This was the fourth year of what is now an established and successful program. We had twelve students from the University of Windsor and 6 from the University of Michigan, more or less the reverse of last year’s group (13 Michigan and 6 Windsor students). Email blasts followed by information sessions held on the two campuses continue to be our main recruitment tools. Making students aware that the program exists continues to be a major challenge and is something that we work at very hard each autumn and winter.
Every year of the program has been different, notwithstanding that the core remains more or less the same. We visit all of the major institutions of the European Union during the first half of our stay in Belgium, as well as NATO and the International Criminal Court and Eurojust in the Hague. Visits to think tanks, NGOs, country missions to the EU and attendance at conferences and talks relating to the EU and to themes of the program vary somewhat from year to year. The addition this year of visits to the Russian and Turkish missions to the EU turned out to be highlights of the program, as were meetings at the International Crisis Group (headed by Mme Louise Arbour, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) and Bruegel, a prominent economic think tank. In total students spent about 40-42 hours in meetings and attending talks over the two weeks of the program.
This year’s students were the most engaged I’ve had since the program began. Almost every member of the group asked questions on a regular basis and I calculated that we had an average of 8-12 questions during the Q&A sessions that followed each talk. I believe that the cultural side of the program is a crucial complement to our main focus on the EU and the architecture of international governance. The past two years of our program have been so busy that we’ve had less time for cultural activities than we did during the first two years. Nonetheless, we again visited Brugge (Bruges) and had the good luck to be there on what is the most important cultural day in the calendar of that very historic city. It was the Procession of the Holy Blood, a religious procession that weaves its way through the city for a couple of hours and that involves hundreds of participants—as well as several dozen animals!—re-enacting scenes from the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden to the death and resurrection of Christ. For believers and non-believers alike it is a magnificent event to witness. Two years ago we were in Brussels for the re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo—also something that occurs every five years—which was marvelous. But this was, judging from the students’ responses, even better.
As the program heads into its fifth year we look forward to continuing our association with dozens of friends of the program in Belgium and in the Dutch city of The Hague. The University of Windsor and the University of Michigan are now recognized as return visitors at the EU and other institutions that we visit. The program provides students with a unique opportunity to learn about these institutions and European politics in a firsthand way, a the same time as it provides visibility for the two universities whose cooperation makes this program possible. Long may it continue!