TAM Student, Mallory Block, is interning in Washington, DC this summer. She writes about her experience below.
This summer, I have been serving as a trainee at the European Parliament Liaison Office to the United States (EPLO). The European Parliament’s presence in Washington, DC is intended to strengthen cooperation between legislators in the U.S. and European Union and to provide information to the U.S. public on the EU. My time at EPLO this summer has been the perfect opportunity to put my TAM studies into practice.
So far, my time at EPLO has been an absolutely incredible learning experience. EPLO has not only allowed me to experience first-hand the operations of an EU institution, but also the diplomatic efforts taken by the office to ensure a strong transatlantic relationship. This past May’s Parliamentary elections was a very exciting time time at EPLO. The office hosted a happy hour (at the office we call it “EP Hour”) on The Hill in an effort to promote the understanding of the significance of the elections among U.S. lawmakers. I have learned that efforts like this spark crucial dialogue about the importance of the transatlantic relationship.
As a trainee, I typically attend an event at a think tank or a Congressional hearing daily. Together with my supervisor, we select events that pertain to the transatlantic relationship, as well as other topics that may be of interest to Brussels. After attending an event, I write a report which is sent to officials in Brussels to read. In addition, I contribute to monthly newsletters on current U.S. issues which are also sent to Parliament. When it comes to events and brief writing, I tend to cover issues in the areas of migration, rule of law, democracy, and human rights.
The culture in the office has allowed me to make the most out of my experience. I get to work alongside brilliant Parliament officials who all very much have an open door policy and are always eager to help. The officials work in different policy areas, and if an event or hearing takes place that is relevant to issues they are following, they may ask one of the interns to attend and write a report. I enjoy working directly with the officials because they tell us specific matters to look out for, and it really makes me feel like I am making an impact.
A couple of weeks ago, EPLO hosted visiting Parliament administrators. I assisted with the planning of the week’s events which gave me the incredible opportunity to attend a week’s worth of exciting visits. The purpose of the visit was to give Parliament administrators from Brussels a window into the current state of American politics, as well as America’s standing on crucial transatlantic issues. We had visits with the House Foreign Affairs staffers, the Helsinki Commission staffers, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the State Department, just to name a few. We even had an official meeting with the Ambassador of the E.U. to the U.S. Most memorably, I was given the amazing opportunity to sit in on their bilateral meetings with their American counterparts at the Congressional Research Service. It was fascinating to see that Americans and Europeans are facing the same issues and are utilizing similar approaches to tackle them.
A few weeks into my traineeship, I was given the privilege to attend a House hearing concerning the dangers of reporting on human rights, and present was the fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi. The hearing was incredibly powerful, with Ms. Hatice Cengiz giving a testimony that was more like a love letter to her late husband. She demanded greater action by the Committee so that justice could be served. Also present giving testimonies were individuals from human rights NGOs as well as an Asian news network. Journalists who report on issues of human rights face violence around the world as governments try to quiet their voices. Covering these types of hearings is very important so that Brussels can get a grasp of how we are approaching these issues on the U.S. side.
Another monumental experience from my traineeship was a conference I attended on issues in the Northern Triangle. The conference took place at the Wilson Center, and featured panels on issues such as violence in the countries of the Northern Triangle, government corruption there, and Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from this region living in the U.S. Each panel featured experts on the issues from U.S. think tanks as well as NGOs from both the U.S. and countries within the Northern Triangle. In addition, Congresswoman Norma Torres (D-CA) delivered the keynote speech. It was a very exciting time to be hearing from the Congresswoman who works so closely with immigration, as this event took place during the middle of the House-Senate battle on the border-funding bill. One may wonder what this event has to do with U.S.-E.U. relations, and perhaps it does not directly, but what I have learned from my time at EPLO is that every global issue has a transatlantic angle.
This Fall, for phase two of my internship, I will be sent on mission to Brussels to work at the European Parliament. There, I will be among hundreds of other interns, as well as hundreds of Parliament officials, allowing me to experience first-hand the operations of an EU institution. I will be furthering my focus on human rights and democracy issues by working for the Parliament’s Committee Secretariat for the Subcommittee on Human Rights. I am very excited to experience the inner workings of a committee and assist in the E.U.’s contribution to the advancement of human rights around the world.