European Semester Program Mission Statement

As a member of this year's Drew Semester on the New Europe, you have a unique opportunity to study and observe European affairs at a particularly, perhaps critically important moment. During my introductory presentation of the Drew European semester in Brothers College last spring, I asserted that the building of a new Europe is an epochal experiment in peacemaking, democratization, economic and social development, and intercultural exchange. At times this process has yielded unimaginably favorable outcomes. For 50 years now the French and Germans have been trading Volkswagens and Renaults instead of hurling artillery shells at one another, something they had been doing for over 200 years. The Irish and the Spaniards, condemned to living in the impoverished rural backwaters of a prosperous continent for several centuries, are now enjoying a level of prosperity and living through a cultural reawakening that they could not have possibly envisioned a few decades ago. The Poles and the Hungarians, forced to live under the grip of Nazi and Soviet imperialism during much of the twentieth century are now pursuing their own political, economic and social destinies within an expanding European Union. The Belgians, their country a battleground for almost every major European war of the last 200 years, are now benefiting from the fruits of a Europe, increasingly peaceful and prosperous.

But the European project has not always yielded such progressive outcomes. Europe's nations and citizens have often disagreed over its objectives, its means to achieve them, and even over its very definition of Europe. You will arrive in Brussels at a time when such disagreements are more and more prominently on display. The French and the Dutch, among the most "pro-European" members of the E.U., refused to ratify the "European Constitution" during the spring. German and Italian political and business elites, among the Union's most committed loyalists, have been publicly rethinking their relationship to the European project. Serious disputes over Iraq, trade, and environmental policies between the governments of the United States and most governments in Europe have not only strained U.S.-E.U. relations, but have also divided Europe internally. Europeans have been debating the merits and demerits of the Euro, arguing over immigration and asylum policies, and quarreling over their citizens' rights to employment and health care. Much of this is going on in Brussels, the Capital of Europe, and I hope that our program gives you a sense of its importance not just to Europeans but to us as well. You'll be living in a wonderfully cosmopolitan city and have the opportunity to learn much about its people and its place at the heart of Europe.