March 09, 2007
"and in between are doors"
“There’s the known and then there’s the unknown, and in between are doors.”
We found this random graffiti on a wall somewhere in the heart of Brussels. It struck me as a perfect description of exploring Europe for the first time, and nearing the end of our trip we have gone through quite a few doors into this unknown world. We have been here for almost a week and today was my first day of truly seeing the city of Frankfort. After waking up to late for breakfast, I jumped on the metro to downtown with a few other students and Professor Dyson, and we managed to arrive at our destination just in time.
The destination was the European Central Bank, the institute in control of the EU’s monetary policy. Here we were given an insightful presentation on the ECB, its branches, and monetary policies by Raphael Anspach (Press Officer). The beginning of the talk laid out a lot of information we had studied in class, but by the end an in-depth discussion was occurring. In particular we explored the differences between the actual and perceived inflation of the Euro, determining that the perceived inflation was much higher than the actual. This was a surprising discovery because of the seemingly high European prices, and a lot of citizens distaste for the Euro as opposed to the D-Mark. After the presentation our group split up and eight of us went to find an authentic German restaurant.
We decided on a place in the Old Town district. This is a few square blocks of old beautiful churches and buildings, and it is filled with great German food. To eat I tried the Jagerschnitzal, a pork chop prepared hunter style. This basically means it is covered in a mushroom gravy, and not surprisingly it was great, especially with a good Czech beer or some homemade apple wine. Now we are simply waiting for the nightlife to start so we can have one more great night in Europe.
Top: Raphael Anspach (Press Office) at the European Center Bank discusses how the bank operates as students take notes. Bottom: Clay, Divash and Ben toast in central Frankfurt.
This morning we had another good breakfast at our hotel. They had a full spread of fruit, meats, cheese, eggs, and juice. Some of us went out and explored the city while some stayed at the hotel, resting until going out around lunch. It was interesting to see new modern buildings and architecture next to old churches, plazas, and classic German buildings. We have had a lot of Kebobs and German Brats from the street vendors to keep us going through the day. This afternoon we visited the European Central Bank. We met outside one of the train stations after exploring the city, so we had to figure the train schedule and destinations out to get there. It helps that people are for the most part very friendly and able to speak English. After a thorough security check we made it up to a large conference room where it looked like the directors of the central bank met. We had some coffee and watched a PowerPoint presentation on the bank and were able to ask a lot of questions. We found out that the bank has representation from over 20 different languages and they have to translate all the bank documents into all of the languages.
After our meeting we were free to explore some more. While walking around it seemed like there was a classic church or cathedral almost every other block. We also walked by the river where some of us had been the previous night checking out the city nightlife. The most interesting place we found was called The Cave which was an underground nightclub which almost seemed like a bomb shelter. For dinner a group of us decided to eat a good meal at a German restaurant. For dinner we had sauerkraut and sausages with potatoes. After that we checked out some more plazas before making our way back to the train station and figuring out how to get back to the hotel. We are going to go out tonight and check out some more of the city life before getting ready for an early morning trip to the airport and a long airplane ride home.
Top: Students at the European Central Bank. Bottom: Jason, Jeana and Micheal in Frankfurt town square.
The first day in Frankfurt started with an awesome breakfast that apparently wasn’t cheap, so we took advantage and ate enough to last us until dinner. The Money Museum was our first destination, so we headed to the trains. The Museum was an interesting look at not only the history of currency exchange, but also the development of a single currency and the euro.
For the second half of the day, we met with Bastian Wonschik '00, an alumnus who works for the Boston Consulting Group, a management-consulting group based out of Boston with over 60 worldwide offices. He gave us great insight into how he applies his Wabash education to his everyday work, as he takes on a new project every 10-12 weeks for companies varying from car manufacturers to steel manufacturers. I also am convinced after talking to him that I want to pursue an MBA. Bastian received his MBA from Northwestern, and he emphasized the importance of having it as he entered the consulting world. He also highly encouraged getting internships while at Wabash. I’m going to use this opportunity for a cheap plug for the Career Center where I work with 5 other student career advisors. If you need any help finding internships, GET OVER THERE. Also, mock interviews are this Wednesday, so sign up.
