GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Author: anonymous (Page 2 of 9)

Back to Lecture We Go

After a two-week break from lecture, we had the privilege of starting our Monday off with a lecture from former Colonel Cuzzelli in the First Euroflat Hotel. He is a soldier from Italy who has become a scholar. His experiences and knowledge of security and military issues are reflected clearly in his lectures.

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Our first day back in lecture was split into two parts: the first was about the concept of security and the second part was focused on crisis management. While they are interconnected, the former focused on the theory and general overview of security and the latter was more application.

Security is complex. It is something that we all knew, but Colonel Cuzzelli made it very clear that it is impossible to achieve it entirely. According to the Oxford Dictionary, security is quite literally “the absence of danger and fear.” It is a core value of human life. It is also central to most issues and highly interconnected with many other issues, like human rights. Security was broken down into three distinct fields: National, International, and Human.

National security is focused on the well-being and security of Nation-States people. Individual personal security and well-being depend on the promise of security from Nation-States. International security focuses more on an international society with common aspirations for peace. There are a few dilemmas, like how much deterrence is acceptable before it becomes dangerous for neighbors? Finally, human security is a state responsibility. National and international security cannot exist unless human security is in place. This is called spillover.

Our next lecture was focused on crisis management. We discussed the processes that take place when a crisis occurs. There is an overall procedure that states follow when there is a crisis. The process goes: indications and warnings, assessment, development of options, planning and then finally execution and transition. It was interesting getting a step by step process of how crises are handled, especially with the crises that are occurring all over the world right now, not just Europe.

After a quick lunch and coffee break, we headed to the Belgian Foreign Ministry. We had the absolute privilege of getting briefed by a seasoned diplomat, Thomas Lambert, as well as someone who works with the European Union budget, Bernard Latour. They gave us a wonderful briefing on the importance of the European Union budget, and how they intend to change it with the events of Brexit. A point that stuck out to me was the amount of the European Union budget that focused on agriculture, and how they would like to change it and allocate money to technology and innovation.

It was interesting to hear about the change that was coming to the budget. The effects of Brexit are demonstrated in every aspect of the European Union. We have heard quite a bit of information about Brexit and how each different institution has processed the information. In the case of the European Union, the effects are large but nothing that cannot be handled.

A Glance Into the Parliament…

At 9:45 A.M., we met underneath the Simone Veil dedication in front of the European Parliament. A warm and beautiful day in front of us, we walked into the building ready to learn about the European Parliament and the trade relationship between the European Union and other states.

We were guided to a briefing room and had the pleasure of being briefed by Laura Puccio, who has an extensive career in European Union trade law. With years of training and education behind her, Ms. Puccio was able to inform and answer all our questions as well as provide insight into new topics. Her main focuses are on Brexit and the European Union-United States relationship. With the election of the Donald Trump, it seems that the European Union has lost a strong ally. It has brought forth an era of uncertainty and confusion, especially with trade.

Ms. Puccio then proceeded to explain the World Trade Organizations three measures that are considered exemptions for applying tariffs to all trading partners. The first is anti-dumping, which is if a company exports a product at a price lower than the price it normally charges on its own home market, it is said to be “dumping” the product. The next measure is countervailing measures. This agreement does two things: it disciplines the use of subsidies, and it regulates the actions countries can take to counter the effects of subsidies. Finally, there are safeguards. A WTO member may restrict imports of a product temporarily if its domestic industry is injured or threatened with an injury caused by a surge in imports.

Donald Trump has placed tariffs on products such as steel and aluminum. This hurts the European Union significantly as this negatively impacts there domestic producers. It makes it far too expensive to ship, which decreases exports and profit significantly.

The EU has notified to the WTO a list of US products on which the EU may in the future apply extra import duties. This would be to compensate in an equivalent manner for the impact of the US tariff measures on steel and aluminum, which the EU considers to be safeguard measures in effect, should they enter into force.

With this information in mind, my classmates asked important questions. For example, whether or not the European Union has placed safeguard measures on products that would specifically target middle America. According to Ms. Puccio, the tariffs are clearly a bit politicized and while it is not explicitly stated, it is incredibly hard to not recognized the purpose of those tariffs.

After an incredible briefing, we got to enjoy a delicious lunch at the café in the House of European History. Where we also had to say goodbye to Dr. Markley, but fortunately she is rejoining us soon!

