Category: EU In Focus

EU in Focus Day 3: Down to Business

A group of 20-year olds infiltrated the EU Commission building and held back-to-back meetings this past Monday, October 30th. The young adults were all students travelling in representation of New York University, forming part of the institution’s annual trip to Brussels, Belgium.

“This is an extraordinary group”, reluctantly admitted Professor of Comparative Politics at NYU Florence, Nicolo Conti.

Well, perhaps ‘infiltrated’ is the wrong word. Yet being granted the privilege to take part in a conversation held at a EU conference room felt quite surreal. This is what I mean by infiltrating; we jumped a few steps. We were by far the youngest crowd within a 5-mile radius.

Our first session was held in the Council of the EU at 10:00 a.m. with Maurizio Di Lullo. Di Lullo is a Political Administrator, focusing on climate change, he also takes part in the Coordination and Horizontal Affairs Unit; he is a member of the Environment, Education, Youth, Culture, Audiovisual and Sports Directorate and the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union.

Throughout the meeting, Di Lullo discussed several characteristics behind one of the most recent outbreaks in Environmental Politics: The Paris Agreement. The speaker put much emphasis on the gravity behind the eminent threat that is climate change and explained the measures the EU is taking to help combat the issue as well.

At the end, several questions were raised by the students; some oriented towards the US’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and how the decision might affect the treaty’s effectivity. Di Lullo responded by saying, “I think that there is no way back from the Paris Agreement. Because everybody is in and is convinced that this is the only way. In the US, basically what I see, is some people who are not willing to go along. But that is something that we have seen already for the last 20 years. In the conservative (atmosphere) there is apparently a reluctance to go along with this but what we see in the rest of the US is that action is being taken, what matters the most is not the legal framework”.

Our next speaker was Susanne Nielsen, also a Political Administrator, member of the External Relations, Asylum and Migration Unit, Home Affairs Directorate, and General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. Nielsen’s focus is immigration policies, a currently very heated area given Europe’s on-going immigration crisis.

Nielsen presented the immigration policies that have sprouted from the EU’s current crisis, and the many issues arising. Nielsen informed the students of the degrading conditions of the Hotspots claiming this to be one of the pressing concerns. Hotspots are locations where the asylum-seekers remain before they are legally transferred into another European country for refuge. In her conference, Nielsen claimed “some have given up, some have asked for voluntary return to their country of origin. Which is why we are seeing very low number of crossings”.

The morning meetings were followed by lunch with Walter Parrs who is a Programs and Exchanges officer at the US Mission to the EU. Parrs had much to say regarding the manner with which the United States is perceived abroad. He re-assured many students that the GOP has not swayed the EU’s willingness to work with the United States, yet that many were left stunned after the elections.

Parrs also touched on his personal experience, explaining how he conceived the position he currently holds.

After lunch, NYU Students had two more presentations to attend, both taking place inside the European Commission building. The European Commission is occupied by what some would call the EU’s ‘government’ as it is the governmental entity in charge of proposing new policies.

At the European Commission, we were greeted by Alexandra Kiel. Ms. Kiel forms part of the Unit Inter-institutional Relations and Citizenship, Directorate- General Migration and Home Affairs.

Kiel’s session focused on European immigration policies and enumerated some of the objectives the European Commission is attempting to achieve, amongst them: “the abolition of people smuggling networks, and emergency relocation proposals”.

To conclude our day, we had Mr. Pascal Delisle walk us through the main characteristics of the Paris Agreement. Delisle went through all the major threats that are direct effects of global warming and emphasized the need of a treaty such as The Paris Agreement.

All conferences were equally valuable, and presented the students with unfathomable opportunities such as visiting these typically off-limits institutions and highly influential officials. When asked about the trip, the NYU Florence Student body agreed on the trip’s effectivity in widening the student’s understanding of the European Union and its institutions.

 

(View this post on LPD’s new blog)

EU in Focus Day 2: Acting, Museums, and Waffles

Museums, role playing, waffles, chocolate, without a doubt Day 2 in Brussels was filled to the brim with back-to-back activities that kept us on our feet 24/7.

Thankfully, we all got a good night’s sleep since our adventures were only scheduled to start at 10 am. So right after a nostalgic and finger-licking-good American breakfast, we all meet in the hotel lobby to begin our walk to the Parlamentarium.

The European Union’s Parlamentarium is the visitors’ center of the European Parliament. The attraction is not only educational, but also extremely engaging. Its main objective is to lead visitors through the creation of the European Union and the ins and outs of the European Parliament.

We started off our visit with an interactive role playing game. The simulation had us pretending we were Ministers of the European Parliament. It even divided us into different political parties and gave us objectives on which we had to reach a consensus.