After Professor Mikek and Dyson released us for the night, we went back to the hotel to get ready for the Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds concert. We went early in order to get a good seat, and we ended up in the 2nd and 3rd rows for an awesome concert. I’ve been amazed throughout this whole trip how integrated American entertainment is in European culture. While there were some American students studying abroad, most of the people at the concert were Germans, and everyone knew the words to the songs. The best songs were probably a good Dancing Nancies, Lie in Our Graves, and Don’t Drink the Water with a new intro. As we headed back on the metro, we noticed Derek fell asleep on the train. So, being good friends, we had to try and leave him. We all got up without waking him, and were at the door ready to get off, and then Brad “Smiles” Armstrong ruined the prank and called his name. It was a failed mission but we gave the officer and a couple of other people on the train a good laugh. Well, I’m off to pack up and watch Flava of Love in German for a little bit.
Since we got in fairly late last night and everybody was pretty tired from the whirlwind week, today was the first day we really went out and explored Frankfurt. The first thing I noticed right away was that Frankfurt was much more commercialized than Brussels. In the town square in Brussels, there were a lot of laid back, small shops and restaurants, while in Frankfurt there were many more formal establishments. In this case, changing cities was definitely a big change in atmosphere.
Today we went to the Money Museum and met with an alumnus who works with Boston Financial. The Money Museum was very cool, with examples of currency from different time periods and areas. It was amazing to think about how currency changed from rocks and cattle several centuries ago to electronic credit cards today. After the museum, we headed over to an imposing office building and conference room to meet an alum. It’s always encouraging to see a very successful alum doing something he loves.
To cap off the evening, about ten of us went to see Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds play in downtown Frankfurt. The concert was amazing and, in my opinion, one of the best experiences I’ve had this week. Every summer, I go to see Dave Matthews play in Indianapolis, where he has an extremely devoted following, so I was curious to see if he had many fans in Germany. My questions were soon answered when I walked in the door of the concert hall. The place was packed with extremely loud German fans, shouting for Dave. It was funny to hear them sing along with all the lyrics in a way that you could tell they didn’t know what the English meant, but they were even more into it than a lot of American fans are. Dave rewarded them by coming out for three encores, capping off a three hour show that was one of the best I’ve seen.
Top: Bastian Wonschik talks with students. Below: Some students went to a Dave Matthews concert Thursday night. (Photo by Clay Koehler)
Today our itinerary included a meeting with the British MP in the European Parliament and one last opportunity to explore the city of Brussels before traveling to Frankfurt.
Ben and I woke about around 8 AM and prepared for the 10 o’clock meeting with our MP. The EP is located within walking distance of the hotel, talking you through the Europville, the site of numerous office EU institutions and offices, one admires the centrality of the environment. Our meeting was probably the best as of yet as the mp expressed his views on the democratic deficit.
Afterwards, Clay, Chris, Simons, and I took the subway system over to Waterloo Blvd. Along this street are located a few of the oldest building in Brussels including Parte de Hal. This circular structured fortress dates back to the mid 13th century during a time of political and military turmoil. Around the base, one can still view remnants of the moat system alone with artillery pieces. Overall, its an interesting site located around considerably modest building. Finally, we hopped on the bullet train and rode for three hours to Frankfurt, Germany at an average speed of 269 km/hr.
(Photo: Mr. Stephen Hughes, UK Member of the European Parliament visits with students)
It’s obvious why the European Union gets very little done…it is the most inefficient governmental organization in the world. Talking to the average European citizen, their disapproval of the Union is extraordinary. Many say that it has grown too large and that there are too many different points of view for there ever to be a great deal of progress. It will be very interesting to see if there is ever any true convergence into a new European identity.
When we went to the Money Museum Professor Dyson and Mikek had an economics challenge. In an amazing upset, Dyson prevailed keeping growth at high levels while managing to cut inflation and unemployment.
Thursday night was the best of the trip. Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds put on an amazing show in a extremely small venue, it was probably the best concert that I’ve ever been to and was well worth 50 Euros.
Most of our day on Thursday was spent getting acquainted with the city of Frankfurt. Also included in the day was a morning visit to the Money Museum, a noontime meeting with a Wabash alum that is a consultant for Boston Consulting Group, and an evening trip by some of us across the city to see Dave Matthews in concert. Needless to say, it was a very full and busy day.
Our visit to the Money Museum was one of the better educational events of the week. Much of our focus this semester in the Economics section of our course has been on monetary policy and the effects of inflation on economic growth, and the Money Museum had a number of interactive programs that demonstrated these things for us more clearly than our textbook or Prof. Mikek ever could.
