On March 5-6, 2021, students from twelve universities across the U.S. and Canada attended the University of Washington’s annual West Coast Model European Union event – in the first-ever virtual format. Normally held in Seattle on the UW campus, the 2021 virtual version was marked by the students’ dedication and enthusiasm, making the event a distinct success.
The West Coast Model European Union is a simulation of a European Council summit negotiation, where undergraduates take on the roles of European Union heads of government and foreign ministers to negotiate solutions to real-world policy and governance problems over the course of two days. Students at the University of Washington prepare for the event in senior lecturer Dean LaRue’s class, European Union Policy and Simulation, learning negotiation skills and the functions of the EU, while other universities give similar classes and preparation.
The simulation is designed to build a mixture of research, negotiation, public speaking, leadership, and collaboration skills, both in the preparation and writing of policy papers before the event, and during the event itself. Students’ performances are observed and evaluated by judges who note the participants’ expertise on issues, representation of EU countries, and presentation skills. Thirteen students received awards at the 2021 Model EU, including Outstanding Position Paper, Outstanding Head of Government, and Outstanding Foreign Minister.
The 2021 event kicked off on Friday, Mar. 5 with a keynote address by Joseph Dunne, Director of the European Parliament Liaison Office in D.C., who set the scene by providing background on the European Council. The students then began the simulation with brief speeches by the Heads of Government and commenced informal negotiations. This year’s topics of negotiation reflected the most pressing issues facing Europe today. Heads of Government focused on how to achieve enhanced cooperation in light of the challenges of COVID-19, as well as post-Brexit institutional realignment. Foreign Ministers discussed whether to maintain or expand the EU’s agreement with Turkey regarding retaining migrants on its territory, and the possibility of expanding and normalizing certain ties, opportunities and programs with Russia. As in the real world, these topics sparked hot debate among the simulation EU member states.
This year, the presidency country of Portugal was jointly represented by teams from the University of Washington and the University of Utah. In addition to the Portugal presidency, the University of Washington represented France, Greece, Hungary, and Spain.
Participating colleges and universities included the Claremont Colleges, Florida International University, Lewis-Clark State College, Portland State University, University of British Columbia, University of Idaho, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, University of Oregon, University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Victoria. The West Coast Model EU was pleased to have three universities from the East Coast participate in this year’s event. Countries represented included Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and Sweden.
The main bulk of the negotiations happened on Saturday, with the students debating in two sessions in the morning and afternoon. Utilizing creative strategies including large and small-group negotiation and effectively navigating tools in Zoom, the students exemplified diplomacy, innovation, and professionalism throughout the event. The outstanding performances of all the students was made obvious in an enthusiastic meeting of Model EU faculty judges, with numerous excellent student performances presenting a challenge to narrowing down the finalists.
The 2021 event was not only a distinguished success for a first-time virtual format, but was an inspiring prelude raising the bar for next year’s event. In the closing ceremony, Ryan Meilak of the European Parliament Liaison Office (EPLO) in D.C. gave a presentation providing details of student internship opportunities at EPLO, and students were invited to participate in the 2022 West Coast Model European Union, which will return to the in-person format and be held at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus.
The West Coast Model EU is organized by the University of Washington’s Center for West European Studies and European Union Center, which is a Jean Monnet Center of Excellence, with the generous support of the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Programme. The event is also supported by the UW Foster School of Business’ Global Business Center, the Jackson School of International Studies, the Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies, and attending universities.