Inside COREPER

A conversation with the Dutch presidency

Alexandra Breton

The Netherland’s Pieter De Gooijer, chair of the Committee of the Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States to the European Union (COREPER), worked tirelessly throughout the whole conference. Despite having imperfect health, De Gooijer and the rest of COREPER were able to have fruitful discussion on some very difficult topics..

 

Alexandra Breton: What is the “hotspot” approach?

 

Pieter De Gooijer: Certain countries in the European Union experience greater influx of refugees than others, most notably Greece, Italy and a Hungary since they are on the southern end of the EU. The “hotspot” approach would strengthen the departments that work with the refugees — involving border security.

 

AB: What challenges did COREPER face when coming when finalizing the agenda?

 

PDG: There were two major challenges: first, but not foremost, was communications issues with the heads of government. Secondly, the European agenda on migration is a very complex document and has many solutions in it. And understanding how the EU representatives could implement such a complex document was an issue for some delegates. There were also some time constraints, however, I wouldn’t say that it played a major factor.

 

AB: Were there any specific delegates that stood out during the conference?

 

PDG: Diplomacy — like everything else in life — comes in many shapes and sizes. It also comes with various different perspectives, and like the foods in Europe it comes with many different tastes. So it wasn’t a shock to me when I saw large numbers of diplomats stand out.

Firstly Italy, for the majority of the deliberations, was ensuring that his voice was heard in every topic and that his country’s values were protected. Most of his concerns revolved around countries losing their sovereignty with certain European Union Implementations.

Secondly, Austria was very diplomatic he too ensured his voice was heard in every topic and was a fine negotiator. The diplomat was not only concerned with his country’s ideologies he was also concerned with incorporating other countries into the decisions. The next diplomat that stood out was Greece; he was a young and energized diplomat who exemplified the great values of his country every time he spoke. Greece made sure their voice was heard every time we are in a new topic. Whenever we broke off into un-moderated caucus I always saw Greece spearheading the negotiations.

Lastly France, too had their voices heard during the deliberations, France representative had a say in every amendment that was passed whenever she spoke it was hard to hear as other members knocked in approval. It was truly a privilege to watch these four diplomats lead the charge in these negotiations.

 

AB: Why did it take you longer than two of your other chairs to pass your proposal?

 

PDG: Firstly, deliberations were delayed the first day due to technical difficulties which pushed us back about 20 minutes. Secondly, The passionate diplomats which again come with different opinions and viewpoints just wanted to make sure their counties voice was heard.

 

Back to the future with European Council

Crisis and flux capacitors on the table

By Hans Hyppolite

It is fair to say that the European Council  had a very eventful on its last day of the conference. Firstly, the heads of government (HOG) were able to pass their primary agenda item early on in the morning. Then came the agenda item passed by the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) which was unanimously passed.

But members of the Council had reservations toward it which may illustrate their communication skills. The Prime Minister of Hungary wanted some language in the proposal to be added. He wanted the money that would be used for research for a large Hadron collider to be instead used for a flux capacitor. The proposal did have some support from the prime ministers of Poland and Ireland but it was unfortunately rejected by the majority.

“It was quite clear that many of them are afraid to innovate which is surprising considering some of the resolutions that we have passed in the past day and half and that we will present at the end of this conference,” said the Prime Minister of Hungary.

Later on, the Prime Minister of Poland proposed an amendment to rename the proposal “17-38” but there was an overwhelming rejection of the name change. “The numbers 17- 38 as the proposition I wanted to be called are very near and dear to me, for personal reasons of course I feel are not suitable to discuss” declared the Prime Minister of Poland.

Then came a crisis situation in which the Russian government located a Turkish submarine in the Kara Sea which was declared as a violation of their sovereignty. The European Council acted quickly but a lot of back and forth between the members ended with them launching a neutral investigation in the matter and putting out a statement that is supposed to calm both parties and warn them  to take any inadequate actions against each other.