The museum itself was interesting and intricate. We were given tablets that were interactive. Every time we would walk into a new part of the museum, we were able to listen to different parts of history that went along with it.

For example, we started off learning about Europe in the 19th century. We further explored Europe’s history in terms of Slave Trade, both World Wars, and the creation of the European Union. One of the areas that really stood out to me was the information about the Slave Trade. We don’t really focus on that aspect of European history, so to have some insight about it was really important to me. We saw blueprints that showed how slaves were crammed into ships and were transported to be sold.

The most interactive part of the museum was the comparison of Western Europe to the Soviet Union and their republics. There was a table where you could use your tablets and compare the GDP of Denmark to the GDP of the Soviet Union. You could also compare the infant mortality, education and amount of cars per person. It was interesting to see the comparisons of the different parts of the world. Similarly, there was another table where you could vote on the lives of people and which one you preferred. For example, there were two 20-year olds who were deciding about school. The main difference was where they lived. One lived in France and the other lived in Latvia. They had different outcomes once they finished school, and another dichotomy was demonstrated between the West and East.

My favorite part of the museum was the final floor. There was a wall dedicated to quotes from visitors of the museum. The words on the wall ranged from support of the European Union to calls for gender equality. It truly showed how united the European Union is, especially in divisive times like these.

Our Last Monday at GTL

Happy Monday! Monday’s aren’t so bad when you get to sleep in an extra hour AND wake up in France.

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We arrived too class at 9:30 am, bright eyed and ready to hear about the last three-member states of the European Union. It was an interesting transition from countries that are more or less leaders within the European Union to countries like Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia, who have had quiet roles in the EU or are extremely anti-immigration, which is not entirely abnormal, but it is certainly not the norm. While Romania is struggling to keep their nation free of political corruption, Bulgaria held a quiet presidency in the Council of the European Union, and Croatia closed its borders to refugees. The three last countries to join the European Union are facing their own battles within their borders and have recognized the benefits of the European Union; however, they also have recognized that it is not without fault and are struggling to find a balance of powers.

Dr. Birchfield then threw us a curveball: we watched the French Eurovision performance. It struck a new chord because it was a dedication to a baby that was born on a refugee raft. They named her Mercy. I feel as though there is no anecdote stronger than that. As someone who is not well-versed in the world of Eurovision, it was a good lesson in understanding how politically oriented the competition is actually. I looked into it further and found that some of the songs were about empowerment, the #MeToo movement, and other politically motivated songs.

1:30 PM. With not a moment to spare, we dove into the controversial, often hard to discuss topic of migration and refugees. Dr. Birchfield started off by asking why she included the tagline of “transcending us vs. them.” The answers varied: it could be us who are refugees, we need to move past the politics of the crisis, and simply, it is not a two-sided conflict, it is a global crisis. We hear a lot about what isn’t happening for the refugees, but Dr. Birchfield offered us an insight into the good that the European Union is doing for refugees. The EU Mediterranean operations have saved over 126,000 lives since 2016. She described it as a “global humanitarian crisis that the European Union should be more equipped to deal with because they have developed all these agencies to deal with the issue, but it can only be dealt with in the terms of member states.” It comes full circle. Nothing can occur until the member states all agree on it.

Up next was Dr. Markley. We started off with introductions and learned we have a quiz tomorrow (that we will be extremely prepared for, of course!). She showed us a short video on the Roma people, and what the French government is doing to them. The first segment of our discussion was based on this video, and we discussed the issues and questions associated with the Roma people. Are they immigrants or refugees? Why is the French government preventing them from joining the workforce? These questions lead to the introduction of human rights. We discussed where human rights really stemmed from, and some of the examples that came up were slavery, genocide, and war.

We also broke down the progress of human rights. From the 70s to post-9/11, we explored the different treaties, declarations, and constitutions that have come about promoting human rights. One of the most interesting parts of our discussion, in my opinion, is the world of human rights during the Cold War. The United States and the USSR had two very different ideologies, thus there were two different International Human Rights Covenants created to suit the two sides. The United States signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which focused on the right to life, legal equality, freedom of religion, expression and due process of law. On the other hand, the USSR supported the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, which focused on the right to work, education, social security, and safe and healthy working conditions.

