Master in International Relations Class Trip to Brussels
From March 22nd to 28th, the 2011/2012 MIR intake traveled to Brussels to visit leading European Institutions and NATO. The European Union is a core element in the MIR curriculum and the trip to Brussels represents a unique opportunity for students to interact with key decision makers from the organizations they study in class.
The students started off the trip with a visit to the European Commission. Several representatives from the newly created European External Action Service, the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, the Directorate General for Home Affairs, the Directorate-General for Agricultural and Rural Development and the Directorate General for Budget explained the inner workings of their departments’ day to day operations. On Monday, the class headed to the European Economic and Social Committee. They were greeted, like every year, by Charis Xirouchakis, Head of the Unit for Visits and Publications. His informed and candid account of the role of the EESC within the EU made a positive impression on the class. On the same day, students visited the Committee of the Regions and the Parliament. The speaker at the Committee of the Regions clearly outlined in what way regional interests were integrated in commission proposals and how the EESC and the Committee (both advisory bodies) worked in complementary ways. At the Parliament, the class had the chance to meet with several MEPs. All gave interesting accounts of their experiences in the voting process and were quite open to questions from the audience.
MIR students also spent an entire morning at the NATO headquarters during which they were addressed by officials from different units including José Maria López-Navarro, Information Officer for Spain & Portugal, Steffen Elgersma, Euro-Atlantic Integration & Partnership, Political Affairs and Security Policy Division, Joaquin Molina, Crisis Management Political Section, Operations Division and Charles Andréo, Information Officer, NATO Countries Section, Engagement Directorate, Public Diplomacy Division. Mr. Andréo briefed the class on how to join an online competition to participate in NATO’s upcoming annual conference in Chicago. Students asked speakers questions on NATO’s role in Afghanistan, Libya, and the nascent conflict in Syria.
On Tuesday evening, students met with members of the EU/Arab Forum, a non-profit organization based in Brussels that promotes EU/Arab debates and discussions. Organizers had prepared a fascinating simulation game in which students were asked to split into teams and represent key actors in a fictitious Arab country currently going through a political transition. The game was loosely based on Egypt and different groups included the army, NGOs, religious minorities, international organizations, the government etc. The simulation lasted 3 hours and students wholly enjoyed engaging and negotiating with each other.
Last but not least, the class had the chance to visit the UN offices in Brussels. Speakers Carlos Jiménez and Nicola Harrington discussed careers in the UN and the UN-EU partnership.