Friday was quite an interesting day filled fun adventures and many meaningful lessons. We started the day with a visit to Robert Schuman’s house and ended the day visiting one of the most important institutions of the European Union – the European Court of Justice.
Our bus ride over was quite an experience! Our EU study abroad group was joined by about 17 students from the GTL 2000 class, so we used a large Schidler bus to transport the group. On our way to Robert Schuman’s house, our bus driver had a bit of trouble navigating the small city streets. We drove down a road that gradually became too small for the bus to continue. With a little help from some local men on the street, our bus driver was able to partially reverse and drive us up to the top of a hill.
Contrary to our hopes that the hill would yield a clear passage for the bus to continue, there was only a house at top of the hill – a dead end. As the bus driver tried to reverse and maneuver us back down the hill, an older French woman watched skeptically from her balcony window and did not seem pleased to have strangers that close to her house. I think she was about 2 minutes away from calling the authorities!
Luckily we made is out – major props to our bus driver! We showed our gratitude with a hearty round of applause. As we made our way back down the hill, we were met by the mayor of the city and he escorted us back to the main road. We all waved goodbye to him when we finally made it out to the main road, but he didn’t seem too please with us lost Americans. Needless to say, with his dutiful public service he’ll have great material for his reelection campaign.
Thankfully we made it to Robert Schuman’s house in one piece. The EU program students had been to the house on a previous occasion, but the GTL 2000 students had not been there before. We all sat through a short presentation on the evolution of the European Union and the important role Robert Schuman played in its development. Because of our extensive discussions of Robert Schuman in class, we were able to actively participate when asked questions and offered nice insights when prompted.
After the presentation, the GTL 2000 students went on a tour of the house and our group played Kahoot, a game similar to trivia, to test our knowledge about the EU. Shout out to the ‘Cool Team,’ which was made up of Simon, Hamid, and me, for winning the game! We started the game in last placed and made a big comeback to win it all – what a game!
After the game, our group toured the exhibit in the lobby area of the facility and it was pretty fascinating. There were several prints of beautiful parts of the city, pieces devoted to the Found Fathers of Europe, and a timeline of the development of the European Union.
We left Robert Schuman’s house and headed to the European Council of Justice. As I have a deep passion for the law and the vital role it plays in the stability of government, I was particularly excited for this visit! We started off the tour in the main courtroom in which all 28 judges make up the full bench.
As you can see, the room was incredibly beautiful and words don’t do it justice! The tour guides gave us a rundown of how a typical procedure would work. In their description, they highlighted the essential role linguists play in court proceedings. There are 24 official languages of the court and because French is the working language of the court, there are about 1,000 linguist and interpreters working daily to translate court documents from the various languages to French and vice versa. Because all judges and lawyers must speak French, the translation is primarily done for the public and institutions and people in the member states. After our tour guides finished explaining, we took a nice group picture and plenty of individual pictures.
We then went to another section of the building for a more detailed presentation on the composition of the court and some recent high-profile court cases.
Our presenter was a press correspondent from the United Kingdom. She explained how the court is divided up into subsets and how they have different jurisdictions and serve various purposes. Some of the recent cases were especially interesting as they dealt with discrimination in the workplace as well as American companies, such as Google and Uber, and their adherence to European laws.
We finished up the tour after the presentation and went to beautiful entrance of the building as well as a smaller courtroom where a small panel of judges convene for certain types of cases.
As the power of the Court of Justice has substantially increased over time and its purpose of safeguarding the constitutionality of EU law and balancing the power of EU institutions constantly becomes more important to fulfill, it was surreal to stand in such a sacred legal institution. This has definitely been my favorite visit so far! 🙂