With a passport in one hand and breakfast in the other, we boarded the bus to set out on one of our most jam-packed days yet. For our first stop, we ventured to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. We were greeted by a charming Croatian tour guide and metal detectors, followed by a briefing session led by three young lawyers. Each of the lawyers walked us through one current case that is presently shaping EU law and outlook. The first case focused predominantly on business deals and companies present in the EU and how their taxes affect the region. As technology grows, more and more companies are looking to establish a European presence, but this also brings to the table the need for new regulations and mutual understanding and recognition of the corporate laws of various member states. Furthermore, the second case addressed the wearing of the hijab in the workplace; the outcome of the case stipulated the right of the customer, implying that though religious freedom is allowed, separation of religion and public doings is essential. Lastly, the third case was the Singapore Agreement, which essentially just highlighted the discrepancies in exclusive versus shared competencies of the EU. To conclude, we learned about the General Court, which is currently not filled to capacity.
Next, we proceeded to the main courtroom, where we learned that the room houses no flags because the judges represent the EU, not their countries. Additionally, we learned that everyone in the courtroom is obliged to wear the respective robes of their country; except the EU justices wear red robes instead. The main courtroom is absolutely stunning, with beautiful woodwork and lighting. As such, it is the induction room for new EU member states.
After departing the Court of Justice, we took a rainy bus tour around Luxembourg, a city approximately a thousand years old with Prussian, German, and French influence. Known for Napoleon’s presence, the 19th century is often considered the most important century of the city, especially considering that it was liberated in 1839. Currently, the 20,000 people who live in the city are comprised of 160 different nationalities, a population base made up of 60% foreigners. Being so, Luxembourg has three official languages: French, German, and Luxembourgish. The heart of the main city is stoic- it has forts from as early as the 14th century! Despite its extensive history, the country is extremely modern and progressive. (Fun fact: Near the court of justice building, there is a place where you can have one foot in Luxembourg and the other foot in Brussels!)
After getting to know the city a little better, we went on over to [one of] the European Union Parliament buildings. (The other two are in Brussels and Strasbourg.) The building itself has quite symbolic architecture; it is made up of a large amount of glass, which symbolizes the transparency of democracy and emphasizes how all parliamentary debates are open to the public. Additionally, it looks as though it is never completed because the aim is for it to represent how the EU itself is constantly evolving and being shaped. The building is vast in size; it is made up of five buildings, totaling in 400,000 square meters. On the inside, the main chamber has 1,550 seats for all the MEPs, as well as approximately 200 translators. Though,”the most used language is bad English,” every language translation is offered to represent the equality of the members states. Furthermore, the MEPs meet for one plenary session per month, with the exception of October, which has two sessions. Lastly, the tour was concluded going down an elaborate staircase over top of a red carpet, reserved for the MEPs and special guests. In fact, the youngest person to walk this carpet was Malala at sixteen!
To finish off the day, we went to Strasbourg for a sunny-rain filled tour and a delicious dinner. Strasbourg is picturesque; with its Tudor-style homes, rivers, music, shops, and color, the city really is a postcard. The city has a lot of little things that make it special, including using grass in between train tracks to minimize noise, but also to make the city greener! The “city of the crossroad streets” is considered the political capital of the region, and it has substantial history considering that it was a part of the Holy Roman Empire. The high roofs of the houses, originally for leather tanning, give the city character, but the cathedral really makes the town special. However, the cathedral only has one tower because the foundation was not strong enough to support two towers. (Fun fact: there are 330 steps to get to the top of the cathedral!) Our long day was concluded with a scrumptious Strasbourg dinner of local pizza and cheese (Yum!). In fact, we were all so full that we most definitely needed to measure our bellies between the a pillar and a wall- a piece of local folklore! Sadly, the time came to leave and head back to Metz. However, I intend to return to visit the famed Christmas market and try some of Strasbourg’s well-known white wine!