I had the opportunity to attend the Fulbright Seminar on the EU from February 29th to March 8th in Luxembourg and Belgium. This nine day conference, hosted by the Fulbright Belgium/Luxembourg commission, was an intensive study of the current issues and challenges facing the European Union and associated institutions from legislative, judicial, governmental, financial, diplomatic, and military perspectives. Sixteen of the 27 EU Member States were represented by at least one Fulbright researcher.
We were “on the go” from the moment we arrived in Luxembourg City with a reception at the US Ambassador to Luxembourg’s residence with European Fulbright alumni, a judicial hearing at the European Court of Justice, and an EU budget briefing at the European Court of Auditors. After traveling to Brussels the following day, we participated in a full-day conference with experts in the European Commission and attended briefings at the European Council of Ministers and European Parliament. We had the opportunity to attend a presentation on European financial structures at the College of Europe in Bruges. We finished our seminar with an American perspective from a representative of the United States Mission to the EU, a full-day briefing of multi-national collaboration at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and a seminar at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE).
The EU Seminar was wide-reaching and comprehensive, covering all areas of the EU infrastructure. Perhaps one of the most significant statements of the Seminar was from our European Commission economic representative – a reference to the EU as a “great experiment.” This sentiment resonated in each of the briefings, as the EU is an innovative and altogether new type of multinational organization. No precedent has been established for many of the “What if…” questions posed by the Fulbright attendees, which makes this an exciting time to be studying in the EU.
In each of the briefings that we attended, I found numerous themes that specifically related to my Fulbright research project on organ donation and transplantation policies. One common thread throughout the seminar was the balance between the interests of the EU as a whole and the individual interests of each Member State. For organ and tissue transplantation, the EU’s Directorate General for Health and Consumers provides governmental oversight on the EU-wide level, while actual transplant practices are essentially handled at the national level. Another thread was the impact of the global financial crisis and how the existence of the EU as a multinational conglomerate has stabilized each of its Member States’ economic securities. Specifically related to my studies, funding and budgeting for organ procurement and transplantation are principally federally funded programs; consequently, measures that affect healthcare budgeting will have significant impact on the practices of the European national transplantation systems.
The seminar finished with the Fulbright-Schuman mid-year conference at the Royal Library of Belgium with research presentations and a meeting with the Fulbright-Schuman board. The Fulbright-Schuman Fellowship, granted to a limited number of university professors and graduate students, focuses on research related to issues affecting all 27 Member States. My fellow Fulbright-Schuman Fellows are distributed across the EU in several key cities and institutions: Brussels, Dublin, Leiden, London, Paris, Rome, and myself in Barcelona. The projects that the Fulbright-Schuman Fellows are researching have direct applications to critical EU policy issues including immigration, asylum policies, financial market oversight, international trade, and European voting systems.
The Seminar on the EU was a unique and truly unforgettable experience, one of the highlights of my Fulbright Fellowship. I am grateful to the Fulbright-Schuman Board, Fulbright Belgium/Luxembourg, Maggie Nicholson, Erica Lutes, and Fulbright Spain for the opportunity to attend this extraordinary conference.