The process undergone by proposals before becoming directives was the entire basis of the game. We experienced how ministers of parliament work within the Committees, the European Parliament itself, and even inside the party’s offices.

“To see what they go through, not only on a day-to-day basis, but also how the laws are passed. It’s hard to compromise. For me personally, I would have preferred being in a different political party that disagreed more with my own personal views. I definitely agree that it gave me a better understanding of how the European Union works, which is why I wanted to come here” NYU Florence student Isabel Schmieta kindly gave her opinion on the stimulating experience.

And the day did not stop there. Two museums came into play after our lunch at the Parliamentarium’s café. We first visited the Parliamentarium’s own museum. The exhibit was organized in such a way that as you walked through the institution, you were going through a timeline of the European Union. Videos, complimentary audio recordings, and interactive displays all led you through the European Union’s way of coming into being and the various challenges its even facing today.

By the time we exit the building, it is 3 pm and we are ready to move on to our next activity: the Magritte Museum. The Magritte was a 20-minute walk from the Parliamentarium—a great excuse to see some of Brussels’ tourist attractions and insane architecture. The name kinda hints at what the museum focuses on: surrealist Belgian artist René Magritte.

Trust me, you know who René Magritte is. Ever heard of the picture of the pipe with the footnote: “ceci n’est pas un pipe”.

The Treachery of Images by René Magritte

If you haven’t, now you have. That’s the guy.

The museum held an extensive collection of his works. Including student Matilda Mahne’s favorite: Treasure Island. Take a look.

“Treasure Island” 1942, Renè Magritte.

We wrapped up the evening with a dinner at ‘Le Cercle des Voyageurs’ composed of a 3-course meal, salmon and all. Can’t remember when was the last time I ate at that level ever since I went into college.

But the best is yet to come. Tomorrow, Monday October 29th, we will be meeting with political administrators and general secretariats at the European Commission. Stay tuned.

 

(View this post on LPD’s new blog)

EU in Focus: An Insight into European Politics Day 1

Let’s start from the very beginning. Which, and I am definitely not complaining, would be incredibly early in the day. 4:45 am to be exact. You know they do flights around these hours so people end up missing them. You just know it.

The first batch of students, Antonio Di Meglio, Dylan Liang, Brian Wang, WanChen Zhao, Jordin Tafoya, and me, Oriana De Angelis, were the lucky winners of Lufthansa’s 6 am morning flight to Frankfurt. From there, we would catch a second plane to Brussels.

Yet, you know what was beautiful? The fact that despite it being 4:45 am, the time when Ana Dicu—the head coordinator—requested we meet up and ride together to the airport, everyone was up on that bus, radiating smiles and 110 percent ready to take on this journey. We had been waiting for this ever since that first EU in Focus session with the distinguished NYU Florence Professor, Nicolò Conti.

Fast forward to 2 pm when we arrive to the hotel—I slept through most of the flights, sorry kids. We drop off our bags, then instantly set out in search for food and do a little sightseeing around the city, waiting for the next set of students to reach Brussels.

 
A brief description of Brussels: aligning the streets are christmast-townish looking homes, the after-math of the city’s Art Noveau oriented design. The skies are cloudy, and the temperature slightly chilly, Brussel’s climatic characteristics.

It was 3 pm when the rest of the students arrived. Around an hour after they joined us, we were taken to the House of European History by our lovely coordinator. It was an astonishing museum, with tablets guiding you through their exhibits and narrating the history behind every piece on display.

NYU Florence student Syanne Rios gave her opinion on the museum, saying how “the way everything was displayed was very contemporary. It presented very interactive and engaging exhibitions.”

Isabel Giacomozzi, a NYU junior stuyding abroad in Florence as well, expressed a positive experience too, describing the museum as “wonderfully self-aware of all the flaws and triumphs underlying Europe’s history”.


The museum’s appeal was evident, large credit goes to the wide variety of artifacts that put emphasis on every historical event, giving Europe’s history a strong feel of realness, even to non-Europeans (most of the NYU student body).

Afterwards, we all walked back to the hotel, where we had dinner with another of NYU Florence’s star professors, Gian Luca Sgueo. Professor Sgueo provided students  with a brief overview of his work in the European Parliament Research service. Sgueo described his work as a policy analyst, claiming that the institution “takes requests from European Institutions to conduct research on certain policies, particularly European citizen’s rights, lobbying, and democracy”.

The professor answered several questions from the students as well, creating an immersive dialogue and providing us all with an ever more extensive understanding of the European Union’s values and tasks.

