During winter break in January 2017, the Fellows of the Fielding Center for Presidential Leadership embarked on a research trip to Europe for their Diplomacy Labs project. Over the summer, the Fielding Fellows competed for and won a grant from the State Department’s Diplomacy Lab initiative to study corruption in the Hungarian government. The goal of the project is to produce solutions to this problem in the hopes of helping the United States Embassy in Budapest curtail these corrupt practices in the future.
After carrying out preliminary research throughout the fall semester, the Fellows believed it would be incredibly beneficial to meet with experts familiar with corruption within Eastern Europe. The trip began with a stop in Berlin, Germany to visit the headquarters of Transparency International (TI). TI is a non-governmental organization (NGO) which aims to create a corruption free world, by giving a voice to the locals who encounter these practices the most. While at the headquarters, the Fellows heeded the advice of Cornelia Abel who is the Regional Coordinator for Southeast Europe, Turkey and Israel. According to fellow Rachel Haskins, “The meeting with Transparency International really put our research into a local context. It’s one thing to do the research, but to actually talk to individuals who have encountered corruption really allowed for a better understanding of how to craft solutions to the problem.” During the meeting, the Fellows were able to question Ms. Abel about the work done by TI within this region and analyze how it compared to the measures being taken in Hungary. While in Berlin, the Fellows also had the opportunity to learn about Germany’s history during the Cold War era. A trip to Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall served as reminders for how pervasive the Communist impact was on European politics as a whole.
After arriving in Budapest, the Fielding Fellows departed for the U.S. Embassy to present their findings to Foreign Service Officer Greg Meier. However, a trip to the embassy in Budapest would not be complete without first stopping to see the bronze statue of Mr. Fielding’s '61 former boss, President Ronald Reagan, in Freedom Square. While in the embassy, the Fellows had the opportunity to present their research to Mr. Meier and five of his colleagues and receive feedback in preparation for their spring presentation to the State Department in Washington D.C. The chance to present in Budapest was an invaluable experience as these officials were able to give first hand information regarding the climate of the corruption within Hungary. The Fellows also received a valuable talk on what it takes to become a member of the Foreign Service. Meetings such as these truly bring the Fielding Center and the greater Gettysburg experience full circle by allowing the Fellows to take their classroom knowledge and see how it can be transferred into a career.
Following the trip, the Fielding Fellows are continuing to perfect their research prior to presenting to the State Department at the end of the year.
Click here to view additional photos from their journey.
Article written by Taylor Beck ‘17, a political science major and a 2016-2017 Fielding Fellow.