Jean Guo, US Advanced Student
Although it only spanned five days, the Fulbright EU seminar was an enriching experience that gave me a comprehensive understanding of the various institutions of the European Union and a greater insight into its key political and economic issues today.
Intellectually, the seminar was truly very stimulating. At one of our first stops at the US Embassy to Luxembourg, we were briefed on the internal workings of the EU, including its various institutions and its key players (for instance there is indeed a difference between the European Council and the Council of the EU: the former is composed of heads of state and/or prime ministers who set policy directives while the latter is composed of governments of the EU that are co-decision makers in the legislation process). We next traveled to the European Court of Justice, where we had the privilege to hear from Mr. Koen Lenaerts, who was recently elected President of the Court of Justice. In addition, we were able to observe a court hearing in which the defendant, who was previously associated with suspected acts of terrorism, had petitioned to be removed from sanctions lists that included measures such as flight bans and asset freezes. An interesting discussion on what constituted reasonable grounds for suspicion to construct a standard of proof against the defendant took place.
In Belgium, we had the opportunity to visit the European Commission and hear from various speakers on topics ranging from Marie Curie fellowship opportunities to foreign policy instruments. We learned about key issues that were at the forefront of political discussions such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Safe Harbor Agreement. At the US Mission to the EU, we had a chance to ask economic counselor Tom Reott and political counselor Michael Detar their perspectives on US-EU relations. In addition, foreign service officer Elizabeth Martin-Shukrun talked about how the Mission managed public diplomacy with their EU partners. A definite highlight was the reception afterwards in which we met with Ambassador Anthony L. Gardner. On our final day, we heard from speakers at NATO, who told us about its policy positions in relation to the EU as well as NATO’s various partnership initiatives. Lastly, we traveled to Bruges, where Fulbright-NATO Chair Professor Zachary Selden gave a lecture on the implications of terrorism in Europe on US-EU relations.
While the talks and meetings were great opportunities for us to hear from key experts in their field, I also thoroughly enjoyed the awesome company (shout-out to my roommate Adele Eslinger from Austria!) and the other moments in our trip. Thought there was not much down time, I enjoyed getting to meet Fulbrighters from other countries, some of whom were working in similar areas of research that I was. Briefly exploring Luxembourg, Brussels, and Bruges while having Belgian waffles and fries were definitely a highlight in the trip as well. All in all, good company and great conversations always makes for a fun time!