It is also worth noting that the European council has successfully passed legislation that will infringe on the rights of non-European Union citizens. Provisions found in the Foreign affairs proposals include deportation of a person without due process and extensive background checks that will take years to accomplish. As it is a proposal that requires a unanimous consent to pass, it was very successful.

 

The end of an era?

Faculty attempts to keep Steck’s 27th MEU conference from being his last

By Kata Knezović and Nadja Eckert

 

SUNY Cortland’s Henry Steck has been the soul of  SUNY Model European Union from the very beginning 28 years ago, when it was still an inter-American program called “Model European Community” (MEC). This year, however, was said to be his last year of participation in the simulation.

Friends and faculty were very sad to see him go — so much so, that they invented a new task for Steck that would allow them to keep him around for a little more time. He is now to write up the entire history of  MEU and his experience with it. In exchange, his travel expenses to the various simulations would be covered.

This deal was cooked up by Steck’s friend and colleague who advises Jamestown Community College’s MEU team, Greg Rabb. Rabb not only wanted to keep from see his good friend leave after all their years of working together, but was also scared of becoming the last senior colleague on the MEU staff. It’s overwhelmingly clear that the orchestrating team behind this event would miss Steck too much see him leave and would, thus, not yet let him retire fully.

Growing up in Berlin in the ’50s, Steck’s love for Europe began at a young age. In 1988, when the creation of MEC was discussed, he jumped right on the idea.

“We never studied anything about the European Community in grad school or even in college, I knew zero,” Steck said. He was just as fascinated back then as he is today.

“Each simulation is a learning experience for me, it’s what brings me back,” said Steck. Izmir, Prague, and Brussels are among the cities that have really stuck with him. “Our experiences there have been great. here, we have great faculty, organization, and not to mention the Royal Museum — I could sit there all day.”

Steck has seen it all in his 27 simulations (he only missed one simulation due to an injury) with MEU. He noted the almost reckless system of organization behind the event.

“We used to just go to a travel agency and find each other in Luxembourg — no emails, nothing,” he said.

The trip to Luxembourg stood out to him for two reasons: Firstly, the whole team had to hike to the simulation every single day through a non-paved path, as their hostel was at the bottom of a hill and the simulation at the top. He noted that especially the girls who had dressed nicely in heels and dresses, found this experience rather interesting. Secondly, it was during this trip that a student went missing.

“I think the blood from my head must have drained out in a second, we had to call the embassy and they made us call her parents,” he said. Luckily, the student returned safely to the hotel but since then, the registration and security has become more strict.

In the early years of the MEC’s expansion to Europe, Steck and his colleagues had trouble drawing up the necessary attention to their project in European schools. Steck accounts this difficulty to the vast differences in American-style and European-style teaching, in which European professors lack a certain involvement in their students’ lives and studies.

This, however, is not the case at Vesalius College, as pointed out by Steck.

“This school has an American feel,” he said. “I could also tell with the style of the professors which has made it possible to have active teaching with students — the key to a simulation.

“They also did a perfect job, along with Kathleen Dowley, to make us feel confident to come to Brussels this year,” he continued.. “This year has definitely been the best one yet, I am very surprised by my students, Vesalius College has made it a great trip.”

SUNY New Paltz’s Kathleen Dowley has been part of the conference ever since Steck himself recruited her in 2008 to be the director of MEU. Dowley accredits her saying-yes to this offer to Steck’s excellent convincing skills and his persistence, stating that “he is good at that, all it took was a few conversations over good beer in Serbia.”

“He does most of his negotiations over beer,” Dowley laughed. “That might be why he loves Belgium so much.”

Her admiration for Steck was evident in every word she spoke of him.

“Henry somehow always makes it work. He is always calm, sincere, rational, reasonable, but fully committed to international education,” said Dowley. “He is one of my sounding boards. I just can’t picture [MEU] without him.”

