Towards the end of January, two pupils from Friends’ School Lisburn, Chloe Hassard and Caroline Finney, came to Brussels for a week of work experience with QCEA. They attended a number of meetings and have each written a short piece for the QCEA blog. In this post, Chloe reflects on her time here. Look out for our next post, in which Caroline will share her experiences.
With much excitement and anticipation, I arrived in Brussels on 21st January to begin a week of work shadowing at the Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA). I am currently in the sixth form at Friends’ School Lisburn – a Quaker school in Northern Ireland. Over the course of my week here in Brussels, I experienced the various aspects of QCEA’s work and saw first hand how Quaker values translate into European politics. The week encompassed various meetings at the European Parliament, including ‘Palestine: Living under occupation’ and a Climate Parliament event, ‘Renewables in Turkey’, which was of particular interest to me as I co-chair the Eco-Committee at school. I also had the opportunity to visit Residence Palace and the International Press Centre, as well as to listen to discussions on the ‘Cyprus Conundrum’ and ‘Restoring human security to conflict affected and fragile states’.
Personally, I found the discussion on the future of Cyprus and the prospect of its unification most striking, because – living, as I do, in Northern Ireland – I could understand and relate to the difficulties of uniting two distinct peoples as one. The debate encompassed differing opinions on the causes of the ‘Cyprus Conundrum’ and possible solutions. It became clear that in Cyprus there is a tendency to blame the other side, an unwillingness to compromise, and a lack of empathy. I was particularly struck by a statement made by one of the speakers: there is a presumption that there is no solution. This needs to change. Only then can there be change in the typical characteristics of a divided country.
With regard to my plans for university and beyond, I am considering Law with Spanish – and therefore my week spent here at QCEA has been of the utmost value to me. I have been able to witness interpretation in the European Parliament and have been able to fully appreciate not only the necessity of law, but also the need for law to represent those who live by it. And this is why QCEA’s place in European politics is so valuable.