As we approached the post-9/11 era in human rights, we talked about the repercussions states were facing because of their failure to comply with internationally recognized human rights. The prison of Abu Ghraib stood out to me the most. The United States is often seen as a champion of human rights, but the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib demonstrates that everyone must change their ways – not just developing nations or nations seen as “backwards.”

Thank you, Dr. Markley, for a fantastic first day of Human Rights! We all look forward to learning more.

Ouvrage du Hackenberg

We spent this day at Ouvrage du Hackenberg, or the Hackenburg Fort, learning about its background and the specific ways in which it was utilized during warring periods. Before we started our tour, we reviewed the history of the region – starting from the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. A series of conflicts stemming from the Kingdom of Prussia’s desire to unify German states and become the dominant force in Europe countering France, this War is credited to be a factor in setting the stage for World War I. From the start, Prussians had an advantage in terms of military strategy, leadership, and technology, and German forces quickly overtook the French in several battles. The Siege of Metz, the most pertinent French defeat in the region we were in, resulted in several hundred thousand deaths and casualties and German capture of the important city. At the conclusion of the war in 1871, the Germans were given the Alasce-Lorraine territory, and French determination to regain their territory was a prominent tension contributing to the first world war.

Next, our guide talked about the background of the fort itself, which played a role in France’s defensive efforts in World War II. In 1940, after several German attempts to advance forward through France’s defensive posts, the Hackenberg was invaded and occupied, a significant blow to French forces, acting as an obstacle to further advancements to take back the Lorraine region. 90th infantry division of American forces finally broke through in 1944, infiltrating the fort through the Block 8 entrance.

The background information we received was particularly helpful as we traversed the fort, as it gave meaning to what we were meant to be observing. First, we walked to a location in the M1 “Magasin a Munitions,” or ammunition store, an oval shaped gallery on the west wing of the fort that contained bomb launchers, cannons, etc. Afterwards, we were given a brief history of a large door that ran almost the entire height of the fort (20-30 feet tall). The door had a specific locking mechanism that allowed it to be opened and closed in a set amount of time. However, an explosion in another part of the fort generated enough force to slam this steel and concrete door shut, causing the bottom part of the door to be bent outward. I loved how something as inconsequential as a door had an interesting story behind it – as we exited through the door, our guide jokingly asked us to “pay our respects” and listen for the “ringing of the explosion” contained within the door.

Next, we went to the kitchen area. We saw several different machines that fed around 1000 soldiers – their diet consisted of beef, vegetables and around a pint of wine a day. Our guide emphasized how although they were at war, still had decent food and drink/wine every day as per French culture.

Afterwards, we went to the emergency power plant, which was utilized if the power the fort received from external sources, could not provide electricity. The motors are also still able to run, although the association that preserves the fort chooses not to.

During the Cold War, the fort served as an acting hospital, in addition to guarding against possible Soviet advances in the area.

We also saw the way in which they controlled the air quality underground. The different machines they used filtered out dust and dirt particles and kept the entire fort at a constant temperature. Although the machines often malfunctioned due to the accumulation of particles, I think it’s fascinating how advanced the technology was to create such infrastructure in a relatively short period of time. Another example of this is the overhead monorail system, which safely transported equipment, food, etc. to different parts of Hackenberg. We got the opportunity to take this monorail system to travel to the museum area that the preservation association created, where military equipment and decorations, reenactments of living quarters and word areas, and various other interesting scenes and items were put on display.

After a couple hundred steps up a spiral staircase, we reach a height that’s close to ground level – this is where the “action” happens in the fort. Guns, automatic rifles, machine gun turrets, are positioned in a way so that they can aim above ground to potential attacking armies, and are lifted by automation to do so. We saw a live demonstration of a gun turret, a steel dome that would disappear to enemy eye after firing, as it would retreat back underground/ into the fort. Soldiers would communicate with each other through transmission lines – soldiers located at observation points, which allowed them to see above ground, could communicate the angle or position a gun would need to be aimed to the soldiers manning the weapon. We saw the gun turret and the damages done to the fort by the American attack in 1944 from outside. Although this fort was used during the Cold War, this part of the fort was never restored.

It is truly remarkable how far the Franco-German relationship has come since the initial building and use of this fort. At one point a German prize of occupation, it was later used in cooperative efforts against the Soviet Union. Seen from a nationalist viewpoint, it’s remarkable how these countries have changed in order to cooperate. However, I think their progression can be largely credited to the efforts of the EU, and further contribute to the narrative of the European Union as a peace project.

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