Protection, Foreign Affairs Council Support Directorate.
He spoke to us about the structure of the EU and the soon referendum on Ukraine where the EU will decide on/if sanctions for Russia. He also mentioned the difficulty in gaining a common ground on foreign policy and how the negotiations between the heads of state play out in the Consilium. The Ukraine is currently in the Eastern Partnership. Sanctions are powerful and flexible by using economic power. 

Next we met with Handicapped International, Advocacy Officer Hildagarde Vansintjan.
It was fascinating to hear about this NGO working to provide aid to people in vulnerable situations. She talked about how impairment was linked to diseases in many places. From Cambodia to the Romanian orphans in the 1990s to land mines and Rwanda in 1994, Handicapped International works with people all over the world who are at risk for extreme poverty. Removing land mines is one of their biggest projects (in countries that have seen war like former Yugoslavia), as she said every 2 hours someone still today steps on a land mine and 1/3 of them are children. 

Day 2
We met with Bruno Lete, the German Marshall Fund, Senior Program Officer Foreign and Security Policy: "EU Foreign Policy: US/EU Relations". The Marshall fund was established by the US to help rebuild Germany after WWII. The leftover money has been rolled in to a fund. See pics below for early photos from Marshall fund works. After the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, negativism about Europe has increased, but the EU is still the major trade partner with the US. Europe has a goal to be less dependent on Russian energy, as Russia becomes more assertive in its foreign policy. As the EU continues to enlarge east (gain more members), Russia continues to feel threatened by this growth. Russia benefits from disruption between US and EU like the recent Victoria Newberg comment.

European Commission
We got to see the rooms where the decisions are made. He spoke to us more about the four main branches: The Council, the Commission, the Parliament, and the European Court of Justice and how they work through a checks and balance system.
EU Parlamentarium 
 Here we learned about why EU chose to unite in order to avoid another catastrophe like WWII where they fought against each other. In 2012, the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize.
 I got a great gift for my Model UN students going to New York in May representing the newest EU member state, Croatia. 

We also saw some amazing Art Nouveau architecture by Horta and many of his students. I think Art Nouveau is my favorite type of art. What about you?

Official Questions to answer on Schoology:
1. What is/are the language(s) of Belgium?
2. What is the currency exchange rate here for the Euro?
3. What is the story behind the little boy statue? See pics below
4. Who is King Leopold and where did he create a colony for Belgium?
5. What is/are the official languages spoken in the EU? For example, when all 28 country leaders meet in the consilium, how do they communicate?
AP class only also answer this: What is TTIP and why do you think many Europeans were protesting it? Do you think it will be a positive or negative thing?
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