Students Simulate European Union

Dr. Eliasson led 11 ESU students to EuroSim 2015. Photo Credit / Ronald Hanaki
Dr. Eliasson led 11 ESU students to EuroSim 2015. Photo Credit / Ronald Hanaki
Dr. Eliasson led 11 ESU students to EuroSim 2015.
Photo Credit / Ronald Hanaki

Ronald Hanaki
Sports Editor

From Thursday, March 26 to Sunday, March 29, 213 students and faculty from almost 20 universities in the United States and Europe attended the twenty-eighth annual EuroSim at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.

ESU political science professor Dr. Leif Johan Eliasson led eleven students from the school to participate in the four-day conference.

EuroSim is an annual transatlantic simulation of the European Union that brings together students from many colleges in the northeastern United States and Europe.

In EuroSim, college students take on the roles of public officials from the European Union and debate and negotiate a topic chosen by the event’s organizers in order to arrive at some kind of framework for an agreement that would benefit the European Union.

According to Eliasson, “Negotiations, law, and culture will impact you in every profession you have. And having a good knowledge of how to negotiate and how law and policy mix and how culture affects that will appeal to a huge number of different students from all majors.”

EuroSim is open to students from all majors, but it requires a commitment from the student.

“EuroSim requires a lot of preparation and more in-depth knowledge of a particular issue and of a specific law, but the reward is that students can experience politics, law, and detailed negotiations in an intense and more nuanced way,” said Eliasson.

“Moreover, understanding of cultures fits in with the strategic plan at ESU of having a culturally aware global citizen. The emphasis on teamwork and public speaking is also good,” added Eliasson.

Dr. John Occhipinti, professor of political science and director of European Studies at Canisius College, echoed Eliasson’s comments. According to Occhipinti, students learn three things from participating in EuroSim: negotiation, public speaking, and teamwork.

In addition, Occhipinti said that students learn to look at and appreciate different cultures from different perspectives.

Needless to say, it is also an opportunity for students to network and make new friends from across the pond.

In April 2013, ESU hosted EuroSim during President Marcia Welsh’s inauguration week. Skidmore’s student logistical director, James Stanitz, said, “The EuroSim at ESU was amazing. That’s where we learned that we would be hosting in 2015.”

He continued, “We enjoyed it so much at ESU. I had my first Wawa experience at ESU, and it was a life-changing experience.”

Stanitz added, “Hosting the event at Skidmore College was also a way for us to say thank you for all the great EuroSims that we participated in.”

Skidmore’s Dr. Kate Graney, professor, organizer, and host of this year’s EuroSim, said, “Hosting EuroSim at Skidmore has been great. We’re so happy everyone is here. It’s a large undertaking, but our college and academic affairs have been very supportive in terms of giving us the logistical support. They also made a substantial financial contribution.”

Graney continued, “It’s also an opportunity to show off our campus and our town. If it was warmer, we could have gone to the horse racing track.”

The theme for this year’s EuroSim was cyber security. Professor Graney explained that the topic was chosen because the organizers wanted something that students would find compelling.

“Cyber security has real world impacts at a high level, and it can really affect government policy. It also affects people personally. It is less about personal privacy issues, and more about the external aspects and how they can wreak havoc on large-scale systems,” said Graney.

University of Saarland’s Oskar Gstrein and Aston University’s Helena Farrand-Carrapico wrote this year’s program. They said, “We suggested the topic of cyber security. We generally tried to keep the elements of the program that have been tested and have worked well and have added some surprises and new things like the incidence report and the Sakharov Prize. It’s kind of an evolving situation, but one of the most interesting things when planning is the moment when everything starts to come alive.”

Professors Gstrein and Farrand-Carrapico added, “In the end, it’s always an experiment. We love it when students really engage properly with their roles and the issues. But not everything goes smoothly, and that’s part of the learning experience.”

ESU junior political science major Chantal Fulgencio participated in EuroSim 2015. She said, “I loved it. It was a great experience to meet different students from around the world who have similar interests to us. I learned about European parliamentary procedure and policy. I encourage any student who is interested to do it.”

Yasmin Troch is a graduate student at the University of Antwerp. She played the role of Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, at the conference. Troch said that she participated in EuroSim because she “wanted to gain more experience in negotiation and delegating.”

“It’s more than just studying and reading books. To do this all in practice is very important,” said Troch.

Troch added, “Learning to delegate is very important because it’s not easy to reach consensus among 28 European member states. I wanted to get a better understanding of the European Council and to see how it works in practice.”

“The issue for the EU is that we don’t have the kind of budget to deal with cyber security that the U.S. does,” said Troch. “It’s a problem to streamline everything at the EU level. EU member states have problems at the national level, and they also have problems at the EU level. Then who pays?”

Despite these issues and obstacles, the member states at this year’s EuroSim were able to reach an agreement and pass a new EU directive on cyber security. This was a cause for celebration because it was the first agreement that EuroSim has produced in the past few years.

EuroSim 2016 will be held at the University of Antwerp in Belgium in January 2016. The topic will be immigration and political asylum.

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