My trip to Brussels last May remains as a special one for me. My initial itinerary was only to participate in the Brussels 20 KM run race, but the whole trip went beyond my expectation – the day before the race, it was the EU Open Day in Brussels!
EU Open Day is part of the Europe Day annual celebration. To celebrate Europe Day, the EU institutions open their doors to the public in May in Brussels and Strasbourg. During this occasion, thousands of people take part in visits and events to mark the day and raise awareness about the EU. As an academic focusing on European affairs, the EU has been my focus of interests so this kind of experience was definitely something I relish very much. I have been to Europe Day celebration in Jakarta for the past couple of years. My favorites are the EU5K and Europe on Screen, but the “original” Europe Day celebration in Brussels surely gets me very excited.
My first stop was the European Parliament. The European Parliament is the EU’s legislative body. The members are directly elected by EU eligible citizens every 5 years. Members represent their respective parties, thus during my stop here I was able to know more about the incumbent parties at the European Parliament. Not only learning about the “serious” stuffs, at the Parliament I also saw families with children playing interactive EU-themed games at the kids’ corner. In short, the tour at the Parliament reflects its true dimension; the European Parliament carries its mandates from, to and for the EU citizens.
Next stop was the European Council. The European Council is an EU institution which does not have legislative authority. What does the European Council do? It sets the EU’s policy agenda, based on priority issues discussed during their meetings. In large, the European Council defines the EU’s political direction. Members of the European Council are the heads of state or government of EU Member States, the European Council President and the President of the European Commission. I am sure that you have heard of the Council’s summits in the news.
The most exciting part of my tour was the European Commission. I think this is the most popular tour of all institutions! Everywhere I looked, I saw young people being very enthusiastic visiting booths and stands at the European Commission. The European Commission is the executive body of the EU and is responsible to promote the EU’s general interests. To execute the mandate, the Commission is divided into a number of Directorate Generals. During the EU Open Day, each Directorate General provides extensive information, brochures and games to give people a better understanding of what the European Commission does.
My last stop was at the European External Action Service. Generally, the office serves as the “headquarter” for the EU Delegation offices and missions around the world, so among the few, I got to learn more about the EU NAVFOR mission as well as EU’s partnership priorities in regions across the globe. When I was about to proceed for exit and ended the whole tour, I bumped into one very significant person: Mrs. Federica Mogherini, the High Representative/Vice President of the European Commission!
For you who are not familiar with Mrs. Mogherini, she is the second-in-command at the European Commission and represents the EU at numerous history-changing summits or agreements, such as the Iran Deal. She has been cited as one of the most powerful women in the world by Forbes magazine. As an academic, my weekly routines include following the latest happenings across Europe and I personally think her Europe Day message this year is very moving, firm yet modest. Mrs. Mogherini was clad in casual outfit and she was visiting the booths just like me and the other visitors. I’ve got to admit, I was very star-struck!
This trip was clearly a very remarkable one for me. My souvenirs from this trip? A priceless experience, a solid Brussels 20 KM medal and a selfie with one of the most powerful women in the world!