When I’m not strolling around the many parks in the city of Brussels, I’m spending my summer in the Public Affairs (PA) section of the Mission to the European Union (USEU). The PA office has two facets, one that works with press and social media, and the other which is cultural affairs, exchanges and programming. PA hones Mission-specific messaging and relays our aim for a stable and cooperative transatlantic relationship to our partners in the European Union.
USEU is policy-oriented and navigates diplomatic relationships within a complex institutional architecture that can boggle the mind. All of the major governing institutions in the EU are located in Brussels, creating a multi-level governance structure representing 28 member states that set policy standards and regulations for over 500 million people. One of the largest press corps in the world is located here, along with a large community of NGO’s and think tanks. In Brussels, if you are not making or influencing policy, you are probably advocating for or writing about the policies. If you are not doing any of this, then I hope you’re enjoying the Belgian waffles and chocolate during your sojourn here.
The PA section engages with every section of the Mission, and thus I have the opportunity to work with the many federal agencies present here. I have attended briefings with representatives from the FDA, Department of Commerce, Agriculture, Homeland Security, and Treasury. Just yesterday morning I helped with a press conference with the U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, where he discussed consumer choice and how free trade agreements can stimulate innovation.
My first working day, May 26, was the Friday before the European Parliament (EP) elections and Ukraine’s national elections, and the week before President Obama’s visit to Brussels for the G7 Summit. What an opportunity to jump right in wherever my colleagues needed me and at a time when significant events were taking center stage!
Ukraine had peaceful elections, the EP elections moderately surprised the world as “eurosceptics” from fringe parties won seats, and the White House planned a post-G7 summit press conference with UK Prime Minister David Cameron. In my first week and a half I worked on targeted social media communications, assisted the White House advance team and the PA office with President Barack Obama’s press conference, liaised with journalists and attended multiple briefings with Mission colleagues. My concerns about a summer of making coffee or copies disappeared completely at the end of my second week when I received my G7 Summit press badge.