International experience for all: Boost your chances!

A student’s diary of the Intensive Programme European Institutions and International Organisations in Brussels and Luxembourg.

Our FHNW School of Business International Office and degree programmes play a leading role in ensuring that all students and staff have a 100% opportunity to gain international experience. Many students opt to go on a semester abroad at one of our partner universities. For those who are not able to make that commitment, participating in one of our intensive international programmes is a great alternative. In an action packed week you get the full blast of academic content, real life best practice business examples, top notch visits and engage with speakers plus the chance to interact with students from around the world. Sounds like something for you? One of our students, Marius Küng shares the experiences of a group of school of business students’ recent one-week programme IP European Institutions and International Organisations in Brussels and Luxembourg.

Monday: Human Glue

The FHNW School of Business Delegation IP European Institutions 2017 (photo: Robert Buttery).

To kick Brussels week off, we gathered at the lobby of the Citadines Hotel where the Head of International Relations at the FHNW School of Business briefed us on crisis management procedures and took us through the week’s detailed programme. I was thinking to myself how it would be possible to fit so much into only five days. Of course, we did and lived to tell the tale!

We met our Latvian counterparts and headed off to our first visit to the Council of the European Union. Our first speaker, a very informative and entertaining Irishman called Dennis O’Sullivan introduced us to the role of the European Council and the Council of the European Union within the European institutions. I was impressed with what Mr. O’Sullivan had to say, especially about what he referred to as “human glue”. My take from his introduction was that personal relationships are just as important for conducting negotiations as theoretical knowledge on certain topics.

The European Commission across the street gave us the chance to attend the daily press briefing with Margaritis Schinas, the Chief Spokesperson of the European Commission. Although the press briefing lasted only ten minutes, the exchange between the press and Mr. Schinas was interesting to follow. After the lunch break, we stayed in Berlaymont for presentations about the EU’s trade policy and President Juncker’s 2025 plan. To wrap up our first day in Brussels, we visited the Permanent Representation of Estonia to the EU to learn more about its current presidency of the European Council. “The Estonian presidency will focus on preserving the common values of prosperity, security, peace and stability in Europe. It will seek to maintain Europe’s unity through practical decisions”.

Tuesday: Matt the Perfect Presenter

Matt Denn, BRUEGEL (photo: Robert Buttery).

After a short walk from our hotel to the Thon hotel, we spent the day at the Economic Ideas Forum, organised by the Martens Centre, the think tank of the European People’s Party. The sessions we attended included topics such as the digital economy, the future of work and social welfare, globalisation and trade, and investments in Europe. Each discussion lasted for about one hour. The audience, made up of leading EU politicians, journalists, lobbyists, business representatives and us students, participated in online surveys during the course of each discussion, through which upcoming topics could be then determined.

To finish our day we went to visit BRUEGEL, which is another top think tank. Matt Dann (sometimes mistaken for George Clooney), the Secretary General, introduced us to the work of BRUEGEL with a truly energising speech. I will remember his remarks because of the insightful and dynamic way he presented what BRUEGEL does.

Wednesday: Get up at 4 am. Are you crazy?

En route to Luxembourg (photo: Robert Buttery).

Omg! We had to get up early in the morning and take the bus to the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxemburg. Although cross-border order traffic jams just like in Basel tried to thwart us, we managed to arrive just in time for the Hearing of case C-574/16 concerning a Spanish company called Grupo Norte Facility. This was particularly interesting for business students as it was about employment laws, contracts and ethics, which we study at the FHNW. We will be watching out for the verdict when it is read on December 21st.

In the afternoon, we met the director and representatives of Eurostat. They gave us input about what Eurostat does and how it tackles big data, which had been a hot topic at the Martens Centre the previous day. We will never look at statistics in the same way again! The insider’s view will definitely help us when we have to find data for future semester papers and/or dissertations.

By the time we got back to Brussels, it was well past 9 pm. Time for a light dinner and to hit the sack.

Thursday: When it Europe, Swiss it!

Florence Balthasar explains the mission of SwissCore (photo: Robert Buttery).

A slightly later start today at 8.45am made up a little for the mounting sleep deprivation. Another short walk along the bustling Brussles avenues took us to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) where Tzonka Iotzova presented the workings of the EESC. The committee includes interest groups such as employers, unions, and consumers. Together with the Committee of the Regions, the EESC consults the EU and makes sure that interests of the different groups in Europe, independent of their size, are properly represented.

We spent the afternoon at SwissCore, the organisation which ensures that Switzerland maintains its vital access to European knowledge programmes and networks. We learnt that personal relationships are as key to SwissCore’s operations as they are to the organisations we visited before. To facilitate networking, the SwissCore team invited us to an evening event with Swiss professionals currently based in Brussels. A highlight on a personal level included meeting the EU correspondent of Swiss national television who shared some of his Brussels insights with me.

TGIF: Vox populi

Before the input session in the European Parliament, Brussels (photo: Robert Buttery).

We spent the final day of our Brussels trip at the European Parliament. Can you guess where the input session took place? In the Parliamentary Assembly! Just like you see it on TV or in streamed broadcasts. The experience was truly memorable. Afterwards, Mr. Karides told us about the transatlantic agreements of the EU. It was very thought provoking to hear that despite US President Trump’s regular Twitter announcements, which imply a rather rocky working relationship with his administration, collaborations with EU officials continue to be on an even keel. However, I was astonished to hear that the EU sometimes cuts the Trump administration out and targets US States or cities directly. The last stop of our Brussels visit was at the Permanent Representation of Latvia to the EU.


European Parliament, Brussels (photo: Robert Buttery).

Accessing the various EU institutions was simply amazing. Being so close to areas otherwise only known from the news was both impressive and informative. What I have learnt during my studies at FHNW proved to be helpful in putting certain aspects of the study trip into perspective. I think it is important to be critical and to bear in mind what background a person has when it comes to what they are telling you. I would definitely recommend this programme to all students doing a business degree.

Text by Marius Küng.

Do you want to be part of the next trip in November 2018?

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