Also important to elaborate on is our trip across the city to see Dave Matthews in concert. It was an awesome experience! A number of us were incredibly lucky and got to stand in the third row, where we could see Dave so clearly we could see the beads of sweat running down his face. His performance was awesome and much appreciated by the crowd, so much so that he was compelled to do two encores!
All in all, it was an awesome day. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun, too. But it was also incredibly tiring, requiring 10 hours of sleep last night to recover. We are all looking forward to a great rest of the trip and to getting much needed sleep before starting classes again on Monday.
(Photo above: Professor Mikek plays interactive game at the Money Museum that challenges you to balance economic factors to keep a stable economy. High score went to Mikek on the first try-56. Second best Derek Lough with 45.)
Click here for a photo album of the Best of Brussels
March 07, 2007
US Mission to European Union
After a much welcomed morning off from any meetings or responsibilities (which most of us used for sleep), our group spent the afternoon at the United States Embassy talking to directors from the United States Mission to the European Union. Public Diplomacy Officer Merry Miller offered her insight and experience into becoming and working as a Foreign Officer for the United States government to the delight of several political science majors in our group. After an interesting video explaining the overall goals and aims of the Mission, we were treated to a presentation about the economic side of the Mission from Trade Specialist Susana Getman.
Having both the economic and political cravings filled, our group made our way back to the hotel to prepare for our dinner with Wabash Alumnus Brandon Mitchner. We had dinner at the illustrious Rose Blanche, which left us with both our hunger and our wallets a little lighter. After saying our good-byes to Mr. Mitchner, most of our group, including Professors Mikek and Dyson went to the world famous Delirium Tremens, a bar which boasts an amazing selection from over 2004 beers. After a few drinks there, our group moved over to an Irish pub, Celtica, well known locally. It was fun to experience the Ooos and Ahhs of the local atmosphere as Liverpool played Barcelona. Speaking to different groups of people at the bar allowed me to speak in English, French, and German. It was interesting to see how locals came together, even though locals included people as far away as Ireland and Poland. All-in-all, after a later night trip to get Dˆner-kababs, the night was complete. And to think, we have another three nights in Europe!
Photo:Patrick Maguire '08 and Brandon Mitchner '87 visit during dinner.
Everything is so beautiful: the historic buildings, women, and the city in general. In the third day of the trip, after meeting at the lobby at 9:30 in the morning, we headed towards the US Mission to the EU (no photos were allowed). At the mission, we met with several different staff members who gave us a briefing on the purpose of the mission. The official part of the day being over, we head out to the Grand Place for a group dinner with a Wabash alum, Mr. Mitchner. Unfortunately I had to have a separate dish because the main meal had beef in it, which I cannot eat due to my religious convictions. However, the food was good and the traditional Belgium waffle for dessert was great. After this some of us went to have a few awesome Belgium beers and then head back to our rooms to rest and prepare for the next day.
March 06, 2007
Yesterday we went to the European Commission Visitor’s Center. We were unable to visit the actual EC building since one of its leaders opposes America's involvement in Iraq - or so we were told.
We listened to presentations on the politics and economics of the EU. The presentations were informational and interesting. After that was done we made our way back to the hotel and had a brief house-keeping meeting.
We split up into groups to enjoy the sites of the town. Jeremy Burton and Simon Noirhomme both met us Grand Place.
Simon took us to see the Belgian landmark, Manneken Pis, “The Peeing Boy.”
After hearing a few stories about how he became a famous landmark we bought some chocolate in a local shop and made our way to a little cafe for a brief break until we split into two more groups, one staying in the town and another taking all the purchases back to the hotel.
After this we all went back to the town and enjoyed the night-time life.
Top Photo: Students in conference room at European Commission. Left: Clay Koehler stands in front of Manneken Pis.
Walking throughout the cobblestone streets and alleys of Brussels has made me realize the similarities of Belgium and Indiana. Due to the fact that Indiana is labeled the “Crossroads of America” and the Belgium being the “Heart of Europe,” because of the European Union institutions that are located in Brussels. Yet, Belgium differs greatly from the state of Indiana. A perfect example is that one can turn a corner and immediately hear five different languages being spoken among street vendors, youth, couples, and beggars.
