ACE Master's students spent a week in Brussels, exploring the 'European bubble'. As part of the activities organized in the framework of the Jean Monnet chair, this study visit gave students an insight into institutional dynamics and the EU's current agenda.
A visit to NATO headquarters kickstarted the week. After a general presentation on the role of the alliance and an introduction to its functioning, students exchanged ideas with a British representative on the UK contribution to the transatlantic partnership. Remaining in the foreign policy domain, they were then welcomed at the European External Action Service. A discussion of the added value of the newest addition to EU institutional architecture and the challenges it still faces was followed up by a more technical and engaging presentation on EU human rights policy, the "silver thread" of EU external action.
The second day of visit was dedicated to two well established institutions: the Commission and the Council. An unexpected encounter with the Turkish delegation, lead by Prime Minister Erdogan, accompanied by the President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, conferred an even more high-level character to the students' presence in the Justius Lipsius building! A visit at the UK Perm Rep to the EU concluded on bilateral dynamics in Brussels and national interests as well as negotiations strategies on topical items of the current European agenda. Students were welcome a second time at the Commission for a presentation by EuropeAid on another dimension of EU external action.
At the European Parliament, thanks to the support of Malcolm Harbour, MEP and one of ACE's practitioner fellows, the group attended an IMCO committee meeting (internal market and consumer protection). After an informal exchange with Mr Harbour and Mr Konstantinos Chatzidakis (Greek Minister of Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks and current President of the Competitiveness Council), students listened to the presentation by the Greek Presidency of the EU of its objectives, followed by a question time with MEPs. This stimulating session drew their attention to EP internal decision-making, the work of committees but also to the importance of inter-institutional dynamics. Lastly, the organization of a networking evening gave students the opportunity to discuss with Aston alumni in Brussels future prospects and the job market in the European capital.