University at Albany
Above: UAlbany students gather inside the Belgian Federal Parliament.

UAlbany Students Travel to Belgium to Study Multilevel Governance and Take Part in Model EU

A group of 13 students from Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University at Albany traveled to Brussels, Belgium for an intersession course on multilevel governance and to participate in the 2014 SUNY Model EU hosted by Belgium's Vesalius College, January 7-10. At the largest and oldest U.S. organized Model EU, they joined over 150 students from New York State, Iowa, Maryland, France, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Belgium, Macedonia, Ireland, the Congo, and the United Kingdom.

UAlbany students outside the EU Concilium
SUNY Model EU is an annual simulation of the European Union organized by the Institute for European Union Studies at SUNY (IEUSS), SUNY New Paltz, and the SUNY Office of Global Affairs. It provides a framework for a simulation of a European Council meeting to educate American students about the European Union while giving them an opportunity to interact with students from EU member and candidate states. Each student is assigned a role as a representative of a delegation (an EU country or the Commission), head of government, foreign minister, European commissioner, or member of the press corps. Students prepare for the simulation at their own universities with the help of faculty advisers. Throughout the course of the exercise, students discuss, debate, negotiate, and try to reach compromise on a number of proposals at issue. They do so by following actual EU procedures.

The Rockefeller College students formed teams from the United Kingdom, Belgium and Croatia. This past October, the students began to assume their roles to help develop an agenda for a simulated meeting of the European Council and to develop their national positions on an extensive agenda that included: the EU and diplomacy in Iran; common security and defense policies of the EU; innovation and services in digital economy as a solution to youth employment; asylum and immigration; the current situation in the Ukraine. In advance of the summit, SUNY students also benefited from training on EU negotiations by a trainer from the Institute for Research and Education on Negotiation in Paris.

Paige Donegan, Brendan Fanning, Christian Johnson, Connor Murphy, and Ruhi Ahmed played the part of the UK team. Cody Corcoran, Liara Hill, Mini Jang, and Eileen Eng represented Belgium. The Croatian delegation included Daniel Mallon, Justyn Turner, Stephanie Chu, and Timothy Stout. Albany students were very active at all four levels of meetings, including the Heads of Government, Economic and Finance Ministers, Permanent Representative to the EU, and Foreign Minister meetings and played key roles in leading the summit to a successful conclusion.

Rockefeller College Professor and former UN official Mark Baskin co-taught the course on multilevel governance and advised students at the Model EU. He praised the students' capacity to channel official views from the UK, Belgium and Croatia. "Albany students learned a great deal about the nuances of negotiation within the EU Council at the session. They represented their governments' positions well, and 'worked the corridors' very effectively. More generally, they took the opportunity to develop relationships with European students and learn from European officials," said Baskin.

The keynote speaker at the opening banquet, Head of the Division for Canada and the United States, European External Action Service (EEAS), Fernando Andresen Guimares, wonderfully set the stage for the Model EU session. He provided a superb tour d'horizon of external issues facing the EU, spoke of its evolution as a more coherent actor in world politics, and advised students on how to prepare for careers in international affairs. In Belgium, the students visited the EU Concilium, the Parliamentarium and the historic city of Bruges.

Following the conclusion of the Model EU, UAlbany students joined students from SUNY New Paltz and other campuses for an extensive intersession course about multilevel governance in the EU. The group met with EU officials, academics, Belgian officials, a former Belgian Minister of State, and political party activists concerned with issues of emigration, the environment and sustainable development. They traveled to The Hague in the Netherlands to meet with prosecutors and other officials from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. 

The students who participated in this year's Model EU and intersession had plenty to say about the exceptional learning opportunity they had just experienced. "It was a chance to learn about decision making within the EU and the Belgian Parliament and interethnic relations in Belgium," said senior Cody Corcoran. "There is no better way to understand decision making in the EU than talking with the officials who deal with such material every day," added Brendan Fanning, a junior at UAlbany. Senior Ruhi Ahmed praised Model EU officials for their openness and the easy access they provided to students. "The study mission was absolutely great. Officials answered our questions completely in a way that would not be accessible to the general public," she said. Clearly the trip to Belgium and the Model EU have had a strong impact on the students. "It was truly an unparalleled combination of fascinating politics and good times that I will never forget," said sophomore Christian Johnson. Christian's fellow UAlbany student Stephanie Chua concurred, "If there was a way to make this trip better, I would be shocked." Perhaps senior Paige Donegan summed it up best when she said, "These friendships and the time we spent immersed in European culture gave us a new insight into the world and furthered our interests in international politics."

The students' Model EU experience was made possible in part by the generous support of donors to Rockefeller College. Read more Rockefeller College student and alumni stories and learn how you can support the College.