And this was just day one. Can’t wait to see what else Ana has in store for us!

(View this post on LPD’s new blog)

Caterina Guidi: The EU’s Response to the Migration Crisis

By Katia Taylor, NYU Florence Student

On Tuesday, October 3, migration analyst Caterina Guidi presented an overview of the European Union’s migration policies as part of NYU Florence’s “EU in Focus” lecture series. Hosted by La Pietra Dialogues, it was an informative session that delved into the EU’s response to the arrival of migrants and refugees over the past fifty years. Guidi also shed light on Italy’s own controversial response to the current European refugee crisis. Read more

Climate Change in the Trump Era: US Withdrawal from The Paris Agreement

By Samantha Chang, NYU Florence student

Sea levels will rise. Growing season will be different. Hurricanes will become stronger. Precipitation patterns will change. Unless you are unaffected by the temperature, weather, availability of food, or expanding ocean, climate change will impact you. Fortunately, there are those who are fighting back. The leaders of 197 countries have banded together to form the Paris Agreement.

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A European Adventure: The EU Working Group takes a trip to Brussels

Day 1: The Value of Compromise: A Visit to the Parlamentarium

Fresh-faced and eagernot exactly the best way to describe the EU working group students at 4:00 a.m. on the way to the airport, ready for our flight to Brussels. However, as the day progressed, that would soon change. After one transfer in Munich and, for those of us less comfortable flying, a somewhat hair-raising flight through heavy turbulence to Brussels, we arrived at our hotel at midday. We had a couple of hours to settle ourselves before a short walk to the EU Parlamentarium, where we participated in a role-playing game on the legislative process of the EU Parliament. Our group was divided into four parties across the political spectrum, ranging from environmentally conscious greens to more conservative traditionals, and tasked with coming up with legislation on distribution and access to water as well as on regulating microchip implants in people.

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EU in Focus Spring 2017: What Point Are We At?

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The anthem for the European Union has no words. It’s an empty, wordless, instrumental hymn, a blank canvas upon which each nation and each ethnicity can paint their own words in their own language. The actual tune is “Ode to Joy,” by Beethoven, a symbol of pan-Europeanism, but the anthem does not have any official lyrics, which means each country can add its own. To call the European Union a multi-colored patchwork of cultures would be to understate exactly how much of it is essentially a cultural Frankenstein’s monster. The EU has 24 official languages, 5 semi-official languages, 42 minority languages and another 8 main immigrant languages. It’s not exactly a single, unified entity, and yet it exists. There is a European Union, where representatives from 28 countries will come together to hammer out deals involving one of the largest common markets in the world, with 500 million people accessible in one go. Read more

New Report from the Eurofound Foundation on the Gender Employment Gap

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The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions has published a new report on The Gender Employment Gap: Challenges and Solutions, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2016. Authors include Massimiliano Mascherini, Martina Bisello and Irene Rioboo Leston from the Eurofound Foundation.

The report explores the main characteristics and consequences of gender gaps in labour market participation and concludes that reducing the gender employment gap should be both an economic and a social objective. The report finds that the total cost of a lower female employment rate was €370 billion in 2013, corresponding to 2.8% of EU GDP. Moreover, while work is the main source of income and so the main tool against deprivation and poverty, the participation of women to labour market ensures their well-being and empowerment. Fostering higher participation of women is crucial to meet the Europe 2020 target to achieve an overall employment rate of at least 75% by 2020. Highlighting the need of tailored policy intervention, the report also examines lessons learned drawn from policies and measures aimed at fostering female labour market participation in 6 European Member States and concludes that integrated actions with all agents involved are the most effective.

An executive summary of the report can be found here

And the full report can be found here

Massimiliano Mascherini joined us in Fall 2013 to present the results of a 2012 report on Youth Unemployment and Disengagement. You can find out more about that Dialogue Generation Jobless: Youth Unemployment and Disengagement here.

NYU Students Meet the EU

For half of the working group, the EU in Focus trip to Brussels began with a 5:00 am meeting time at the Florence airport. Once we arrived in Brussels we were given the opportunity to explore the city for the remainder of the Saturday, making the early morning flight seem inconsequential. The city was as lively as expected, especially for a weekend.  After spending an entire day roaming around downtown and enjoying all the Belgian waffles and fries that Brussels could offer us, we reconvened at the hotel for dinner as a group and were able to listen to two guest speakers from the EU, one of them an NYU alumna. Our hotel was located in the government sector of the city, which meant that on the weekend there was little traffic on the roads and very few pedestrians. This completely changed on Monday when each establishment reawoke to keep the European continent fully functioning, until the next Saturday came around five days later. Read more