Why I participated the programme
I feel a sense of responsibility to deepen my knowledge in various EU institutions and issues as I won the Model EU conference as the best individual delegate of Portugal on migrant issues in Europe. The most attractive part of the programme is a proposed visit to NATO headquarter, however it seemed not to work out in the end, but the HKETO and EEAS are still desirable to visit as both of them are linked to HK-EU political relations.
A fruitful journey to consolidate my knowledge about the EU
In general I was enlightened by the experts who are specialised in migration policies, counter-terrorism policy, and human rights policies. Yet, it was surprising to acknowledge the fact that the speaker who shared the official views of EU-Hong Kong political relations seem not to be familiarised with the political issues in Hong Kong. Plus, my understanding towards the EEAS is further deepened as the official mentioned several terminologies.
As a journalism student who is critical towards various international organisations, I was curious about why some European countries could introduce temporary borders for such a long period, but later I learnt that the Article 29 of Schengen Border Code indicates that the migrant crisis is defined as one of the case where exceptional circumstances put overall functioning of the Schengen area at risk, so that Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway were legitimate to introduce such border checks.
The migrant crisis doesn’t just bring up the debate on whether the Schengen Agreement is still in effect, but it also raises a question on whether it relates to the frequent terrorist attacks in Europe. In the counter-terrorism session, I asked about the loopholes of illegal transfer of weapons from non-EU countries such as Ukraine to European countries like Poland, then she indicated that the existing Firearms Directive is enough to prevent it from happening. Yet, countries like Germany and Austria are still allowed to possess firearms with a licence.She also hinted that Tour De France may also be the target of the terrorist attack since it is a populated event.
While there are solid ideas from the above talks, it remains a broad topic to talk human rights in general. The officer started off by stating that there is no major difference between EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, just that the titles are not the same. On British Referendum, she said that the argument of how the EU breaches the sovereignty of Britain is simply a populist argument. On Chinese human rights issues, she only pointed out that there is an existing arm embargo against China, but she didn’t comment much on whether the EU will take further steps to give sanctions against China if there is any further breach of human rights.
Comments on the study programme
Before the trip, I was looking forward to meeting officials from NATO as the programme leaflet listed. Yet, I found HKETO more relevant to me as a Hong Kong citizen after noticing the changes in the itinerary. It was enlightening to listen to personal stories from the Administrative Officers (AO) who paid a visit to Brussels like us, because there were two officers who studied journalism like me and now they are part of the Hong Kong government. However, I really hope to interact with some officers who are not from Hong Kong but at the same time working at the office in Brussels.
Plus, it would be more attractive for the participants if there are recruitment talks in the EEAS as it is valuable for those who have intense interests to know more about this EU institution in Brussels.