Leaving Europe

Image_00201 Okay I did not have time to write because I spent all day wondering Brussels, first with Julie of GMF Paris Office and then with Alyssa of the group. I bought Pierre Marcolini chocolate (oh, I'm going to have so many friends over the next couple of weeks), ate an "authentic" Belgian waffle, window-shopped at African Art galleries, antique stores, and sat filling out my GMF evaluation forms at an outdoors cafe.

This has been such a wonderful and enlightening experience and thank you to all who have contributed to making it so. I have fallen in love with each and every city that I visited and am excited about having people to hang out with, collaborate with, as I return to Europe again and again.

I promise on Monday to do more reflective pieces before returning to the grind of my American life, but I will hope to maintain certain practices including: the Bilbao three-hour lunch discussion with friends, the EU thinking in 10 - 20 years frames for planning, the Hamburg biking to everywhere, and the Polish freedom fighting against all odds.

Winding down in Brussels

Winding down in Brussels
Things are winding down. The formal aspects of the program have ended. I look forward to sleeping in tomorrow for the first time in weeks.

Tomorrow I will begin a series of comparative discussions on themes like electoral systems and gender relations.

Check you tomorrow am late.

NATO and Public Diplomacy

This afternoon we had three fascinating briefings from NATO. I must admit that the perception of NATO that you get in the US is that really of the US doing everything and Tony Blair helping out. You get no idea that there are 26 members of NATO and 20 Partners countries including Russia. It blows my mind that Russia is a partner to NATO.

Image_00188 What made me the most happy is the discussion on Public Diplomacy with Nicola De Santis and James Synder, a US Information Officer. James Synder is not only a person in the US government who understands the power of design (including translation, plain language, etc.) but he has been advocating for changes for years. We had a great follow up after the briefing and he sent me a report he did on the challenges of Public Diplomacy. He mentions Clifford Geertz.

Anyway, I am really excited about this connection because I hope it will help me to figure out how to improve goverment communications not just with American citizens (as done in the work of Design for Democracy) but with the citizens of other nations. Ideally these communications can move beyond propaganda to be open, transparent, and clear communications and processes that increase international dialogue. That would be very exciting for me to pursue in the future, perhaps not a NATO, but in some other diplomacy-oriented organization combined with my teaching.

Brussels highlights on EU diplomacy

Image_00182 I arrived from Warsaw to Brussels yesterday. I am completely smitten with Poland. Not because it is the one country in which I could eat well as a vegetarian (smile), but becasue it has this wonderful underdog sense of history yet national pride that has not been destroyed in spite of its centuries of oppression. I have a lot of admiration for people (collectively) that have endured oppression with both their pride and their humanity in tact. It is the one trait that makes me extremely proud of African Americans as well.

But on to Brussels...

Brussels has been one mind-blowing discussion after another. It is partly because I am in a synthesis phase, but I feel my knowledge is growing exponentially.

Discussion #1: Dinner at the hotel with about 20 Europeans and Jackie Davis, head of Communications, European Policy Center. Highlights:

  • There is a generation of Europeans between the ages of 50 and 60 who are not perceiving the benefits of the EU because they are too young to have undergone the wars and thus appreciate the advantage of the current peace and too old to appreciate the freedom of travel of the borderless EU.
  • The consideration of the scenario that if Turkey does meet the economic and social criteria of the EU, the Turkish people could decide to reject the EU because of its seeming hesitation.

Discussion #2: Meeting with members of the European Parliament Toomas Illves, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, Helmut Kuhne, and Ignasi Guardans. Highlights:

  • The US Federal government did not gain many of its current powers until FD Roosevelt and the New Deal, before it was limited to foreign relations and trade, monetary policy, and war. Thus the EU is stronger in its Federal "power" than the US 60-70 years ago. This is interesting if you look at the allocation of spending in the US budget and which items are pre or post New Deal items.
  • The failure of the Dutch and French votes to accept the European Constitution have more to do with the internal politics of those countries than the actual constitution. It is tied to how "elites" propose to the people what they should do rather than gain their buy-in sooner. The fact that it was a 430-page document written in English did not help matters. I would love for a European designer to redesign the EU Constitution by transforming it to a poster/ad campaign informing people of the major points.
  • The rejection of the EU Constitution lead to an interesting point by Robbie Ashe in our group that if the US Constitution was put to public referendum today, it probably would not pass because some would think it was too pro-gun or free speech, soft on religion. It raises an interesting question about how democractic can democracy be, when the will of the people (tyranny of the majority) can often impede social progress.
  • EU can exert more pressure on those outside of the EU and want to join, than those already inside the EU. This will become more of an issue as more countries join the EU. There is a very funny scene in South Park's Team America movie in which Hans Blitz is convincing the North Korean president to show him the locations of his weapons. When asked what will he do if North Korea does not comply, he replies that he will write a very angry letter.

Discussion #3: Meeting with Pirkka Tapiola, Council of the European Union. Highlights:

  • The EU structure is very complicated. The book the New Practical Guide to the EU Labyrinth, 9th ed, by Daniel Gueguen should be provided to all fellows in the future before coming to Europe.
  • EU has a common but not unified foreign policy and is involved in many arenas from Balkans, Georgia (former Russian republic), Ukraine, Belarus, and is sending missions to Congo and Darfur. There are multiple "partnership" relations with the EU which does not lead to joining the EU. These are controversal.
  • UN and EU (and one can say NATO) all have complementary roles, but it is difficult to untangle sometimes.