>Day 3 (Brussels…Belated!)

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Tuesday proved to be the longest day so far but it was definitely an enjoyable one. We started out early and headed off to meet with various representatives from the European Commission. Our hosts were extremely gracious and provided us with a very warm welcome paired with several informative sessions chaired by representatives from all over the EU.

We were given a general overview of the role of the EU within a global framework by one of the Dutch representatives. We covered the three pillars of the EU as well as talked about the role of soft power within the EU and its neighbors.

This was followed by a discussion on EU/Transatlantic relations chaired by Valentin Gescher of Germany. Herr Gescher gave us a very open and frank presentation on the way that he sees the EU relating to the United States and it was easy to understand his sense of optimism for a long partnership between the two.

We adjourned for a break and many of us headed to local restaurants in the area for lunch. Jaime, Mandy, Laura, and Ashley headed off for kebabs at the small Greek bistro by the Commission. Tom and Meg headed to the local supermarket and picked up some provisions and then headed to the park. They were soon joined by Jeff and Rich who had the same idea for lunch. There was something so simple and perfect about enjoying a baguette with some meat and cheese by the small lake in the park. It felt very different from our quick lunches back home. I think that a two-hour lunch ought to be standard in the States after this trip. After our leisurely lunch we then headed back to the Commission for our second round of sessions.

We were then given a briefing on how one might use the resources of the EU for research, which included their library and archives. This briefing was followed by a discussion on European Union expansion hosted by a former judge from Germany. She provided us with a presentation on the process for membership and expansion as well as an explanation on anti-corruption efforts in new EU member states.

Our final presentation of the day covered the topic of Immigration policy in the European Union. Our presenter was a Polish member of the Commission and gave us a run through of the complex inter-political issues that member states face when dealing with immigrants. It was incredible to see that there are so many problems that the EU deals with that mirror our own back home.

Later that evening…

A smaller group of Euro Trekkers found the fabled Delerium pub nestled along a side alley of the Rue des Bouches. There many a fine Belgian delicacy was sampled. Many thanks are in order to Dean, our Australian barkeep, who helped us navigate the astounding selection of over 2,000 beers.

Throughout the evening, cross-cultural relations were fostered. Jeff began the impromptu ambassadorship with a nearby table of locals. Mandy exercised her considerable charm in winning over not one, but two tables of local patrons, one of which happened to contain a resident from Alaska. After Mandy broke the ice, Rich engaged in a fascinating conversation on international politics and travel with a Dutch and a German who live and work here in Brussels. Jaimie initiated a conversation with two Swedish brothers and their Czech companion on their way to Rock Werchter to see Metallica, The Killers, Coldplay, The Dave Matthews Band, and about 30 other musical acts.

The walk home proved interesting as well. Upon entering the Grand Place we were treated to an impromptu practice session for the grand cultural celebration known as the Ommegang. The celebration marks the grand procession of King Charles V from 1549 and is currently celebrated to bring Belgium’s history together with its future.

The final part of our multicultural extravaganza ended with a stop for some Gyros at a local Greek restaurant near the hotel then it was off to bed. Stay tuned for our next adventure…

-Jaime, Mandy, Jeff, Rich, Laura, and Ashley

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