Photo: Mr. Jo Vandercappellen (Member of the European Commission Speakers Team) Answers questions from students about how the Commission works.
So far we have visited the European Commission, which has proved to be incredibly insightful because of the presentation given to us there. In that presentation the guide explained the many complexities that face the European Commission in compiling legislation that effects a majority if the European nations.
One cannot even start to imagine the cultural differences among Europeans and North Americans. To begin we were educated by a robust waiter who informed us why the Belgians were the pioneers for drinking and driving.
Here in this photo is the bottom heavy glass that sits in a coaster. The waiter informed us that the coasters were once fitted unto wagons or carriages by the drivers to hold their beers. The glass is shaped so because the drivers soon found that the curve in the middle absorbed the shocks of the cobblestone streets. Hence, instead of the beer spilling all over the street the glass moves like a hula hoop and the beer stays in place for the driver to enjoy on the job. This was just the beginning of such cultural differences. Monday evening we decided to visit a bar that has been in business since 1695 under the same family ownership.
There I immersed myself not only in the beer, but the language as well. Speaking with a gentleman next to me I found out that he came from France when he was sixteen. After thirty years as a printer and two years at the Sorbonne he has been out of work for thirteen years. Then I found myself at a table with three very lovely ladies from Brussels. What I learned in relation to the European Union is that it has simplified the movement of cultural and commerce. Everyone has enjoyed the benefits, especially my new friend the printer, and they hope the Union can continue to its growth in policies.
March 05, 2007
Myself and the other Europe bound Wallys had an early morning start to this year’s Brussels and Frankfurt immersion trip. At least so it would seem from the fact that one such Wally already realized he forgot his passport minutes prior to actually setting off from campus (mom it wasn’t me). The 11:30 am departure from campus, arguably early morning on a Saturday, nevertheless went without any real problems as all students presented themselves promptly and looking “fairly” clean. Upon arrival at the airport we were met by distinguished and much admired, Prof. Stephen B. Dyson PhD., recently attending a Political Science conference in Chicago, who dutifully reminded us that we were on our own and he would not be responsible for any criminal activity on our part. The waiting periods at both Indy and Atlanta airports were spent in amiable and intellectual discussion concerning such important matters as economics, political science and the quality of different portable entertainment devices with Prof. Mikek and Media Center head honcho Jeana Rogers. We are now on our Delta airlines flight to Brussels, just past a meal which made us wish for Sparks (and people wonders why Delta isn’t doing very well), and eagerly awaiting the morning to come, and with it the promise of the old continent and a proper meal. Until then ou revoir.
Arriving in Brussels this morning at 8am local time (2am Indiana time), I do not know when Saturday ended and Sunday began. This first day consisted of roaming the city in a state of insomnia. Upon arriving at our hotel at roughly 10am, we had to wait an hour before we could check into our rooms. After hearing this news, a small group of us set out to explore the city. First I must mention that all of the members of the group I was in had absolutely no knowledge of the French language. Anyways, the primary objective of this small group was to search for food and some form of beverage. Being a Sunday morning, most of the stores and restaurants were not open. We finally stumbled upon a pastry shop. The owner of the pastry shop spoke no English, only French. Through a series of pointing and stammering, we finally acquired some food. We then proceeded to walk around some more and eventually find our way back to the hotel to check into our rooms.
After check-in, I joined a small group of guys and ventured down to the Grand Place in the heart of Brussels. We spent the afternoon roaming around, taking pictures, and tasting different types of beer and local food. Since most of us hadn’t slept and couldn’t recall where one day ended and the other began, we decided to head back to the hotel to take a short nap.
This short nap turned into a 3-hour endeavor. I was finally woken up at about 9pm. I climbed out of bed, got dressed, and hopped on the metro headed downtown with another group of friends. We headed back to the plaza to explore a bit of the nightlife of Brussels. We ended up in a bar that was over 500 years old. This bar had a wonderful selection of Belgian beers to sample. The bar had a very homely, aged feel and appearance. As midnight approached, the bar began to shutdown; after all it was a Sunday night. After leaving the bar, we discovered an Irish dance bar called Celtica. After ordering a few drinks, we sat down and enjoyed the live music being played in the bar. We rounded out our evening by walking back to the hotel from the Grand Place. This day was a wonderful way to begin experiencing the European culture.
