IMSISS Student, Casey Cannon, Attends the Brussels European Forum

By: Casey Cannon

"BEF is a week-long international conference providing students and young professionals with a complex overview of the international decision-making process, while at the same time offering an immersive learning experience to our participants. By simulating the roles of world leaders, journalists and advocates, students benefit from a unique opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the intricate workings of the Council of the European Union, NATO and the G-20. We put our participants face to face with decision-makers and experts in Brussels and give them the floor to ask their questions."

The Brussels European Forum was a week-long event hosted by the Munich European forum with NATO sponsorship. The event required attendees to prepare to play the role of a state representative for either the G-20, NATO North Atlantic Council, or EU Foreign Affairs Council. Each group was responsible for following strict procedure and passing an agenda with points related to organization objectives.

As the Defense Minister for Turkey, Hulusi Akar, I was tasked with filling out a form with specific information from the CIA Factbook about Turkey and then to answer questions relating to Turkey's position concerning conflict in the Black Sea, strategic objectives in the Mediterranean, commitment to collective defense and deterrence, the Arctic Circle, and NATO's fight against terrorism. This research was essential because it forced me to consider these issues with a supposed personal and professional stake in mind. Through evaluating the listed challenges as a stakeholder, I gained a much more nuanced understanding of the issues surrounding them and gained a deeper awareness of Turkey's state view.

Throughout the week, the NAC debated and found consensus on our resolutions. However, my greatest successes in the simulation came from supplementing work within the NAC room with negotiations with leaders outside of it. This included arranging a face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin to discuss mid-range nuclear agreements and counseling my president- Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on missile defense deals- and extending an olive branch to China's president - Xi Jinping - which eventually culminated in a mid-range non-proliferation agreement signed between the U.S., Russia, and China. What I took away from that experience was that Turkey holds a unique geopolitical brokering position considering its NATO membership, position between Europe and the Middle East, and relatively positive relations with states that the West has challenging dealings with, such as Russia. Considering that the NAC requires consensus to pass resolutions, I felt that I was in a unique position to direct dialogue to my benefit even when the other members disagreed. Beyond Turkey's role, the NAC simulation offered a great exercise in mediation and negotiation and I will take these lessons back to my academic and professional life.

The other unique aspect of the BEF was the visit to NATO. Getting to visit NATO's brand-new headquarters was a remarkable experience, particularly as a result of our presentation from Deputy Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Lieutenant General Steven Shepro. The General gave us a brief presentation and then answered questions from every willing participant in the room. Seeing the General's generosity of his time and expertise at addressing the wide-reaching topics he was approached with gave me great respect for him and a much better understanding of NATO's role and stance on a multitude of issues. Following the NATO tour, we had the opportunity to visit the EU museum and several other locations of interest around Brussels.

The week was extremely well coordinated and even included some surprise events for participants to tackle. I also think the event is well-suited for IMSISS students, as it requires them to concern themselves with real and current foreign policy issues on a deeper level. I both enjoyed and took away a lot from the experience.


In February, three teams of students from the International Masters in Security, Intelligence & Strategic Studies (IMSISS) took part in the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge run by the Atlantic Council in partnership with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and senior government and industry stakeholders. Twelve students participated across the three teams at the competition venue, the BT Tower.

Team IMSISS Cyber Task Force was awarded the prize for Best Oral Presentation.

Team Encryptonite, made it all the way to the final, coming third overall.

Simon Plattner from Team Analytics said of the competition: “We were all as exhausted, as fulfilled by the quality and the intensity of the challenge. Confronting our academic skills with this highly practical situation provided a wealth of revelations for us.”

The students were joined by Dr Damien Van Puyvelde, Lecturer in Intelligence and International Security, as their academic mentor for the competition.

Dr Eamonn Butler, Director of the IMSISS programme, said: “It is fantastic that students have opportunity to take part in international competitions, such as Cyber 9/12, to learn and to test their ability in real time to respond to a crisis and present workable policy solutions to officials from government and industry. We were delighted that IMSISS students made such an impact within the competition. This showcases the quality and capability of the programme’s students”.

IMSISS is a 2-year Erasmus Mundus Joint International Master in Security, Intelligence and Strategic Studies. Students study at the University of Glasgow, Dublin City University and Charles University Prague with an optional summer school at OTH Regensburg.

This is the seventh year the Challenge has run globally, and the second year in the UK.  The London edition is one of six events running in 2019 (others taking place in Austin, Washington DC, Lille, Geneva, and Sydney). This is the second year in which IMSISS students have taken part.

To read more about Team Encryptonite's experience please click HERE.