EU Centre for Global Affairs

Friday 29 September 2017

The day was centred at the European External Action Service. A variety of officials informed the student group about a range of political and economic issues relating to both the European Union (EU) and indeed the entire world.

EEAS Climate Change advisor Pascal Delislie was the first speaker, who explained the challenges climate change not only poses to the planet but also security, through its consequences on mass migration, war, health, etc. He explained that whilst energy is the competency of individual Member States, there are substantial EU subsidies and supports for the renewable energy sector, such as those in the European Commission’s €3.98 billion European Energy Programme for Recovery (EEPR). There also exists an EU-wide Emissions Trading System, which Mr Delislie stated he believed is becoming the preferred method for targeting carbon emissions worldwide, despite Australia’s current ‘Direct Action’ auction system. This is because it provides a cap on carbon emissions and allows the price of carbon to adjust, making it simpler to reduce emissions by a certain level (in Europe, the target is 40% by 2030 from 1990 levels).

A problem facing the EU has been its defence and security, and EEAS Press Officer Esther Osorio described some of the EU’s recent efforts in this field. Bringing together the defence of twenty-eight Member States is clearly a difficult task, and many of these countries have failed to reach the 2% funding figure stipulated by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Highlighting this problem is the departure of the UK, which has the fifth largest defence budget worldwide. Ms Osorio provided the student group with information regarding the plans the EU has to further its defence capabilities, including plans to provide Member States with a framework which would enable them to invest in defence projects together that they could simply not afford by themselves.

EEAS Strategic Communications Officer Milosz Labed explained the role of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission Federica Mogherini, who represents the EU for a variety of international matters, such as the United Nations (UN), and in discussions with Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Hon Julie Bishop, MP. EEAS Press Officer Adam Kaznowski also described his role to the group. Something he discussed was the active role the EU has in sending peace-keeping forces overseas to places such as Myanmar and parts of Africa. Many of the members of the study tour assumed such tasks were largely undertaken by the UN.

The subsequent visit to the daily European Commission press briefing (the only EU institution to engage in such a practice) was exciting. The students had their first experience of simultaneous translation of French to English through headphones which they found quite stunning; the group was impressed by the professionalism of the proceedings.

Both Mr Irek Momot, EEAS Policy Officer for Australia and New Zealand, and Mr Radek Wegrzyn, European Commission DG Trade Policy Coordinator for Australia and New Zealand, detailed recent development in Australia’s ties to the EU. In the context of the recent Framework Agreement signed August 7th 2017 and the impending Free Trade Agreement negotiations, these relations are as important as ever. Mr Wegrzyn stated that President Juncker’s plans to allow more decisions to be made in the European Parliament through qualified majority, rather than unanimity, could speed up the process of future EU trade deals. This could make the bold deadline anticipated for the EU-Australia FTA, which is essentially before the date of Brexit – 19th March 2019 – more achievable. He also commented that in his view Australia’s recent anti-dumping measures against imports of canned Italian tomatoes would have not have a significant impact on the FTA negotiations.

At the completion of the day, the group visited Brussels’ Grand Place for the last time and enjoyed a beautiful meal, contemplating and discussing the wealth of information and insight from the visit.

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PHOTO: Last Day of the Study Tour. From left to right: Benjamin Pascoe-Purvis, Kari Seeley, Robert Monterosso, Griff Blewett, Leighton McDonald-Stuart, Maddy Terrell, Sofia Valero, Maddison Briggs

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Wednesday 27 September 2017

The EU Centre for Global Affairs Study Tour visit to the Australian Embassy in Paris was the focus of the morning’s activities on 27 September 2017. Embassies in the 21st century can, at face value, struggle for relevance. If two nations wish to talk, their leaders can quite easily pick up the phone or start a video call. The age where ambassadors and embassies acted as an intermediary are largely over. The advent of modern communications technology has changed the duties that our diplomats undertake. The Australian Embassy in Paris is no different.

This does not mean, however, that these institutions are redundant. In fact, the Study Tour time at the Embassy speaking with Rowan Ainsworth, Policy Counsellor, and Bridget Crane, Advisor to Australia’s Delegation to the OECD, revealed the complex duties of modern diplomatic staff.

