Tag Archives: Common Security and Defence Policy

All Work and No Play….

12 Oct

According to my father, it appears that all I’m doing in Europe is traveling around, drinking beer, and having fun. I am doing all of the above, but I am also studying REALLY hard, none more so than last week with midterms. Along with thinking, “OH MY GOODNESS, MY SEMESTER IS ALMOST HALFWAY OVER!,” I figured I would give y’all a quick update on how all of my classes are going so nobody can accuse me of partying away my time.

So first, here is a quick overview of my academic program. While I’m here at Vesalius, I am completing an undergraduate certificate program in European Peace and Security Studies. This program is run through Vesalius College, the Belgian Royal Military Academy, the Institute of European Studies, the University of Kent, and the Global Governance Institute. It includes 5 courses and a high-profile guest lecture series. Here is a short summary of what I’m doing in each course:


POL351: Military Approaches to Security

  • The professor I have for this is actually a Major in the Belgian military and a professor from the Belgian Royal Military Academy. He has served in different military operations around the world, including in the Balkans during the crisis in Kosovo, so he has a very unique and interesting view on the subject of military approaches to security. We have done a number of in-class discussions and debates. One was a debate between two sides (men vs. women) on what the most important threat to international security is currently and what will it be 10 years from now. Another was a mock trial on whether the comprehensive approach should be the sole approach to crisis management and that it should be led by the military. In this trail I volunteered to be a witness, so I did a lot of research on the comprehensive approach and what international organizations are doing to achieve this theoretical agenda. I am happy to say that my side won (more of the class voted for our side than the other side). I have two big projects coming up. On Tuesday I will be presenting a group presentation on NATO’s ISAF mission in Afghanistan to 3 professors from the Belgian Royal Military Academy. Our group has about 9 people in it, but I am one of the two people giving the 30-minute presentation that counts for 25% of our final grade. I also have a research paper due at the end of the semester that counts for 60% of my final grade. However, I have no solidified my specific research question yet.

POL132: European Peace and Security Studies

  • This is our basic introduction to European Peace and Security Studies course. It is taught by Professor Koops, who is the head of the EPSS program, head of the International Affairs department as Vesalius, as well as the director of the Global Governance Institute. Most of what we have learned so far in this class are the theoretical foundations of peace and security studies. Luckily for me, a lot of it has been basic international relations theories that I already learned with Professor E. Morris with POL326 at Agnes. Starting next week, we are getting into case studies. The only assignments I have had so far for this course are reading tests, but we have a global foot-print evaluation and a policy advice paper that will come later in the semester.

POL235: European Union Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in Theory and Practice

  • This course is also taught by Professor Koops. It is a deeper look into the EU’s newly created and ever evolving foreign policy sector. We have been looking at the evolution of this policy area through the history of the EU, starting from the times of the European Coal and Steel Community. For this class, we have two continuously running projects that we are working on. The first is a state analysis diary. For this we had to pick two of the EU’s member states (one from the “Big Three”, including the UK, France, and Germany, and another from the rest of the member states); I picked the UK and the Netherlands. For these states we had to do a detailed background on the history of the states, both with the general information and more specifically with the foreign policy and military history. After that was done, we started monitoring the news for any stories that relate to these state’s foreign policy or their influence on the EU’s CSDP. The second ongoing project is a think tank diary. For this, we had to choose two think tank events in Brussels that have something to do with EU CSDP and attend, ask a question, and network after the event. I have already finished both of the events. The first I went to was hosted by the Security and Defence Agenda and discussed the debate between security and privacy in the wake of the scandals created by the NSA and Edward Snowden. Two of the speakers at this event were from different European privacy non-profits, the third being former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Lute. The other event I went to was hosted by the academic journal “International Affairs” and was in honor of the release of their September issue, which was all about European security strategy. Three of the speakers were authors of the articles, and a fourth was a representative of the European External Action Service (EEAS). I also have a research paper for this course. Currently, my research question is, “Is the European Union effective in their methods of using the comprehensive approach in crisis management to further their international missions under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)?”

