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Herman and Cathy, Barry and Hil June 26, 2010

Posted by gtpspdirector in Travel Log.
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The Group at NATO

Wow. The past three weeks have been something of a whirlwind, having traveled to at least seven cities, being exposed to three languages, and watching the USA pull out a literal last minute victory over Algeria (for which I will be billing USA Soccer for the 5 years of my life I lost).

I’ve been in Paris for a week, but I’m going to focus on my site visits in Brussels to all of the EU institutions.

In short, the EU is made up of four main institutions. They are the Commission, the Council, the Parliament, and the European Court of Justice roughly analogous to our Executive Branch, Senate, House of Representatives, and Judiciary. We visited the first three along with several think tanks and other organizations including NATO and SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe).

Much of the conversation at these places was driven by the topic of the four people named in this post. Herman von Rumpuy is the new president of the European Council, Lady Catherine Ashton is the new High Representative for Common and Security Policy, and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are well known to us all.

The former two were just named to their positions during the shakeup of the EU due to the Treaty of Lisbon. Their job is to present a unified EU voice to the world. Whether they can or the member states want them to is another story. But that’s the subject of a different blog post.

The latter two, of course, represent the United States to the world. Unsurprisingly, EU-US relations are a big topic.

Anyway, much of our visits have centered around the way institutions, and more importantly, the egos within those institutions interact. And this brings me to the point of my post:

Countries, IGOs, NGOs, and militaries are run by human beings. Those people are not perfect, they all have egos, and they are prone to mistakes. That realization is not as obvious as it may seem.

So much of how nations interact are based on these individuals. No matter what the policy, no matter what the politics, human beings with human faults are in the driver’s seat.

At each site visit I’ve been to, there has been a different briefer, from a different country or group, and each of them has been, well, different. They are all products of a history and culture that is not mine, and it shows. They are varying levels of cynical, but all are passionate. Each wanted to make the world a little bit better, disagreeing only (!) in what that world should look like.

It’s easy to forget that, especially now with electronic communication reducing much of what we say to each other to plain text, or faceless voices.

So here’s today’s lesson, kids: no matter what we do, no matter whom we speak with, there is a human face on the other side. That face will misunderstand or be misunderstood. It will take offense and do things that make no sense whatsoever. But he or she (for it is not simply a face, but indeed a he or she) has a family, a people, and a culture he or she is trying to protect. That alone should bring us more together if not in action, then at least understanding, than any difference can drive us apart.

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