The Annual Final Study Tour to Brussels


From May 1st to 5th the annual Final Study Tour to Brussels was conducted for the Joint Command and General Staff Course and the Civil Servant Course students and 11 members of Directing Staff. The trip went to Brussels where many important institutions have their headquarters and representations. During the three full-day program the participants visited NATO Headquarters, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, EU Council Policy Unit and EU Military Staff and the Belgian Defence Staff. Apart from that a guided tour to the World War 1 sights of western Belgium was conducted as a more cultural event.


The aim of the study trip was to gain insight into the decision making and relevant political issues of NATO, EU and the structures and dynamics of the members of these institutions. To fulfil this, the 76 participants of the study trip started out on the 2nd of May by visiting NATO Headquarters in Brussels, where Mr. Daniele Riggio and Dr. Jaroslaw Skonieczka gave extremely interesting and insightful briefings about NATOÂ’s role in Afghanistan and the future of NATOÂ’s partnership. Later that day the group went on to visit the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Mons. The group was very well received and briefed about Allied Command Operations and NATO-EU relations. A very interesting point on the agenda was the Q and A session chaired by Brigadier General Thor Gulbrandsen. Both visits altogether gave the participants a deeper understanding of NATO structures and food for thought about the future of NATO. The next day, 3rd of May, was devoted to the history of the host country, Belgium and itÂ’s role in the first world war. The whole group went on a trip to western Belgium to the cities of Ieper and Diksmuide to inspect what mark World War 1 had left on this part of the country. The participants were reminded how devastating and pointless this First World War had been. The sights clearly showed under which conditions the war was fought in those days, for instance it was during the battles in western Belgium that poisonous gas was used for the first time. And on both sides there were trenches spanning from the North Sea to Switzerland. On the last full program day the group visited the EU Commission Visiting Unit in the morning and were given briefings by Julian Vassallo from the Council Policy Unit and from the EU Military Staff Col. Dieter Kohl gave an update of how the military staff is incorporated into the EU system. In the afternoon the group went to visit the Belgian Ministry of Defence to whom they owed great thanks for having supported the study trip by providing busses and the impressive MP-escort, who were the participantsÂ’ favourites. Apart from this the Belgian Ministry of Defence had arranged an impressive briefing on their activities and this was considered one of the most interesting events on the trip. For most of the participants it was very interesting to gain knowledge about how the Belgian Ministry of Defence had dealt with such issues as; transforming the army into a professional army and how an army works in a country which has three official languages. The next day in the morning the group returned to Tartu, having complimented their knowledge about the EU and NATO substantially and gained more knowledge about one more of the members of these institutions.


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