Rabb agreed with this characterization of Steck.

“He is reliable, committed, and I know he will come back,” Rabb said. “It just isn’t the same without him.”

Steck’s work with MEU is a history in and of itself. His commitment to a broad and varied education is ultimately what continues to bring him back to the simulations, to give other students the opportunity to travel and learn more about the European Union.

It remains to be seen whether Steck will accept the deal that has been offered to him. His last words, however, leave room for hope.

“I want to come back here,” said Steck about Brussels. “I still didn’t get to go to the chocolate factories and I have a few more areas of the museum to cover.”

 

#HashtagMoneyMoneyMoney

ECOFIN tries to have progressive last day in conference

By Maria Alfonso

Moments of insanity and inspiration came forth on the final day of the European Union conference. Dolphin border control and “#HashtagMoneyMoneyMoney” shared discussion time with cultural education for refugees and border control. Yet, it was a day of triumph over deadlocks and  blackouts.

Deprived of both coffee and power, the delegates pushed through to pass agendas in both the Committee of Permanent Representatives in the EU (COREPER) and the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN).

Presiding in the dark due to an electrical malfunction, ECOFIN focused on special funding for the refugees. United Kingdom (UK) faced off against Finland over creating job opportunities for the refugees, citing the need for employment opportunities for UK citizens. Fighting back, Finland pressed, not only for employment opportunities, but also for language, cultural and technical training.

The momentum came to a screeching halt when, while the head of ECOFIN stepped out to update the European Commission, Finland proposed the suspension of the meeting. A majority of the member states vehemently agreed and disappeared for the next 37 minutes while the refugee crisis related agenda item sat unfinished.

When confronted during the press briefing ECOFIN Director General, Marco Buti, defended himself citing “technical issues.”

“I do my job,” he said. “I try to do it as efficiently as possible.”

After pressure from both the press and the European Commission, the ECOFIN became an efficient powerhouse, creating extra work for themselves when the proposed agenda item had been finished.

Extra work presented itself in the return of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), or “QTIP” as former conference goers fondly remember it.  

Once the door to silliness crept open it was too late, delirium set over the ECOFIN in the final 30 minutes. Finland, straddling the line between ingenuity and insanity, moved for a vote to rename TTIP into #HashtagMoneyMoneyMoney. Joining him there, the rest of the member states passed the measure, allowing a place for #HashtagMoneyMoneyMoney in EU history.

Working just as hard, the COREPER was full of discussion over the allocation of refugees and border control. Denmark argued against letting refugees into their already stressed country, with other struggling member states lending their voices. In response, a counter argument for sanctioning EU countries that do not accept refugees was proposed.

Further into the debate, Cyprus maneuvered to gain enough momentum to close the external borders of the EU, enlisting Italy and Estonia as allies. The member states differed in response between outright refusal to slight bargaining.

Yet it was Germany’s speech, citing the refugee crisis as an opportunity to “show the strength of the European Union,”  that moved the group to band together in order to strike down Cyprus’ proposal.

Triumph then led to another fit of silliness as Italy rushed to create a proposal for dolphin border control. Before a dolphin-backing coalition could be gathered, the Secretariat returned to announce that the COREPER’s agenda being accepted led the member states into celebration.

 

Ministers divided

FAC struggles to compromise

By Emiel Haeghebaert

Discussions at the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) seemed to be far less fruitful during the second day of negotiations than High Representative Federica Mogherini made them out to be during the initial press briefing.

Repeated motions and long unmoderated debates were ubiquitous in the morning session. Moreover, the voice of one particular foreign minister seemed to essentially prevent any real progress from being made.

Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s foreign minister, proposed an amendment to the agenda item on external border control, which included intensive medical and psychological evaluations of every non-EU citizen attempting to cross the Union’s external border. Following strong objections from Belgium, Sweden and Estonia, led by Germany and France, most member states were convinced that the amendment would not pass as long as it held this clause.

