European Union 19.04.2009 - 26.04.2009
The trip IFIL 2009 across European institutions brought the participants to the heart of European integration. We met diplomats, political scientists, lobbyists, journalists and other key actors of European politics. This meetings were organised at the seat of institutions covering the whole scope of what is known as Europe: the Council of Europe and the European Court of Justice, the European Parliament, the European Commission, NATO, embassies and some think tanks such as Bruegel and the International Crisis Group. We travelled across the three European capitals: Strasburg, Luxemburg and Brussels.
The topics of the presentations were all related with the current international affairs. As we were lucky enough of being only a dozen of participants, we have had the opportunity of discussing further in depth the different issues with the key speakers. The big advantage of discussing with practitioners is to stick to the concrete facts. We are here highlighting some excellent moments of the trip.
Having savoured on the day of our arrival the traditional flammekueche, we met Mr. Gentil in the magnificent Palace of the Rhine in Strasbourg. First President of the INGO Conference of the Council of Europe, Mr. Gentil highlighted the key role played by civil society in building bridges between the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. A good example of that is the support to the civil society of Belarus by the INGO Conference contrasted by the exclusion of this state from the other organs of the Council.
On Wednesday afternoon took place a fruitful meeting: a lunch at the residence of the Swiss Ambassador in Luxemburg to discuss about the Swiss bank secrecy, which was a highly topical issue as a result of the inscription of Switzerland on the so-called grey list of the OECD.
The warm hospitality of the Ambassador as well as his kindness helped the participants feel quickly at ease. The exchange has been rich and very informative: Which diplomatic strategy for Switzerland? Shall the UBS (one of the two Swiss giants bank) be divided in smaller branches? We would have been glad to spend the whole afternoon at the residence if we didn't have had to catch a train for Brussels.
On Friday, we met the Vice-Chairman of the International Crisis Group. Polyglot and very experienced in geopolitical issues, he shared with us his thoughts about the complex links between narco-traffic and armed conflicts, using maps and anecdotes, such as his meetings with guerrilla leaders in the Columbian jungles.
This well-structured, week long brainstorming has been very successful: new thoughts and new perspectives on current and/or long lasting issues of Europe were brought about. High-level discussions have been triggered by the quality of the speakers as well as the vivid interest of the participants. We choose to present only three episodes. However, we can mention the others, as rich and inspiring as the ones above mentioned: discussion with the Swiss Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe, meeting with a clerk of the
European Court of Human Rights, hearing at the European Court of Justice, discussion with the environmental specialist of the lobby department of Johnson&Johnson, discussion with a financial markets expert of the think tank Bruegel and the meeting with a journalist of Le Temps.
The general aim of the trip is to demonstrate to the participants the variety of forms of integration in Europe; all of which contribute to the common goal of peace on the continent, a very special European “achievement”, that must continuously be maintained by the various organisations we will be discovering during our trip.
Beyond this general discovery, the diversity of actors and organisations involves thematic choices in order to focus on the meetings and have the best experience possible. Hence, the participants will be divided into five different groups, each of them focusing on one of the following questions:
1. Institutions: towards supranational or intergovernmental decision-making in Europe?
2. Human rights: an effective protection for all Europeans?
3. Security and defence: what organisation for the crisis management in Europe?
4. Switzerland: what status and future in European organizations?
5. Economics and finance: a disarmed continent against globalization
Moreover, we will try to stick as closely as possible to current events in a broader prospect. Be it the free movement of persons, the relations with the new American administration, the Lisbon Treaty or the financial crisis, we notice that these thematic questions not only are the product of sixty years of history, but are also very contemporary!
Having been made aware of these different topics, we will really ask the right people the right questions. These goals will thus allow us to combine the visit of the European organisations with good debates and discussions during a one-week trip that will guarantee you new insight on Europe.
It is our pleasure to welcome you on the road to Brussels and to share this new experience with you!