Politics and Policies of the EU: Internship Program in Brussels

Brussels, Belgium

Monday, June 11, 2012

Three Weeks Down, Three to Go!

I can't believe how quickly time is passing here in Brussels! On the one hand, it seems as if our stressful week of running back and forth to interviews in a strange city with very little street signage and a lot of rain and hail was an eternity ago, but on the other hand it's hard to believe that I will be on a plane headed stateside in two and a half weeks. I suppose now that everyone is settled in their internships, the time passes more quickly!

As far as the internship was concerned, I really had no idea what to expect. At home, the word "internship" carries with it a stigma of, as Amy pointed out, coffeemaking and photocopying. Here, even though we are only at our internships for six weeks, it seems that everyone has been entrusted with actual responsibilities, whether they be attending events or conducting research and writing briefs or memos. Because I am a U.S. Foreign Policy student and have not taken any classes on EU politics at the grad school level, I wasn't sure how much I would be able to offer at my internship at Agoria, a trade federation that represents many different companies in various technology industries. I have been assigned to the "Security and Defence" sector, which complements my studies in my academic program at SIS very well. So far, I have gotten to attend several interesting events, including one at U.S. Ambassador Howard Gutman's residence, at which I met the ambassador and senior officers from Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing, and other companies in the defense industry. Additionally, two weeks ago I attended a meeting at the European Defence Agency (EDA) in which representatives from Norway, Germany, Austria, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Spain, Hungary, and Romania were present. The meeting was essentially an overview of the EDA's mission and a discussion of the new "pooling and sharing" strategy toward which the EU is working to foster greater integration in the areas of defense and security, which has resulted in a great deal of tension between member states, particularly Britain and France (neither of which were represented at the meeting).

Interestingly, both of these events were conducted entirely in English. I have been told that this is fairly common at events regarding defense and security issues, although I was not told why. I have several theories; one explanation is that  English is one of the more widely spoken languages in the EU and thus provides "common ground" for member states. Another explanation is, because the defense industry is so dominated by U.S. firms, in order to cooperate and/or compete in the field operating in English is a necessity. Hopefully I will find out the answer before I leave!

I have one more event to attend this week...in Paris! It is an exposition on the European defense industry, and Belgium's day at the expo is Wednesday. I'm looking forward to learning more about the future of the industry here in Europe and hearing ideas for new ways to cooperate with the United States in international security efforts.

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