Starting off our second week in Metz, we had two lectures on Monday and Tuesday at GT Lorraine. Our first lecture kicked off with a discussion of the Treaty of Nice, or the treaty of abysmal power grabbing, as Dr. Birchfield said. The entire class had a good laugh when Dr. B told us about the time she unknowingly spoke to a diplomat who worked on the Treaty of Nice, and told him directly how awful she thought it was… We then moved the discussion to a new topic of another possible “failure” of the European Union, the Convention on the Future of Europe and the unsuccessful Constitutional Treaty. Most member states of the EU voted in favor of the treaty in national referendums, but France and the Netherlands both voted it down. The rejection by the French and Dutch people was devastating to the Constitutional Treaty, and so the process concluded. The last topic we learned on Monday was the EU institutions. This discussion took up the majority of our time, since we spent time learning the components and functions of each of the primary institutions, the European Commission, the European Council, the Council of the EU, the European Parliament, the European Court of Justice, and the European External Action Service. It took us a while to sort out which institution was the European Council and which one was the Council of the EU, because the names are so similar and we weren’t sure which one Dr. B meant when she said, “the Council” (honestly, I still don’t know which institution she was referring to). But by the end of the day, we were very familiar with the workings of the EU.
Lecture on Tuesday was the day before our member state presentations, and since there wasn’t enough of us to cover all 28 members, Dr. B presented on the original 6, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. We started with and spent most of our time on France, since this is the country where we will spend 5 out of 10 weeks on our program. Dr. B started off with a discussion of French culture, encompassing everything from food to national symbols. Following culture, we talked about French politics, which was just recently the highlight of international news, with the pivotal runoff election between Marine le Pen and Emmanuel Macron. After France, we also put a lot of focus on Germany, another one of the most influential EU member states. Like our discussion on France, we started with culture and the moved to politics. Germany also has the attention of an international audience because of their upcoming elections in September. The elections in Germany have less pressure than the French elections, with Marine le Pen set on holding a Frexit referendum, since the two top German candidates Angela Merkel (currently in office) and Martin Schulz are both in favor of remaining in the EU, but it is an important election nevertheless. Following the same general structure of discussion, we spent the rest of Tuesday’s lecture on Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Luxembourg, and how their culture and politics are important to the prominence and integrity of the EU. We all left GTL excited to present and share our member states with the rest of the class on Wednesday.