As you may have noticed, I fell off the ‘posting’ every night band wagon yesterday. Well, I am back on the wagon and will do my best to update you on the goings on of the last two days.
Yesterday started out bright and early once again. Luckily for us, the weather has been absolutely spectacular so far. It has been about 15 degrees and sunny each morning before warming up to about 20-22 degrees and sunny by the afternoon. The temperature also seems to drop back to about 15 degrees or less, like clockwork, each day around 5-6pm. Anyway, the day started at the Belgian Parliament buildings in Brussels. We unfortunately did not have our cameras for this because of our scheduled visit to NATO. NATO does not permit electronic devices of any kind to be brought onto the base. They offer to confiscate these items and send it to you free of charge, however none of us wanted to take a chance with NATO’s delivery service! The Belgian Parliament was a beautiful building with, as is the case in all of Europe, a significant amount of history. The Belgian Parliament works in a much similar way to the Canadian Parliament. It is a bicameral system feature a House and a Senate. The major difference I noticed was that the Senate was not treated as some sort of dead or dying chamber. It’s role is slightly different from that of the Canadian Senate, but on the whole they perform the same function. Our Belgian tour guide saw the Senate as an integral part of the parliamentary system and would likely have been appalled by the state of our own chamber. Before I go on…close your eyes, picture Belgium, picture the people of Belgium, think of all the stereotypes you know about Belgium, now imagine what our tour guide looked like! Yup, you’ve got it, whatever you are imagining is probably what our fantastic tour guide looked like. He was exactly what I expected a Belgian to be like haha…I don’t know exactly what that means, but just go with me!
After the parliament we were collected by a tour bus from in front of the Parc Theatre in Brussels to be transported to NATO. We were all pretty excited to be going to NATO. I think that we all had seen one too many Jason Bourne movie or something, but we were all pretty pumped for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It must have something to do with the fact that NATO is getting such a high amount of press with our soldiers involved in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. I would show you a picture of NATO headquarters…but…I didn’t have a camera. So, I guess you’re just going to have to google it or imagine something! The front entrance is protected by a contingent of guards as well as intense barbed wire and many crowd control barriers. After successfully passing through security, we were officially marked as NATO visitors and escorted into a briefing room to listen to a couple of briefings. The first was on NATO’s Political Agenda with Benedicte Borel, an Information Officer with the NATO Countries Section, Public Diplomacy Division. She gave us an interesting run down of NATO’s mandate and it’s current operation. It was especially interesting to get a NATO opinion on NATO because we are so often guilty of just accepting the popular interpretation of the story. One of NATO’s key messages was to establish that it was and still is a political and sometimes military instrument of power. It is not just a military enforcement group.
Our next speaker was Erik Sandahl of the Operations Directorate, Operations Division. He briefed us on NATO’s Evolution into the XXI Century. Mr. Sandahl was a captivating speaker and made it very easy to learn from his presentation. He told us about his own experiences in the field and made sure to be extraordinarily blunt and open with his answers to questions. I could have stayed at NATO for hours, but sadly the day had come to a close.
I know that might sound like a boring day…If it does it’s mostly because my writing is putting you to sleep, but…trust me, it was definitely the highlight at the time.