By Tobias Van Assche, Information Specialist, U.S. Mission to the European Union.
Diplomacy does not have to be boring! Through the United States Mission to the European Union’s (USEU) Public Diplomacy Section, people interested in EU policy making can learn about topics that the United States (U.S.) cares deeply about in an interesting and entertaining fashion: by attending movie screenings, networking events, panel discussions, and even receiving scholarships or getting sent on an educational visit to the United States.
Since the United States was founded in 1776, it has always had a very close relationship with Europe, which has only grown stronger with the establishment of the European Union (EU) after World War II. In Brussels, USEU is tasked with helping to preserve and strengthen the ties between the two strong political and economic blocks and advancing U.S. policy priorities. This interaction does not only happen between senior diplomats behind closed doors; USEU also directly engages with scholars, researchers, activists, journalists, citizens, and public servants who are active or interested in EU policy making in Brussels—often referred to as the “Brussels Bubble”—through its Public Diplomacy (PD) section.
Within PD, the “Programs and Exchanges Unit” is responsible for directly reaching out to people in the Brussels Bubble. It regularly plans events relevant to a wide range of U.S. and EU issues. One type of event that has proven very popular is the screening of policy-relevant documentaries, often in the presence of the director or producer. In May 2016, USEU organized the screening of two films on topics of great importance to the United States: the Oscar-nominated documentary Winter on Fire, on the Euro-Maidan uprising in Ukraine, and The Anthropologist, which highlights the effects of climate change on indigenous populations across the globe. It also collaborated with the German Marshall Fund’s Young Transatlantic Network to screen two episodes of the new season of Netflix’s series House of Cards to initiate a discussion on the upcoming U.S. presidential elections. All of these events were filled to capacity and were very well received.
Another important type of event that USEU PD organizes is panel discussions featuring senior U.S. policy makers and experts. In most cases, this occurs in collaboration with
Brussels-based think tanks and organizations. In February, for example, USEU co-hosted a panel on “the Security Order after Crimea” featuring former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Steven Pifer. Two months later, PD collaborated with the German Marshall Fund for a discussion with U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Daniel B. Baer, in which he called for all the aspects of the Minsk agreement between Russia, Ukraine, and the rebels in Eastern Ukraine to be honored. The mission also connected to the EU audience by hosting and participating in panels on topics such as data privacy and intelligence law reform during the annual Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection conference (CPDP) in January, but also on a range of TTIP-related issues by facilitating the participation of USTR trade negotiators in different panel discussion across town throughout the year.
Finally, the Programs and Exchanges Unit is very active in organizing visits to the United States for promising EU policy makers and civil society members. In February, USEU sent a group of three Members of the European Parliament and the EU40 network to Washington, DC and Florida for a week to learn more about the U.S. electoral system and process and campaign strategies and organization. The mission also works closely together with the Fulbright Commission to Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU to promote educational exchanges between the U.S. and the EU. In February, 43 U.S. Fulbright recipients from different disciplines attended the yearly Fulbright EU Seminar at USEU and were briefed on activities of USEU in cooperating with the European institutions as part of a four-day visit to Brussels and Luxembourg. Eight of them were Fulbright-Schuman recipients, a grant that is co-funded by the U.S. State Department and the European Commission to promote research on U.S.-EU relations.
The USEU PD Programs and Exchanges Unit is currently planning a stimulating and diverse Fall schedule. Follow USEU on social media such as Twitter and Facebook to remain up to speed on its activities and attend one of our next activities.