Most Australians would be aware of the recent French election at which President Macron was elected. It’s easy to be distracted by the rhetoric and commentary in the wake of these elections, but this was simply not an option for the staff at Australia’s embassy in Paris. Rowan Ainsworth walked the student group through the intricacies of maintaining strong government-to-government links in the wake of administrative transition, such as in the aftermath of elections. She talked in depth about the steps that the Embassy took to meet with new Macron Administration officials such that Australia’s deep trade and security ties would not be interrupted. Students with a background in legal and political studies found this conversation to be fascinating, given that it’s rare to hear about these inter-governmental efforts from the very source.

Bridget Crane also spoke to the student group concerning her role as part of Australia’s representation to the OECD. Australia is an active participant at the OECD, and given Australia’s record period of uninterrupted growth, it is particularly important that Australia utilise the policy advice that such organisations offer in order to see this continue. The student group has already written about the role of the OECD in a previous blog, where Ms Julia Nielson described the importance of the OECD ‘holding a mirror up’ in order to help find better policy solutions for member states.

Beyond these formal diplomatic roles, it was particularly interesting to see the ‘soft power’ diplomacy that the Embassy undertakes in order to promote Australia’s interests in a major EU member state capital. The ground floor of the Embassy plays host to a large and open gallery space where leading Australian artists are exhibited on a rotational basis. Even the physical location of the Embassy offers Australia a unique opportunity to promote itself. Located just one street back from the Eiffel Tower, the side of the Embassy building is adorned with a massive Australian poster of a koala.

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After some essential sightseeing in the last few free hours in Paris, the student group was fortunate to return to the Australian Embassy in the late afternoon for a meeting with Ms Linda Marchesan, Assistant Trade Commissioner for the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, also known as Austrade, in Paris. Ms Marchesan engaged the group with her presentation of what Austrade is and what the organisation does for Australian businesses and citizens, with a specific focus on the bilateral France/Australia relationship.

Ms Marchesan joined Austrade thirteen years ago and every few years she moves into a different industry. After previously working in Adelaide with a speciality in the wine sector, she is now focused on attracting productive foreign direct investment in technology, with a focus on artificial intelligence and frontier hardware, such as drones.

Austrade, in Ms Marchesan’s words, does ‘behind the scenes crunching of data’ to advance Australia’s international trade (including education services) performance, to input to trade policy advice and of course to contribute to Australia’s economic prosperity. Most of Austrade’s services are provided free of charge and they also offer ‘Export Market Development Grants’, with the granting of over AUD$184 million in the 2015-16 financial year. They are a sister agency to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), but more focused specifically on Australian businesses. When asked why trade, investment and education promotion matter, she answered quite simply ‘It is IMPORTANT!’. The education sector was a big topic of conversation with tertiary education being Australia’s third largest export, generating AUD$20 billion a year. It was interesting to learn that Australia’s education exports were also the third largest in the world.

What was different about this talk was that Ms Marchesan focused on Australia’s connection with France specifically, rather than the entire EU. This gave the student group perspective on the Australia-France bilateral relationship, with France being Australia’s seventeenth largest foreign direct investor in 2017. There are currently 120 Australian companies in France, such as Amcor, and Ms Marchesan ensured the group that the Austrade office in Paris is strongly focused on keeping this growing, with their target companies being those that are wishing to expand. She noted that in France, South Australia was the most active all of the Australian states, with many companies thinking ‘SA’ rather than ‘Australia’. This led to a discussion of the future submarines contract.

Ms Marchesan observed there have been three major waves of French investment into Australia and we are currently entering into a fourth wave.

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From left to right: Griff Blewett, Robert Monterosso, Ms Linda Marchesan, Leighton McDonald-Stuart, Sofia Valero, Maddison Briggs, Maddy Terrell, Benjamin Pascoe-Purvis, Kari Seeley, Alia Papageorgiou, Professor Richard Pomfret

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Tuesday 26 September 2017

By Maddison Briggs

Tuesday saw the student group venture to the campus of SciencesPo, or Paris Institute of Political Studies, a world-class research institution with a strong focus on academic excellence. It is home to 13,000 high achieving students from 150 nationalities. The institution centres upon the five social sciences of economics, law, history, sociology and political science.

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It was a rare privilege to take part in a seminar on European Union Law. The class was taken by Dr Imola Streho, Vice Dean of SciencesPo, Law School Associate Professor, and Associate Researcher for the Centre of European Studies. Dr Streho explained that these European Union Law classes commence with a discussion of current European news, as a means of providing real life context for some of the EU laws studied in class. The discussion topic led by a group of three students was the current Catalan Referendum, where questions such as ‘Would the European Union welcome an independent Catalan?’ and ‘Would Spain support Catalonian admission to the European Union?’ arose.

