The Fulbright-EU Seminar provided a captivating overview of evolving European Union and NATO institutions and their relationships with the United States. Through numerous speakers and guided tours of several European institutions, I developed a new appreciation for the importance of the “transatlantic relationship” and the role European-level institutions play in its definition.
The seminar began formally at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Luxembourg where I was able to meet grantees from other European Union countries and the diplomatic staff based at the embassy. This experience kicked off a series of exchanges regarding our various Fulbright experiences and how they often converged on challenges faced at the European Union level. I quickly learned that many of the problems faced by France regarding French Muslim integration found similar parallels in other EU countries. During a tour of the European Court of Justice, President Koen Lenaerts (also a Fulbright alumnus) stressed the shared experiences of EU countries and argued for the importance of the EU to help resolve these concerns at a larger scale.
After our time in Luxembourg, we traveled to Brussels where we continued our whirlwind tour of EU institutions and the related US diplomatic missions. Presentations focused on EU initiatives in areas such as higher education, economic research, trade agreements, and the evolving concept of EU foreign policy. The speakers highlighted new challenges for the EU and above all asserted that these institutions needed to remain flexible to develop lasting solutions. We also met with the ambassador and core diplomatic staff of the US Mission to the EU that explained the relationship between the “transatlantic” relationship and the individual relationship the US has with each EU country.
The seminar concluded with a guided tour of NATO and the US Mission, which built on the concept of how European institutions confront foreign policy challenges. Speakers highlighted NATO initiatives in Eastern Europe and in the Mediterranean in response to recent events and provided frank insights into their relationship with the EU. The Fulbright-NATO Chair Professor Zachary Selden also presented on how the notion of “terrorism” was also moving European countries to be more united in their foreign policy approaches.
Overall, I found the the seminar both candid and thought-provoking. I emerged with an understanding why Europe and the “transatlantic relationship” matters, perhaps now more than ever.