From what we were told, Paris was supposed to be relatively warm with highs in the upper 80s (in Fahrenheit, of course) but for some reason the weather has been unseasonably cold. For instance, this morning as we were leaving for our morning appointment, the temperature was 56 degrees and the high today is only 64 degrees. I think we've literally had to dress for every season since we've been in Europe.
This morning we met with the EU Institute for Security Studies, which mainly conducts different types of research concerning different issue areas. Also known as the "think tank," this institution was established in 2001 to assist in the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Common Security and Defense Policy. The initial presenter gave us a broad overview, but then we had two researchers speak to us about their research areas. The first one dealt with the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and she pretty much pointed out multiple factors that the EU took into consideration when they became involved in the conflict. What was a little confusing to us though was the fact that the EU hasn't really taken a side in the matter. They provide financial aid and trade with both, but they haven't declared their loyalty to either side. The researcher on the topic said that it's because the EU supports a two state solution in which both Israel and Palestine could exist, but I guess for us Americans it's a bit difficult to understand. We pointed out how providing aid to both sides might be confusing for the two sides as to what the EU's stance is on the issue, but the researcher didn't seem concerned at all. I think it's because we are so used to knowing where people stand and letting others know where they stand with us. We're accustomed to knowing who our friends and enemies are, but it seems as though the EU refuses to declare who is a friend and who is an enemy in this situation. For obvious reasons though, if they declare to be aligned with one side, they are obviously in opposition of the other side, and since the EU does not want to be involved militarily, they are mostly remaining diplomatic on the matter.
The next researcher was from Canada, and he primarily addressed the differences between the EU and the United States as far as their roles as world powers. While the EU is still establishing itself as a world power, the US has military bases all over the world. The Canadian have a metaphor for what it is like to be a neighboring country to the US, and I must say that he seemed quite pessimistic. He referred to being a neighbor to the US as being next to a sleeping gorilla; while it may be asleep and seemingly non-threatening, you still hear and feel every grumble, snore, and twitch. He made it seem as though we were always ready to fight, but I said as long as you don't poke the gorilla with a needle or a spear, then you shouldn't be worried. If you provoke us by attacking our nation or harming our citizens, then yes, maybe you should be a little worried about the repercussions of your actions. He mainly asserted that hard power is typically expected of the United States and soft power is the general nature of the EU. I don't completely disagree with that assertion, but he was making some generalizations that were ill-conceived. Frankly, if the US did things like the EU after having acted as we have in the past, the world would think we've become weak in some way. It wasn't really until this presentation and talking with my Brazilian friends that I realized how much influence the US has had on the world stage. No other country has as many military bases worldwide, no other country involves itself so much in other countries' businesses, and no other country has had such influence on other countries' cultures like we have...at least not since the British Empire. So it was a bit overwhelming to hear how other countries view the US.
After this meeting with the EU Institute for Security Studies, we ate lunch and went to our next appointment, which was with the Notre Europe. This is another "think tank" that promotes the EU cause and European unity. Our presenter at this institution was slightly more difficult to understand because of her broken English, but it was interesting... It seems more like an interest group promoting the EU than an institution, but I did get some valuable information that I can use towards my paper that I have to write once I get back to the States. Oh yeah, and that's what most people in Europe call us. They say either the States or the U.S. "The States" used to sound strange, but now I've heard it's I much that I've started saying it myself.
Tonight we have our final dinner in Europe, and unfortunately we had to say early goodbyes to our Brazilian friends. They won't be joining us for dinner tonight, and we leave so early tomorrow morning that we had to say our last goodbyes this afternoon. Or at least goodbye for now. But maybe I'll get to visit them in Brazil someday.
Tomorrow morning we leave the hotel at 5am and then I should be back in Georgia sometime that evening. I can't believe how quickly these two weeks have been, and I am so not looking forward to the Georgia heat, but I am looking forward to seeing all of my family and friends. :-)
So until tomorrow when I'm traveling all over creation to make my way back home,