From 27 to 30 April 2021, our Natolin students took part in the online programmes of the second semester study trips, focusing on the following main themes:
Transforming Societies: Managing digital and climate transitions in Europe and beyond;
Ten Years after the Arab Uprisings: Geopolitics, Power and Order in the Middle East and North Africa;
(Re-)Telling Western Balkans: Dealing with the Past and the Influence of Global Actors in the Region;
European Security in Cha(lle)nging Times: The Wider Baltics in the Post-Crimea, Post-Brexit and Post-COVID-19 Security Constellations.
The 2021 online study trips were a success, featuring more than 80 hours of digital content, comprising 7 online preparatory lectures and more than 60 online special lectures, panels, and other digital encounters with the participation of around 150 speakers connected from several countries, such as France, Belgium and Poland; Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland; Tunisia, Lebanon and Turkey; as well as Austria, Albania, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina... and even Australia!
Transforming Societies: Managing digital and climate transitions in Europe and beyond
Under this theme, Natolin students had a chance to reflect on the EU's internal and external green and digital transitions in a variety of meetings with representatives of the EU institutions, policy-makers, think tanks, journalists, industry professionals and academics.
The academic programme began with a preparatory lecture by Prof. Jos DELBEKE entitled "Towards a Climate-Neutral Europe" which mainly revolved around the global energy policy and the European Green Deal. The first day of the online study trip featured an inspiring talk by Ms Aleksandra TOMCZAK, Member of the Cabinet of the European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans TIMMERMANS, on the European Green Deal. Later that day, the students focused on the topic of decarbonized and renewable energy sources, new energy technologies and hydrogen with Mr Eric LECOMTE of DG ENER and discussed the role of the Council in the green transition with Mr Peter JAVORCIK, Director-General of DG TREE, as well as green finance with Mr Sumeet MANCHADA, energy efficiency and climate change expert at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Mr Chandrasekar GOVINDARAJALU, Lead Energy Specialist at the World Bank (WB).
The programme included an online discussion at the European External Action Service (EEAS) on the global dimension of the twin transition with key experts such as Mr Gunnar WIEGAND, Managing Director for Asia and Pacific (EEAS), Mr Luc DEVIGNE, Deputy Managing Director for Russia and the Eastern Partnership (EEAS), and H.E. Ambassador David O’SULLIVAN, Former Ambassador of the European Union to the United States of America.
The Just Energy Transition and Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism represented the main topics of the afternoon meeting with Dr Anna SOBCZAK, Coordinator for Coal Regions in Transition in the Framework of the EU Green Deal at the DG ENERGY, Prof. Christian EGENHOFER, Senior Research Associate at the European University Institute, Dr Irina KUSTOVA, Researcher at the Center for European Policy Studies and Mr Surya SETHI, Former Principal Adviser for Energy to the Government of India. Natolin students also discussed the process of communication of Climate and Energy with Ms Anna GUMBAU, EU Climate Correspondent at Carbon Pulse and Natolin Alumna.
After having deepened their knowledge on the role of the EEAS in the energy transition, Natolin students had the opportunity to learn more on the digital transition from the European Commission's standpoint through a lecture by Dr Werner STENGG, Cabinet Member of Executive Vice-President VESTAGER, on the Commission's strategy for shaping the EU's digital future. In the following hours, the students virtually travelled to Luxembourg to meet with Mr Maciej SZPUNAR, First Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), to discuss EU Law and Technology.
On the last day of the online study trip, the group continued analysing the EU's Digital Strategy and discussed its three main pillars such as online platforms, data and AI as well as the relevant regulations with Prof. Alexandre DE STREEL, Academic Co-Director at the Center on Regulation in Europe (CERRE). Later, the students plunged even deeper into the topic and looked at digital transformation from the inside of the process by familiarizing with digitally transforming industries during a meeting at DIGITALEUROPE with Ms Cecilia BONEFELD-DAHL, Director General, and Mr Julien CHASSERIEAU, Policy Manager for Data and Innovation. The last panel of the day brought the students virtually to the European Parliament to discuss global European goals and the future of Europe in view of the twin transition with Dr Othmar KARAS, Vice-President of the European Parliament.
Ten Years after the Arab Uprisings: Geopolitics, Power and Order in the Middle East and North Africa
Before embarking on this academic journey, Natolin students involved in the Middle East and North Africa online study trip attended two preparatory lectures with Prof. Gilbert ACHCAR, Professor of Political Science at the SOAS University of London, and Prof. Simone THOLENS, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Cardiff University.
