GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Month: May 2017 (Page 2 of 2)

EU Country Presentations

Prior to our departure to France, we were each assigned an European Union member state. We were to prepare a 10 minutes & 10 slides PowerPoint summarizing the background, history, and current position of our states. Today, we finally had our chances to deliver our presentations to other classmates.

The order of the presentation followed the date of accession. From the first enlargement in 1973 by Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom to the most recent accession in 2013 by Croatia, our presentations represented total of 18 distinct member states. Presentation on the six founding nations (France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) was given by Dr. Birchfield in her past lecture.

Below are some highlights of each EU member state presentation, categorized by the year of accession.

First Enlargement (1973)

Following the Treaties of Rome
Emphasis on customs union, single market and agriculture

Second Enlargement (1981)

Green Light from all countries

Third Enlargement (1986)

European Economic Community Renamed as European Community
Groundwork for European Monetary System begins

Fourth Enlargement (1995)

Maastricht treaty established three pillars of EU
Term “European Union” created

Fifth Enlargement (2004)

Big Bang Enlargement
Amsterdam treaty Gave legal power to Schengen Accord

Sixth Enlargement (2007)

EU institutions more power in asylum and immigration policies
After rejection of constitutional treaty by france and the Netherlands

Seventh Enlargement (2013)

After ratification of Treaty of Lisbon
European Union as legal entity

Week 2 Lectures

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.

Primary institutions of the European Union

The founders of the European Coal and Steel Community, or the original 6 EU members.

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.

GTL2000 Lectures

The first GTL2000 lecture was given by Dr. Birchfield and covered some of the information our class already knew. She restated her fundamental belief that the EU is a peace project and kept the lecture engaging by opening up questions to the audience. One of these questions asked what people thought were the requirements for a country to join the EU (our class knew the answer of course). Some correct guesses were about the economies and democracies, but one interesting guess was that the country had to be in Europe. Surprisingly, this is not true, and this led to an interesting discussion. Instead, the third and final requirement is that the countries have to be able to adapt to everything else already in place.

I really enjoyed this lecture because it served as a review for things we already knew, and it was stimulating because it hit the highlights of the EU. Dr. Birchfield had a slide giving statistics on how two-thirds of people surveyed feel that they are citizens of the EU and some other powerful statistics to fully back up the claim the the EU is a peace project, even though some people have realist or Euroskeptic viewpoints. She also talked about Lafayette and how he was a hero of both the American and French Revolutions, and she brought up the notion of what it means to be willing to spill your blood for an idea.

Dr. Birchfield also included an anecdote about asking previous students to try to find positive media coverage of the EU for extra credit (which they could never do), and this transitioned into an explanation of the irony of Brexit and how it has impacted people’s perceptions of the EU. Now people are more educated on what the EU actually is (as proven by the most popular Google search following Brexit), and opinions regarding the EU are more positive. Although people may still have mixed opinions, it is important avoid using a “single story” on which to base judgements, as pulled from Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk called “The Danger of a Single Story.” I think my favorite thing I took from Dr. Birchfield’s lecture is that even when we are already educated on the EU, there is always more to learn and understand about how and why it functions, and what that means in the greater context.

The second GTL2000 lecture was given by Sonia Serafin on the culture of France. She gave an overview of some things France is famous for and kept it exciting by including pictures and videos. A memorable one of those video clips showed fireworks surrounding the Eiffel Tower which was quite an impressive display. She went over some famous drinks, musicians, etc. from France and even touched on cultural differences between France and the US by showing us the Google results from typing in “snail” versus “escargot.” I think the most interesting part of her lecture was when she talked about how French people are very proud of their country because this is even visible in my everyday life here in Metz. I’ve noticed this displayed in things like the pronunciation of “Metz,” the reappearing symbol of “RF,” and even the way French people speak about their country compared to others. I think it was nice to get an overview of France in a lecture while also being able to go out and explore this country on our own.

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