Brussels, BELGIUM (WIAT) — (Continued from Part One) After a week-long stay in Berlin, it was time for the group to move on. First stop: Bonn, Germany. This is a beautiful town, and looks like something you would see in a storybook. We stayed in town Sunday through Wednesday morning, while we conducted most business in nearby Cologne. Monday, however, was all Bonn. Our first order or business was visiting Day One of the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum at the World Conference Center. This forum brings together media practitioners, journalists, students, and more for three days, where they attend workshops and seminars all intended to help them hone their craft, or learn more about a topic related to journalism and media. We attended the welcome session, where we heard speeches from DW Director General Erik Betterman, and a host of others. Apparently, we made the trip during DW’s 60th anniversary, so it was very special forum this year.
Later in the day, we returned to the Center to hear an address titled “A Roadmap for a Just World – Reanimating Democracy” by philosopher, linguist, historian, etc. Noam Chomsky. And he really did give his roadmap. He covered decades of US history on its path to a democratic government.
After the speech, it was time for all us to party! We boarded the KolnDusseldorfer to sail the Rhine while enjoying dinner and drinks (and some castle-spotting).
Tuesday, we boarded a quick train over to Cologne to visit a private TV station, RTL. Part one of “Road to RIAS” goes into a simple explanation of the difference between public and private stations in Germany. RTL specifically draws in wider audience numbers in terms of younger generations, who will turn to TV mostly in terms of entertainment purposes, not so much for information. However, private stations like RTL do have news content. We spent half of the meeting speaking with moderator Peter Koeppel about the reach of RTL and how it mainly drives to compete with other private stations, not so much public ones. (By the way, we toured their station – wow, is all I can say)
Wednesday was check-out day for our hotel in Bonn, with the next stop in Brussels, Belgium. We spent much of the day traveling from train to train because the first air-conditioned one “was defective” as we were told. So we didn’t make it to our hotel until after 6pm.
After waking up early Thursday morning, we ate a quick breakfast, and headed to the European Commission for a day full of meetings to learn how the European Union works. Session one was learning about the EC as a whole from Mr. Jo Vandercappellen. He explained the history of the Commission, how member states must be able to work together as a whole to reach peaceful and workable solutions to problems, and even how member states must be willing to give up some of their sovereignty to join. Session two brought us Ms. Maja Kocijanic. She is the spokesperson for High Representative/Vice President Catherine Ashton. She told us about the EU’s relationship with the Western Balkans (the area including Bosnia, Romania, Croatia, etc.). Croatia is set to become the 28th member of the EU next month. That gave us a good opportunity to learn exactly how interested countries can join. The process is not easy; for one, countries must be located in Europe, must have a “European Perspective”, and even fill out an application that can consist of thousands of pages. It takes seven years of negotiations and other work to join. Turkey, for example, has been in this process for well over a decade. So even after the seven-year period, that decision could still be held back for a number of reasons. After lunch at “l’Atelier Europeen” with Mr. Stefan Forester (where we discussed the European External Action Service and its foreign policy, specifically in relation to Fiji), the final meeting was with Ms. Iona Diaconescu. She works with the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs. She told us how the EC is currently responding to the financial debt crisis in Europe, particularly in Greece, where it is near financial ruin. This is where the group effort of the EC comes in. They may realize that it may not be in the best interest for the Union as a whole to allow Greece to crash; so a monetary solution may be in order. They just have to work out how and when it will happen.
Our final day of meetings was Friday, where we visited NATO. We learned about the history of the organization, and the involvement of the US and how it and other countries contribute, time, resources and military expertise. Representatives explained how countries can join, and how some countries that aren’t geographically located on or near the Atlantic can still participate in certain ways. Much of the meeting was off the record, so we could ask hard questions, and get the answers we otherwise probably wouldn’t get.
We ended the day with a “goodbye” dinner in the beautiful Grand Place, because some of us had to fly home the next day. The others went back to Berlin for the RIAS Awards Dinner.
This trip has (and most likely be) the highlight of my year. I have learned so much in terms of media practice, business, government, even ways of living. Journalism plays a part in it, because we are all working to keep people informed of what’s happening in their world, whether it be something in their neighborhood, or their country or continent. I would recommend this program to any and all journalists who want to broaden their horizons and see -and become part of- a totally different environment.
European Commission: www.ec.europa.eu
Deutsche Welle: www.dw.de
German Bundestag: www.bundestag.de
German Federal Chancellery: www.bundesregierung.de
US Embassy: www.germany.usembassy.gov