Friday, September 16, 2016

Summer School in Montenegro: A grounding and reassuring experience

The Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (CCSDDis a joint venture between the School of Law of the University of Bologna and Johns Hopkins University SAIS Europe. It focuses on research in the field of comparative constitutional law. Students from both institutions interested in international law and democratic development are able to work an internship doing research and teaching projects.

As part of the activities, the CCSDD, headed by Prof. Justin Orlando Frosini, organizes trips to Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and to Igalo, Montenegro.

Today, Chelsea Rodstrom of the U.S. and a current student in the Master of Arts (MA) program at SAIS, tells us about the trip to Igalo, Montenegro.

Early in the summer, I came across the opportunity to take part in the Summer School in Montenegro organized by the CCSDD. When I learned that some of the focus of the discussions would be on Brexit and the migration crisis, I became extremely interested in participating: as an American going to study international affairs in Europe, this was the perfect opportunity to delve into European issues.
Chelsea Rodstrom

Besides my interest in law --I had previously considered law school and worked at a law firm in New York and volunteered with an organization that handles asylum cases -- I was interested in the general issues of the migrant crisis and the fallout from Brexit.

For the majority of the week-long summer school, we examined how European constitutional systems and international law affect current economic, social and political crises. The British, Serbian and German professors led hearty discussions on the merits of each system, while we students engaged in relating these systems to the fallout from the economic crisis, Brexit and the migrant crisis.

Peppered into the practical round-tables and debates were contentious and abstract discussions on human rights, globalization, and the philosophy behind integration schemes and the EU Project.

We became especially impassioned while contextualizing the varied international legal systems within the debates on Brexit - inclusive of the merits of both the Leave and Remain platforms in the UK debate - the consequences of integration and disintegration of the EU, and the pending international migration crises.

After our daily lectures and round-table discussions, we spent time getting to know our colleagues - which included lawyers and students - from around the EU and potential EU member states like Turkey, Ukraine and Georgia. Learning about the Balkans from Serbian, Montenegrin and Albanian perspectives was especially invaluable and informative; likewise, the organized events, including a tour of Tito’s Villa and Bunker and a lovely boat trip, were enormously helpful in familiarizing a non-European to the history and current integration debate in the Western Balkans.

As someone who focused on Latin America studies in university, I was surprised to find many parallels, politically and from an integration standpoint, between Latin America and the Balkans.

Chelsea and her classmates in Igalo
The end of the week forced us out of the academic and somewhat removed realm of intellectual debate and threw us all into the harsh realities Europe is currently facing. On Thursday morning, one of our French-British colleagues was heartbroken in class, worrying about her family that was vacationing in Nice when the horrendous attack occurred late the night before. Just 36 hours later - at our goodbye dinner - we learned of an ongoing coup in Istanbul and Ankara. We all tried to comfort and offer solidarity to our colleague from Turkey, who was unsettled by what was going on in his home country.

The summer school in Montenegro was a grounding and reassuring experience; it brought us collectively to the conclusion that working together and in a critical manner is no longer an option - whether legally bound by a framework or not. Rather, it is imperative that Europe remain vigilantly cooperative and united on security, migration and economic issues.

Chelsea Rodstrom
SAIS Europe 2017

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