Our first day in Brussels has been a wonderful experience so far. We have been staying in Eurovillage, a nice hotel located in the heart of Brussels. After getting over from the jet lag, in the afternoon, I along with my friends did a city tour. The city is very beautiful with its richness in ancient culture and heritage. †There are several cathedrals that date back to 15th centuries. The architectural aspects of these cathedrals are amazing. The jamb figures, the relief structures are so beautiful and realistic.
In the evening, we explored the old part of the town and we happened to go to a 500-year-old bar. We walked through alleys and rode subways. It was amazing to see and meet people from different parts of the world gathered at the city square to have a glimpse of this culturally and historically rich city, Brussels.
Above: Manbar Khadka†and Prof Mikek explore a 500 year old Pub. †In top Photo left to right: Patrick Maguire, Matt Walter, Brian Crum, Brad Armstrong
March 02, 2007
Here is a sample of the type of research projects the students will be working on during the trip to Belgium and Germany. To view all the students research proposals click here.
Research question: Since joining the EU, have the Baltic nations (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) converged toward EU average?
Title: Baltic convergence: steep and yet stable?
Research Method. I will replicate the paper on “Baltic convergence” by Siegfried Steinlein and Kristine Vlagsma (2005) and see how my results compare with theirs. In their research, they have used data from EuroStat for the year 2004. They show that the Baltic nations, that have low GDP per capita compared to the EU-average, have experienced high growth. In my paper, I will analyze the convergence of the Baltic nations using the recent data available from EuroStat. I will also use the data from International Financial Statistics. I will use macroeconomic indicators such as current account deficit, interest rates, inflation for the recent year to analyze whether the nations have reached the EU convergence or not. I will run a regression analysis of average GDP growth on variables such as GDP per capita, long-term nominal interest rates, HICP inflation, government deficit, government debt, and current account deficit.
The Evolution of the CFSP. The European Union has defied all expectations and managed to integrate, both politically and economically, the interests of its 25 member states into its areas of competency. Despite its critics, the European Union has become one of the world’s largest economies and has effectively created a system of government over independent states that confounds common thinking on government systems and international organizations. The competencies of the Union cover many of the traditional policy concerns of a state, ranging from agriculture to trade and even to social policies, but one primary policy area was conspicuously absent during the beginning of the Union’s development- Foreign Policy.
Traditionally reserved as a power of states, independent foreign and security policies are important to a state’s relations with others in trade, diplomatic and defense matters. In its unusual role confounding the common definitions of government and international organization, the European Union has already taken on competencies in most areas of trade and in some areas of diplomatic relations between member states, but the question persists as to whether it would be possible to aggregate the foreign and de fence policy interests of the diverse member states? Attempting to answer that, the European Union has made steps towards creating a common outlook on foreign relations and security policies. The aptly named Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), outlined in the 1993 Maastricht Treaty, was the first codified step in working towards a common foreign policy for the states of Europe. The policy has since been modified in both the Treaty of Amsterdam and the Treaty of Nice, expanding its breadth, and was to be further extended in the now defunct European Constitution.
The purpose of this paper will be to study the evolution of the CFSP since 1993 and to determine if a common foreign policy is possible in the diverse cultures of European states. By examining the policy itself to better understand its sources in the contributing political cultures and the actions on the policy over time, I hope to at the very least better understand the issue and at best to answer the question posed.
The research in this paper will be two pronged. The first portion will focus on a broad analysis of the collective foreign policy by seeking to explain if there is a trend in the number of common positions, joint actions and declarations issued from the Council since the institutionalization of the CFSP in the Maastricht treaty of 1993. If the CFSP is in fact taking off, there would be a predictable increase in simply the amount of legislation on the topic, so there should be an upward trend observed. The data for this portion of the research will be drawn from prior journal articles and books on the common foreign policy (Whitman 1998 and Ginsberg 2001 to name a few) and further detailed data should be available from the EU web site.
The second portion will delve further in depth into particular issues of foreign policy importance and will focus on a case study of the European response to those issues. The obvious issue choices will be on the Balkan crises from 1992-99 in Bosnia, Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia which were partly the impetus for a common foreign and security policy, the ongoing issue of Russia and non-proliferation and finally the war in Iraq for a look at a divisive foreign policy issue among the members. Data for this portion will come from similar sources, but with a more directed focus than the breadth of data sought in the first research study.