Throughout the online study trip, Natolin students had the opportunity to explore geopolitical dynamics in a region (MENA) that is inextricably linked with Europe and the EU through continuously reverberating historical and colonial legacies, geographical positioning, close inter-societal relations, and a dense web of multi-layered political, security and economic relations. The first day of the MENA online study trip introduced our students to the MENA political, social, and cultural dynamics through four different panels on: Revolution and Counter-Revolution, Conflict and Foreign Intervention, the Second Wave of Arab Spring, and Religion as a Statecraft in the MENA. Students had the opportunity to meet and discuss these topics with several speakers such as Prof. Hassan NAFAA, Professor of Political Science at Cairo University, Prof. Kmar BENDANA, Professor at the University of Manouba, Mr Wolfgang MUHLBERGER, Senior Advisor at the Crisis and Management Initiative (CMI), and Mr Ulf LAESSING, Independent Journalist.
The MENA team started the second day with a panel on the role of Israel, Turkey and Iran in the Middle East and North Africa. The participants had the opportunity to listen to Prof. Jonathan RYNHOLD, Director at the Argov Institute, and Prof. Mustafa AYDIN, Professor of International Relations at the Kadir Has University of Istanbul, as well as Prof. Anoush EHTESHAMI, Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah Chair in International Relations at the School of Government and International Affairs of the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.
On the same day, the MENA group attended a panel on the complex Israel-Palestine Question. Mr Oraib AL-RANTAWI, Director at Al Quds Center for Political Studies, and Ms Inès ABDEL RAZEK, Advocacy Director of the Palestinian institute for Public Diplomacy, discussed the "Deal of the Century", the origins of the Two-State Solution and the regional competition between Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iran, which all contributed to the changes in the diplomatic relations between Israel and its regional neighbours. In a different panel, students dived into the geopolitical developments and challenges in the Maghreb region in terms of security and economy during the last decade with Prof. Yahia ZOUBIR, Professor of International Relations at the KEDGE Business School, Mr Youssef CHERIF, Director of Research at the Columbia Global Center, Dr Mohamed MASBAH, Founder and President of the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis (MIPA) and Mr Mohamed ELJARH, Co-founder of the Libya Outlook for Research and Consulting.
On the third day, Ms Rana AL-SABBAGH, Senior Editor at the Organized Crime and Corruption and Reporting Project, Mr David HEARST, Co-founder and Editor-in-chief at the Middle East Eye, and Dr Tarek CHERKAOUI, Research Manager at the TRT World Research Center, engaged in a moving discussion with our students on the price journalists pay for freedom of expression in the MENA, and the difficulties independent journalists are facing. Finally, on the last day of the online study trip, Natolin students explored the role of the European Union in the Mashreq and the Maghreb regions with Dr Andrea DESSI, Head of Italy's Foreign Policy Programme at the International Affairs Institute (IAI), Prof. Richard YOUNGS, Senior Associate at Carnegie Europe, and Dr Assem DANDASHLY, Assistant Professor at the Department of Politics of the Maastricht University. They then discussed the agency of the Islamic State with Prof. Omar ASHOUR, Associate Professor of Security Studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, and the actorness of Hezbollah with Dr Imed MANSOUR, Non-Resident Scholar at the Middle East Institute.
Thanks to the support of the Embassies of Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Palestine, the MENA group could end their online study trip while tasting regional specialties.
(Re-)Telling Western Balkans: Dealing with the Past and the Influence of Global Actors in the Region
The online study trip on Western Balkans aimed at investigating the social, economic, and (geo-)political implications of the early 1990s conflict in the former Yugoslavia and beyond. This endeavour sought to present the current status of democratization, reconciliation, peace – and state – building processes, and their impact on the perspectives for integration of Western Balkan states within the European Union.
The online study trip started with an overview on EU-Western Balkans relations and the progress of the enlargement process, through four interventions given from different perspectives (academic, NGO, Government). Natolin students had the opportunity to discuss these topics with speakers such as Ms Kalinka GABER, State Secretary at the Secretariat for European Affairs of the Republic of North Macedonia, Prof. Tatjana SEKULIĆ, Associate Professor at the University of Milano-Bicocca, and Dr Jovana MAROVIĆ, Co-Founder and Executive Director at Politikon Network. Other timely topics tackled by the programme were media freedom, media literacy and disinformation. The students took advantage of the valuable insights of journalists such as Mr Feđa KULENOVIĆ, journalist at Balkans Media, Mr Philippe BERTINCHAMPS, journalist at Le Courrier des Balkans, Ms Marija RISTIĆ, Regional Director at Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), and Ms Ilda MARA, Executive Director of ARGJIRO.
