AUBG Students Explore Brussels
Between October 28 and November 1, 17 AUBG students in the EU Lobbying Class got to peek inside the heart of the European Union and chat with representatives of various EU institutions, including AUBG alumni. Associate Professors Cosmina Tanasoiu and Jean Crombois of the Politics and European Studies Department organized the trip with the help of the AUBG EUR alumni network in Brussels. As part of the course, students were asked to design a concrete lobbying strategy for an interest group based in Brussels under the mentorship of an alumni. In light of these assignments, they got the opportunity to participate in lobbying workshops led by the alumni themselves and to learn directly from practitioners.
Although this is third such trip in the history of the department, this was the first to be funded by the Jean Monnet Module on European Lobbying. The group visited the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers, the World Bank Office, and NATO headquarters as well as different lobbies for which AUBG alumni work.
“We had a very intense, varied, and extremely interesting program combining institutional visits with special lectures that were organized only for us by first rate people—a real treat!” shared Dr. Crombois.
During the visit to the European Commission, students learned more about the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification for Bulgaria and Romania and traced Bulgaria’s progress. They also met with Mrs. Pauwels – Cabinet member of the now ex-EU Commissioner in charge of Environment. While at the Council of Ministers, they were taken to one of the conference rooms in which the member states meet. There, EU official Simonetta Cook spoke about the EU presidency and the importance of its style and techniques during negotiations. The class also met with Wolfgang Nozar from the Directorate-General Enlargement, who discussed the status of negotiations with candidate countries, including Montenegro, the most advanced candidate, and Iceland, which froze the process. The trip to NATO headquarters was marked with discussion of the NATO’s role in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Irina Novakova, an AUBG alumna and press officer for the EU Commissioner; Kristalina Georgieva; and Vladimir Vucinic, who is currently working at the Montenegro Representation to NATO, shared their experience with the future professionals. The alumni and students discussed graduate schools and life after commencement. The range of issues AUBG alumni are working on in organizations like Oxfam International’s EU Office, Inclusion Europe, the Standing Committee of European Doctors, and the International Association of Public Transports was both impressive and encouraging.
“It was a unique opportunity and hopefully will make people reconsider their choice of a major because of the opportunities the EUR major offers at AUBG and after,” said Petar Georgiev, President of the European Society Club.
According to Dr. Crombois, the four-day experience provided AUBG students with at least three benefits—motivation, practical knowledge, and familiarity with a professional setting. To him, this trip is an essential part of the educational process. “The objective is clear: to offer each student graduating in European Studies the opportunity to go to Brussels at least once during their study. Honestly, this really sets us apart from a lot of institutions, especially in Bulgaria,” he said.
“It was an amazing experience and a must for people interested in EU affairs,” added senior Bojan Mladenovski.
Story by Maria Markina and Anna Ermakova
Photos provided by participants