February 16, 2015
Yale University placed itself on the map as the first United States University to take the lead in EU affairs this past weekend when European students from the European Student Conference launched an EU think-tank here in the US named European Horizons. The aim of the think-tank is to contribute to the policy’s being adopted in shaping the future of the European Union. Their move is unprecedented as it is places the EU, which has been underreported in the US media on the US map.
In Yale’s launch it now competes with the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium established by the EU’s founding fathers and known as an elite finishing school for aspiring eurocrats. According to Igor Mitschka the President of the European Student Conference, in response to the edge Yale’s European students can provide in contrast to the College of Bruges, he stated that it was Jean Monnet who traveled the United States and was inspired by the United States of America to help found a United States of Europe. Yale’s European students bring the experience of living in a federal government and union to better have the ability to apply it to the European Union. Igor Mitschka added, “…by us living here and breathing the federalist air that surrounds us in this country we have a very special view of what can be achieved in Europe in the future.”
One and a half years in the planning, the European Student Conference was officially held on February 13 and 14th of February 2015. Organized by a team of mostly European students they brought EU heavyweights to Yale for the launch of their think-tank. Among them was chief EU architect Andrew Duff. He was director of the EU’s leading think-tank for EU policy: the Federal Trust. An EU constitution specialist, he has contributed to several EU treaties. He wrote the draft and oversaw the writing on what is possibly the next revision that will give the EU a federal government. In addition, Pascal Lamy was in attendance. He is a two time director of the World Trade Organization and he served as Chief of Staff in the Delor’s Commission and also served the Commission as European Trade Commissioner. Pascal Lamy is also on the steering Committee of another leading EU think-tank: Notre Europe. The British magazine Prospect counted Pascal Lamy among the top 50 leading thinkers in the world.
The other EU VIP’s in attendance were:
Achim Ladwig, speech writer for Vice President of the European Commission who is responsible for press and communication matters.
Jan Truszczynski who led the Polish negations for Poland’s accession to the EU and served within the EU institutions.
EU ambassador to the US, David O’Sullivan.
Erhard Busek a leading Austrian politician who served as a former Vice Chancellor
Luc Peeperkorn a former EU Commissioner for Competition
Karel Schwarzenberg, President of the Helsini Foundation for Human Rights
Lapo Pistelli, member of the Italian Parliament and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
Richard Tufft, Managing Director Global Investment Research at Goldman Sachs International
These EU public figures formed a panel and critiqued the proposals, which the students worked on writing and presented. Many of the suggestions stood out for their depth and problem solving approach. European Horizon’s established the following areas as their focus: Democracy, Economy, Identity, Human Rights, Borders and Transatlantic Relations. The proposals offered analytical problem solving discourses, which deviated from other think- tanks that provide broader analysis and commentary and would appeal to policy makers for their cut and dry approach of identifying problems and offering solutions in specific areas. European Horizons essentially acts a research team identifying problems in its target areas and presents solutions in the quest to move the EU forward.
Along with the impressive problem solving abilities of the students, their enthusiastic spirit for the European Project engulfed the room. A member of the Identity Team stated, “Our fathers built the EU and we will give it a soul.”
Mitschka added during our conversation, “This project it is our hope that we want students to come together to develop the visions for Europe and also to become agents for change in the European Union… we can bring a lot to the table. “
While the majority of students who initiated the conference and attended are from the European Union, Igor Mitschka informed me that 30% are Americans. He also added that European Horizons will not lobby for legislation in Brussels. He stated that we “ are more eager to enter into conversation with each other, to connect with each other and to use our young years as students to develop visions for the future… there are so many think-tanks out there that lobby every day, that is not our purpose, our purpose is really educational and guiding for ourselves.”
.Open to students in universities throughout the United States, there are requirements for a university to enlist in European Horizon’s think- tank. They must offer European Union studies and the applying students must have contributed uniquely to the research environment. European Horizons is unique in that it enlists student’s and aims to establish chapters throughout the US’s universities. The European Horizon coordinators guide the students who wish to found chapters at their university through the process. European Student Conference team member Andreas Greiler who handled contacting the university’s for the participants in attendance, informed me that several of the US Ivy League schools do not offer EU studies. On a couple of occasions he was surprised that a college he never heard about located in a remote area of the United States offered EU Studies.
This event would not have been possible without the sponsorship of the European Commission, Yale School of Management, The American Council on Germany, BMW Stiftung Herbert Quandt and Amtrak, which was the only US Corporation, which helped sponsor the event.
The energy at the conference was at a fever pitch, Brussels literally came to the United States and while in those rooms I no longer felt that I was in the US, but felt like I was in Europe and I was able to feel the excitement of the European Project that these students brought to Yale’s campus.
Yale, which is known for setting the standard and taking the lead in so many areas, now added European Union affairs to its list. European Horizon chapters will in time exist throughout the United States. This initiative was not started by Americans at Yale, but rather Europeans in the US who are learning from the American model. European Horizons is going to do more than help contribute to the policy debate and influence the future of Europe, it is also going to help increase awareness of the European Project here in the United States. Yale’s launch will most likely mark a turning point for the United States. The nation as a whole has little knowledge of the European Union, and the Yale initiative will help more US citizens gain a greater understanding of the European Union and its role as a global player in world affairs through the students at the participating universities.
Author : Erika Grey