POL222: Understanding Contemporary Conflict

  • This class is all about different modern crises from around the world and how the international community, especially the Europeans, respond. The first part of the course concentrated on the theoretical idea of how war and conflict could be defined. The rest of the course will be filled with different case studies of modern conflicts. The first case study we looked at was the Syrian conflict. Though it is currently impossible to evaluate how the international community is responding, because they are still in the process of responding, we still looked at the history of the conflict and what steps the international community are currently taking. The second case study we studied was the Balkan Wars. First, we went into the historical context of how the situation was established and how it evolved. Second, we looked at the situation and what exactly happened. Finally, we looked the different missions, involving the UN, EU, and NATO, and evaluated why they were established and whether or not they were effective. Right before the midterms, we watched the film, “The Battle for Algers,” and we are going to discuss that when we go back to class next week. The case studies we have left are Sub-Saharan Africa and the Congo war, The EU in the Sahel: Chad, Niger, Mali, the Great War, Insurgency and counterinsurgency: Afghanistan, and the Levant the the Middle East. I also have a research paper for this course. Currently my research question is, “How is the European Union addressing the issues of armed non-state actors in contemporary conflicts? Are these measures effective?”

POL337: The EU as an International Actor: Civilian Approaches to Promoting Security and Development

  • Where my military class discusses how military is used in crisis situations, this class discusses how civilian tools (economics, humanitarian aid, peace and state building entities) in crisis situations. A part of the course is trips to outside entities. Our first trip was to NATO Strategic Headquarters for the Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium. It was an interesting trip, if only to be able to say I’ve been to SHAPE. Unfortunately, our NATO representative was new and it was obviously her first presentation. She was also told that we were a high school group, so I think she dumbed it down a little for us. Most of the information she gave us I already learned in other courses. Our next trip is the the European Commission and the European External Action Service. I have high hopes for this one! Other than this, I have a presentation and research paper due for this course. I do not know my exact research question yet, but I know it is going to be on the steps taken toward development by the EU after the Balkan Wars.

Other than my courses, we have also had two of our distinguished guest lectures.

  • The first lecture was from Dr. Christian Koch, the director of the Gulf Research Center and known as one of, if not THE, leading knowledge on the Gulf Region. His lecture was on “The Gulf Region and Global Affairs: Challenges, Changes and Opportunities.” He discussed the Golf Region, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as their neighbor states, Iraq, Iran, and Yemen. For me this was an extremely interesting lecture, because I feel like I have a real gap in my knowledge where the Gulf states and the Middle East are concerned. I definitely have a new respect for the region after the lecture.
  • The second lecture was one I was REALLY looking forward to. This lecture was from Johan Galtung. He is not only the founder of the disciple of peace and conflict studies, but he is an international conflict mediator (who started in the US South during segregation), the founder of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, the Journal of Peace Research, and the global non-profit TRANSEND International. His lecture was on “The European Union Policy of My Dreams.” He not only discussed the basics of conflict mediation, but gave his uncensored opinion on what the European Union should and should not be doing. Not only did he tell some amazing stories of his experiences around the world and share some of his brilliant opinions, he was also extremely humorous. For an 83 year old man, he was definitely a character!

Our upcoming lectures include:

  • Ambassador Cosimo Risi (Italian Ambassador to the UN Disarmament Conference, Geneva), “The European Union and a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East”
  • Alfredo Rizzo, “The European Union, Turkey and the Future of CSDP”
  • Armistice Day Reflections, “Being a Soldier: Personal Reflections of Three Young Ex-Soldiers”
  • Col Hans Ilis-Alm (European Union Military Staff), “Reflections on the Military Aspects of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy”
  • Maciej Golubiewski (Desk Officer Syria, European Union External Action Service), “The European Union and the Syria Crisis”
  • Andrew Feinstein (Director Corruption Watch, UK and author of “The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade”), “Political Corruption and the Dangers of the Global Arms Trade”

I think this short summary will finally prove to my father that it’s not just fun and games here in Europe.

Next on my to do list: visit my sister Melissa in Germany next weekend and spend the last week of October/first week of November in Paris and London for Fall Break!