With this first discussion breaking the ice, the group moved into the crux of the seminar, diving into analysis of the legal powers and competencies of the European Union. Treaties were highlighted as a key basis for the legality of European Union powers. Dr Streho distinguished various competencies, including exclusive competency (member states give up sovereignty to the European Union for the creation of legal norms), shared competency (member states give up some sovereignty to the European Union for the creation of legal norms) and supporting competency (no legal norms are created). We learned that these fields are fluid, and that the European Union has only conferred competencies per articles 4 and 5 of the Treaty on European Union.

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From left to right: Robert Monterosso, Benjamin Pascoe-Purvis, Maddy Terrell, Griff Blewett, Kari Seeley, Maddison Briggs, Leighton McDonald-Stuart, Sofia Valero, Professor Richard Pomfret

Throughout the seminar, we interacted with the other students, and were given the opportunity to clarify points of discussion, and ask any further questions. Following the seminar, several of the group spoke with an international student from the United States’ Ivy League Northwestern University. After firing some quick questions about studying abroad at such a prestigious institution, and in such a beautiful city, it was safe to say we were all inspired.

After a morning at Sciences Po, the group was lucky to have some spare time to explore some more of Paris. Professor Richard Pomfret accompanied the student group through the streets of Paris. As a part time Parisian, Professor Pomfret was able to impart much historical knowledge (including the best places to wine and dine). A highlight for the group was the Jardin du Luxembourg, a beautiful park situated among the busy streets of Paris. It was a beautiful autumn afternoon, and it was a pleasure to walk through the gardens.

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We also passed the house of Antoine Augustin Cournot, an influential philosopher who contributed to the development of economic theory, including the Cournot Competition theory. It’s safe to say that the ears of the economists in the student group suddenly pricked up when we passed the house where Cournot lived.

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The group then boarded a sightseeing cruise boat that took the group along the Seine River, with a tour guide pointing out all the important monuments, buildings, and everything in between. It became apparent just how far the group had walked, as many of the significant icons were familiar to us already. It was fantastic to see Paris from a different perspective, and the weather was perfect for being on the water.

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After a truly historical afternoon tour complete with sightseeing, the student group finished the day with a well deserved burger, a glass of rose for some, and a beer for others.

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It was standing room only at the EU Centre for Global Affairs’ 2017 Concert held on Wednesday 13th September in Adelaide.  Renowned South Australian pianist and author,  Dr Anna Goldsworthy stunned the audience with remarkable performances of varied European compositions from Bach, Schubert, Liszt and Ravel.   Anna Goldsworthy captivated the audience, not only with her […]

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Monday 25 September 2017 By Benjamin Pascoe-Purvis On the seventh day of the EU Centre for Global Affairs’ study trip to Europe, the group moved from the centrally located youth hostel Mije Maubuisson, to the more suburban Hotel Phenicio. The location offers yet another perspective of Paris, with narrow lanes winding through multi-story apartment blocks […]

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The Future of the EU Summit is a multidisciplinary forum, which engages the pressing issue of the prospects for multilateral cosmopolitanism, global justice and alternative political futures in the EU, and with specific reference to the future of EU-Australia relations. The Summit takes place against the political backdrop of the arrival of a new age of isolationism […]

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Sunday 24 September 2017 By Maddison Briggs The first full day off in Paris sees two groups emerge: the first is awake and ready with coffee in hand at 9am, the other (sleepier) group heads out not too long after. The first group exits the hostel and stumbles out into a Sunday morning market, complete […]

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Saturday 23 September 2017 By Sofia Valero After a slow start on a Saturday morning in Brussels, a few coffees, and yet another delicious breakfast, our bags were packed and ready to go. We had the morning free to venture into the centre of town for some shopping. After a visit (or two) to Zara, a […]

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Friday 22 September 2017 By Leighton McDonald-Stuart Friday was a day firmly focused on the political will behind the European Union, both from an internal and external perspective. Our first visit for the day was to the Parliamentarium, a large educational facility that facilitates self-guided participation intended to help explain the political and legislative process […]

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By Kari Seeley On 13 September 2017, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, delivered his annual State of the Union address at the European Parliament. It was a speech given on the other side of the world, about countries as far away as you can get from Australia, and a casual observer may conclude […]

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