Natolin students also had the opportunity to understand the work of the EU representation in the Western Balkans by listening to and discussing with Mr Krassimir NIKOLOV, Head of Section at the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina & European Union Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as with Mr Riccardo SERRI, Deputy Head of the EU Office in Kosovo. They were accompanied by Dr Thomas WIDRICH, Political Advisor to the EU Special Representative (EUSR), who covered the military aspect of the EU’s presence in the region and Prof. Florian BIEBER, Professor of Southeast European History and Politics at the University of Graz, who provided an academic overview of the EU’s engagement in state-building processes in the region.
On the last day of the online study trip, students first got an overview of the main challenges related to the migration in the region. The diversity of the speakers enabled them to address the issue from a legal, political and humanitarian perspective. The students got an important insight of the work of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) by meeting and discussing with Ms Sonja BOŽINOVSKA-PETRUŠEVSKA, Head of Office of IOM North Macedonia, as well as meeting with Mr Nicola BAY, Country Director of Bosnia for the Danish Refugee Council. The state perspective in the domain of human rights, also in view of the migration crisis, was discusses by Ms Erinda BALLANCA, the People’s Advocate (Ombudswoman) of Albania, and Ms Maja KEVIĆ, Deputy Ombudswoman of Croatia. The topic of energy governance was also addressed during the last panel with the participation of Mr Aleksandar KOVAČEVIĆ, Former Senior visiting Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies and Mr Visar AZEMI, Executive Director Balkan Green Foundation.
European Security in Cha(lle)nging Times: The Wider Baltics in the Post-Crimea, Post-Brexit and Post-COVID-19 Security Constellations
The initial day of the online study trip on the Wider Baltics started with Prof. Brendan SIMMS, Professor of the History of European International Relations and Director of the Centre for Geopolitics at the University of Cambridge, providing our Natolin students with a longer view of regional geopolitics through the understanding of the struggles between empires and republics for these lands. Then, Mr Edward LUCAS, Former Senior Editor at The Economist and Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), shared his insights on the multifaceted security challenges in the Baltic region and Mr Giorgio BERTOLIN, Senior Expert at NATO STRATCOM COE, shed light on strategic communications and countering disinformation. Natolin students also took advantage of an illuminating exchange on biopolitics, vaccine diplomacy and the geopoliticisation of the pandemic with Prof. Andrey MAKARYCHEV, Professor of Regional Political Studies at the Johann Skytte Institute of Political Studies at the University of Tartu, Ms Alena KUDZKO, Director of GLOBSEC Policy Institute and Dr Alexandra YATSYK, Associate Research Fellow at the Free Russia Foundation.
On Wednesday, 28 April, the participants started their day with a High-Level Talk with H.E. Ambassador Toomas Hendrik ILVES, President of the Republic of Estonia (2006-2016). In the following hours, the students virtually visited several centres of excellence, participating in interesting and thought-provoking panels. At the Centre for EU-Russia Studies (CEURUS), they had a lecture with Prof. Viacheslav MOROZOV, Professor of EU-Russia Studies and Academic Director of CEURUS, on "The EU vs Russia: Hegemony without Influence?" while at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence they deepened the issue of cyber-threats, on the EU-NATO cooperation on cyber and on the attribution and regulation dilemmas in the cyber domain with Major Damjan ŠTRUCL, Researcher at the Strategy Branch of CEURUS, and Ms Liina LUMISTE, Researcher at the Law Branch of CEURUS. The group then proceeded with a panel on "Contemporary National and Allied Deterrence in the Baltics" with Mr Kalev STOICESCU, Research Fellow at the International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS).
The Wider Baltics programme also included panels analysing prospects and potential pitfalls of the interaction between the EU and Russia in a highly securitized and fragile regional setting as well as examining energy security and the engagement of the US and the UK in the Baltic and European security. On this matters, Natolin students and staff had the opportunity to listen to two High Level Talks: the first one with H.E. Ambassador Baiba BRAŽE, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, on "NATO’s Defence and Deterrence Posture in the Baltic Region: Reassurance, Enhanced Forward Presence and Allied Deterrence vis-à-vis Growingly Assertive Russia" and the second one with H.E. Ambassador Daniel FRIED, Weiser Family Distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council and former U.S. Ambassador to Poland, on "Nord Stream 2, European Energy Security and the US Engagement in the Baltic Region".
We are glad to share below a selection of photos from the online study trips: