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28 February 2023

Brussels trip offers insights into life at European Union

Students enjoyed a week of talks and tours at the headquarters of the European Union in Brussels as part of a trip organised by the School of Politics and Economics.

Students from the Department of European and International Studies in Brussels. Picture: INSTAGRAM

A group of more than a dozen students from the Department of European and International Studies made the short trip to Belgium on 20 February for a week-long programme offering insights into the EU and its supporting bodies.

The trip included a visit to the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Parliament and the European Commission, and also featured talks from EU officials, diplomats from the UK and leading private sector figures.

Student Taymour said: “This experience was an opportunity to reflect on the European Union's challenges as well as the importance of UK-EU relations for the sustainable development of our continent.

“The trip began with a visit to the European Economic and Social Committee where we met with Sarah King and Juan Jose Luis Delgado to discuss the importance of civil society in European decision-making. At the European Parliament, we joined Oliver Schuster, deputy head of cabinet of first vice-president Othmar Karas, and Alex Wilson with whom we discussed the past, present and future of European integration. Thanks to Robertas Pogorelis and Agnieszka Widuto we then delved into the European Parliament’s history and the importance of an evidence-based decision-making approach. A discussion on EU Careers by EPSO was held by Koen Hendrix.

“On our third day, we were warmly welcomed by the European Commission in the splendid Charlemagne building. Here, together with Miguel-Angel Palacios-Garcia and Esther Pozo Vera we discussed two major issues for the EU's role as a global player: international civilian missions and the new pact on migration and asylum. In the afternoon, the UK Mission to the European Union hosted us for a pleasant chat with Nick L., Henrietta Box, Benjamin Thom, and Franck Mola on the role of British diplomacy in shaping the future of UK-EU relations.

“The morning of our fourth day was also an opportunity to unpack the role of the private sector in the EU bubble with Political Intelligence and FTI Consulting EU. Last but not least, two wonderful hours of debate on the evolution (and challenges) of the European Council and the Council of the European Union with Thomas Brandtner.”

Another student who attended the trip, Martyna, said: “The talk at the European Commission by Esther Pozo Vera on the ‘New Pact of Migration and Asylum’ was my favourite. The talk included discussions on subjects such as: how member states deal with asylum, the many issues that were faced during the 2015 migrant crisis, the new EU pact that aims to create a clearer strategy on migration and the impact of the war in Ukraine on many present negotiations.

“The insight that Esther gave us was invaluable and I have never seen so many people be so enamoured and captivated by a speaker.”