Wabash Blogs Immersion 2009: Politics/Economics of the EU

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Last Day in Brussels

Stanley Xu '10 - The weather of Brussels is like a baby’s emotion – you never know whether it will cry or smile next minute. After enjoying luxurious  sunshine, which is not very common in Brussels, for two days, we finally ran out of luck. We went to visit the European Commission this morning accompanied by dismal sky and cloudbursts. The European Commission is the executive branch of the EU with the legislative power of initiating laws and does not have any counterpart with exactly the same features in the U.S institutions. Our visit was mostly comprised of introductions from people working for the Commission and discussions of EU issues.
We started from a short movie briefing facts about the Commission. Some facts about the Commission are as follows. The Commission initiated 641 regulations in 2007, has 1900 offices, sees 1,500 kg of mails distributed every day, and has 529 permanent interpretators translating the Commission meetings into 23 languages. These numbers may give you a feeling of how large the system is and how inefficient it can be (just think about the number of interpretators and languages used). The first speaker created a very interactive environment that allowed us curious students to ask questions associated with the EU ranging from the minutiae of a certain committee to Europeans’ sentiment about an enlarging Europe.
The second speakers talked about the economy of new member states of the EU. The data and graphs presented by the speakers have indicated that the new member states, with relatively weak economies, have benefited more from the EU than the bigger countries, such as Germany and France, do. We were very excited about the opportunity to hear opinions and insights from Commission staffs. After visiting the Commission, we had a free afternoon.
Besides wandering around the Grand Place (the central plaza of Brussels), I also visited a supermarket, hoping to have a rough sense about the price level in Europe. I did not observe much obvious difference between prices in the US and those in Brussels for most goods. However, vegetables and meat in Europe are much more expensive than those in the States (the EU does not have genetically modified food on markets). In the late afternoon, we visited a company named EurActiv that focuses on transparently and efficiently covering EU policies.
After this brief trip, we have known more about the companies whose work is totally revolved around the EU and that are behind the political fronts of the EU. The trip was a great implementation to our knowledge of the EU. Our day was concluded by a delicious dinner at a Slovenian house where I first found chicken and potatoes tasty after staying in the US for two and a half years. And the night just starts…
Our entire trip has been fantastic so far. It was not only an enriched learning experience but also a priceless opportunity to explore and understand different cultures without distance. It is absolutely one of the most memorable experiences in my life.
Top: Professor Mikek wanted the group to take a serious and manly picture - this is what we came up with.