After a failed vote to adopt the Hungarian amendment as it was, Szijjártó repeatedly motioned to re-enter into discussion on the clause.

As most of the morning session had been devoted to the amendment to the first agenda item, the FAC seemed to be quickly running short on time to pass the remaining items.

It didn’t look good. The meeting got slightly heated when Germany went on the offensive.

“You are not willing to compromise on anything,” said Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister. If you’re only here to block the discussions, why don’t you just leave the [European Union] and be done with it?”

Even the meddling of European Council President Donald Tusk could not convince Szijjártó to adopt a compromising stance on the issue. Nevertheless, a solution was provided by France. The agenda item was split, and after a long debate, Hungary eventually conceded its position as the clause was removed from the amendment. It was then passed by unanimous vote and adopted into the agenda.

Finally, the Foreign Affairs Council had passed its first item and could move on.

On the topic of EU-Turkey relations, stances were largely divided. While Germany called for renewed negotiations and stated it believes Turkey must remain a vital partner of the EU, Hungary and the Czech Republic ruled out any discussion on Turkish accession to the Union.

“It is un-European to even consider accepting Turkey into the EU, when there has been no effort from their side whatsoever. This is preposterous.” Szijjártó said.

At the same time, smaller nations such as Belgium, Estonia and Spain emphasized the importance of their respective economic ties with Turkey, stressing their belief that these ties must be maintained and that negotiations must be on the minds of all Member States.

This disagreement could not be resolved and the additional agenda item of EU – Turkey relations could not be passed.

Meanwhile, the remaining agenda item on intelligence sharing was not edited by the Foreign Affairs Council and was passed on to the Heads of Government in its original form.

This concluded the FAC’s meetings and the final agenda was passed on to the European Council for a final round of discussion and modifications, before being adopted as official recommendations.

 

22 Tweets That Perfectly Sum Up the 2016 SUNY MEU Conference

By Emily Gregor

 

With the conference at a close, it only seems fair to highlight some of the best moments from this year’s event. Members of the Press Corps and delegates have been tweeting like crazy to keep everyone up to date on what happened from the moment the students arrived until the Heads of Government were signing off. Why 22? Because it was my birthday on the last day of the conference and I’m 22 so #BowDown.

 

 

  1. That moment when everyone finally arrived in Brussels even though there was a train strike:

1

 

 

  1. When everyone was preparing to get ready for the conference, including the loyal and forever witty Press Corps (we’re impartial we swear!)

2

 

  1. When everyone went on a walking tour of the city even though it was practically down-pouring >>>

3

 

  1. When everyone actually did what they were supposed to be doing:

4

  1. When even the professors had work to do:

5

 

  1. I got enemies, got a lotta enemies…

6

 

  1. That one time (okay,when is it not?) when Wifi was a hot commodity:

7

 

  1. Our favorite solution from the entire conference:

8

 

  1. When students had the opportunity to interact with the Experts:

9

 

  1. When we aren’t entirely sure what this one’s about. Probably something inspired at the student mixer:

10

 

  1. When negotiations were stalled not because of laziness or exhaustion but simply because the building decided to become eco-friendly:

11

 

  1. When people were starting to get bored:

12

 

  1. Aren’t we all? ZzZ zZz ZzZ

13

 

  1. When someone said the exact thing everyone else was thinking:

14

 

15. When the people start hating on the press corps:

15

 

  1. When chaos ensues in the FAC:

16

 

  1. When everyone is really just confused and just wants coffee and a nap:

16

 

  1. You know it’s real when Fetty Wap comes into the picture.

18

 

  1. When everyone is hatin’ on Hungary for being ~diFfiCuLt~

19

19.5

 

   20. The understatement of the year:

20

 

   21. Sometimes the EU has a rough life, okay?

21

 

   22. Eh, but I guess everyone had a good time anyway, right? Here’s to next year’s  conference.

22