The day started off with the last of our member state presentations. We went through the 4th enlargement, working our way to Croatia. It was interesting to me because I do not usually keep up with current events in Latvia, Estonia, or even Poland. I know that as an International Affairs major I should keep up with the news, but it is not exactly the priority of American News channels to report on the possibility of Czexit when there are larger stories that are more relevant to their demographic.
My presentation was specifically on Latvia. At first, it was a challenge to find information that was relevant and interesting enough to mention in comparison to the rise of Populism in Italy or the Good Friday Agreement in Ireland. But then, I stumbled across a few articles on the Baltics’ exploration in the digital world. This really shocked me given that when I was first assigned to Latvia, I was less than thrilled. What relevance does Latvia play in the European Union? Let alone, how many common American citizens were even aware that Latvia was a country? As an International Affairs and Modern Languages student with a Computer Science minor, this truly peaked my interest. It is interesting how if you given a struggling economy the access to technology it turns into a basis of development. For example, Air Baltic, in Latvia, was the first airline to accept Bitcoin as a form of payment. Latvia is primarily based on an agricultural economy, but ever since they have joined the European Union they have had an increase in competition, especially in agriculture. So they found they explored the digital market with their neighbors Estonia, the European Union’s digital leaders.
I really enjoyed being briefed on each of the member states. I would have never explored Maltan politics before this course, and who would have? It gives students an overall look at the state of the nations, and how the citizens interpret the European Union. I thought it was interesting to see the comparison of states who had self-sufficient economies in comparison to those who relied heavily on the European Union. All of the post-communist states who recently received independence from Russia, all had positive views on the European Union.
After 12 briefings, we headed to the Hotel de Ville as a group to be briefed on Metz. We walked through a brief recap of the past of Metz and looked on to the hopes for the future of Metz. One comparison, he made was that Metz was the “Luxembourg City of the Middle Ages.” And as I looked out the window, it was definitely hard to imagine that this was once a town of great wealth when all of the building (except the Cathedrale of course) looked so modest. Now, 19,000 citizens of Metz commute everyday to Luxembourg for work which really strains the transportation infrastructure.
I have studied France extensively and never have any of my professors mentioned Metz. I was shocked to find out that it was in the Grand Region according to the EU for infrastructures and development and also apart of the Quatropole. Metz is also the only Metropole that shares its border with 3 countries. There seems to be endless possibilities when at the doors of 3 European Markets, but as I mentioned earlier there was a lack of infrastructure to support the transportation of tens of thousands daily. Also, it is difficult because Luxembourg is a state in itself, it does not have to relay information and seek approval before it can make decisions like Metz has to go to Stratsbourg.
However, Metz is swarming with opportunity. It hopes to double its highway in order to account for the rise in transportation. In addition, Metz offers a combination of arts, geography, research and creativity. Soon Metz will be hosting the World E-Sports Convention which kind of relates to my earlier thoughts in that introducing technology into struggling economies helps develop and retain its citizens. Metz is also home to French Tech, which employs more than 2000 citizens of Metz. It is a signal to the young people of Metz to be ambitious and entrepreneurial in terms of start-ups and digital development. Further, in relation to research, there is a slew of Universities that have set up there campuses surrounding Metz including Georgia Tech Lorraine.
Thinking back to the four main draw Metz offers — arts, geography, research, and creativity — I truly understand which Georgia Tech chose to put a campus in this region. Georgia Tech’s Atlanta campus is located in the middle of the hub on the brink of innovation. It offers Liberal Arts students the chance to receive a Bachelor’s Degree of Science mixing art, creativity, and research in a geographic location that allows students to access opportunities within the city or easy access to highways and the busiest airport in the world. Metz is truly a gem of a city, and I hope that many others will come to the same realization in the future.