Students gain insight into multination cooperation and compromise at the Model European Union conference
Several University of Idaho students got a look at how the European Union operates during a recent Model European Union (MEU) conference in Seattle.
Irina Kappler-Crookston, chair of the Modern Languages and Cultures department, and MLC faculty member Gerd Steckel sent students to the conference. The pair said it is crucial that all U.S. citizens learn about the European Union and its economic importance.
“As a single economy, the European Union is the largest trading partner of the United States,” Kappler-Crookston said.
MEU simulates a European Council Summit, where students play the roles of EU member state delegations, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Parliament, under the direction of the rotating Council Presidency, a position in the EU held presently by Latvia.
The four students attending the conference all agreed that finding a happy solution among the EU members for any issue is almost impossible.
Patrick Estberg, a senior from Boise, said he was pleased with the conference.
“I expected to learn about how decisions within the European Union are made . . . not just in the textbook sense, but in a practical sense,” said the finance and Spanish major. Estberg discovered how difficult governing can be.
“I learned how the large and complicated EU government makes decisions that affect millions of people who are separated from their decision makers,” he said. “I also learned how irrationally some of these decisions are made by people who are not the most qualified to make them.”
Senior Jessica Dexter, an International Studies major from Sandpoint, Idaho, said the committee sessions were run very professionally and were very realistic.
“The country representatives from all of the universities did a very good job playing the parts of Head of State and Foreign Minister,” she said.
She also could see how challenging the EU sessions could be.
“It was very frustrating because it could be difficult to get anything passed when you have 28 countries with very different opinions,” she said. “The players face those same issues in the real EU meetings, so it gave me a lot of great insight.”
Emma Satterfield, a senior from Aberdeen, Idaho, too, gained a more in-depth perspective of the EU legislative process and an understanding of how Member States interact, cooperate and compromise.
“The conference opened my eyes to the difficulties an international organization faces as it attempts to get multiple members to compromise in making important decisions,” the major in International Studies said.
Jessica Brady, a junior from Boise, also was curious to see how the procedure goes and how decision-makers from so many different backgrounds and cultures come together and agree (or disagree) on such large issues.
“I left the conference with a whole new outlook on how difficult coming to agreements on such a large scale can be,” the Economics and Spanish major said.
This year Satterfield and Dexter applied to and were invited to join an annual EU conference at Claremont College in California. The conference was an academic conference dedicated to undergraduate research on topics in the European Union.
“We presented and discussed our research topics in a panel format,” Satterfield said. “In my panel there were about 7-10 students present and a moderator. After I gave a 20-minute presentation, we opened up the floor for questions on my topic, which led to a great discussion.”
Dexter said by having the opportunity to attend multiple sessions and watch many other students’ presentations, she learned much more about the EU.
“I gained valuable insight on topics ranging from the way governments within the EU choose what historic figures to put on their currency, to the illegal Bulgarian shuttle trade, and my favorite: the myth of a feminists’ paradise, which was about sexual assault issues in Nordic countries,” she said.
This year’s competition featured two concurrent summit negotiation sessions, one focusing on youth unemployment, discussed by heads of government, and the other addressing the common foreign and security policy within the EU, led by the Ministers of the Interior. More than a simulation, MEU also prepares students with writing skills, public speaking and negotiation strategies.
Article by Sue Hinz for the University of Idaho