GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Author: Jose Correia Teixeira

The Legislative France

Today we had the privilege to visit the French National Assembly and the Senate, which together form the French legislative branch. On a beautiful sunny morning, we were up bright and early to catch the bus to the Assembleé Nationale. We got off at our stop right in front of the Seine river, and were received by both the staff of the Assembleé and a beautiful view of the septième arrondissement of Paris. After going through security, we watched a film explaining how the French government works right before we were given a tour of the building. The first room looked like a gigantic ballroom, but gilded and with huge mirrors and artwork everywhere. Every room thereafter was covered with paintings, beautiful tapestry, gilded ornaments, ceilings displaying the symbols and historic events that shaped the history of France, and doors with artfully crafted patterns. It was truly wonderful to be able to walk through these rooms, it felt absolutely surreal. It is also something that would be nearly impossible to do if you visited Paris only as a tourist. To put the icing on the cake, we ran into Jean Lassalle on our way out, a parliamentaire who ran for president in the last election cycle, and was able to get almost half a million votes. He shook my hand.

Inside l’Assembleé Nationale



Inside l’Assembleé Nationale

Assembleé Nationale

Library of l’Assembleé Nationale

After l’Assembleé Nationale, we took a break to walk the streets of Paris and to get lunch. We stopped at a small Creperie that had a fluffy cat welcoming the guests. After eating our savory crepe, I ordered the famous beurre sucre for dessert, which is a crepe with butter and sugar. It is simple but delicious, and it never disappoints. After taking pictures of the cat and finishing our crepes, we walked over to Le Sénat, where we were received and led by a terrific guide that made sure to explain to us all about the beautiful building we were in, including its art, its architecture and its history. Once again, we were absolutely amazed by the beauty and extravagance of the buildings. The level of detail in every painting, every marking, and every door hinge was impressive. Also, every piece of art, be it paintings, sculptures or markings, was carefully placed and positioned to add to the larger symbolism of the room, the palace, and ultimately, the French Republic.

Le Sénat

Le Sénat

Cat in the Creperie

While at Le Sénat, we got to witness a vote on legislation as spectators. Most of us non-francophones were a little lost during the session, but it was nonetheless fascinating to watch the senateurs debate and argue passionately in support of their positions. We were also honored by the visit of senateur Cristophe-André Frassa, who represents the French abroad. He joined us for a short walk through the library of the Sénat, posed for a picture with us before the end of our visit. Once outside, we walked through the Jardins du Luxembourg, a beautiful garden across Le Sénat. It was a great way to end a fantastic day of enjoying and learning about the cultural richness and beauty of France.

Group photo with senateur Cristophe-André Frassa

Build the Highway!, the Death of Memes, and Why Not 100 Scenarios?

After visiting the EEAS earlier in the day, we headed to the European Parliament to attend a couple of briefings by MEPs. But before we went in, we ran into demonstrators from all over Europe, who were protesting all sorts of issues, from shady politics in Romania, to the EU’s proposed new copyright laws, to Donald Trump.

The first protest we noticed was about a highway in Romania, but all their signs said Moldova, which was a little confusing at first. Since we were puzzled by what their sign saying “Moldova vrea autostrada” meant, we approached them and asked them about their cause. They explained to us that the Romanian government is purposely withholding funds that it should be spending to build a highway between the Moldavia (sic) region and the rest of Romania, apparently to keep the area underdeveloped. After looking into this, I learned that they were referring to the “Autostrada A8,” which is a project that has been in the planning since 2007, and remains in the “feasibility studies” stage to this day. Oh, and it turns out that what the sign says is “Moldova wants the highway.”

There were also events observing World Refugee Day, one of them being a dance by the Syrian ballet dancer, Ahmad Joudeh. According to the Socialists and Democrats group (S&D), the event sought to highlight the positive things that refugees are doing around the world.

Outdoor ballet performance by Syrian dancer Ahmad Joudeh celebrating the United Nations World Refugee Day. Source: EP

One of the demonstrations that immediately caught our attention consisted of a group of six women holding signs that read ‘STOP TRUMP.’ They came all the way from Greece to tell the MEPs that Trump is a threat to minorities and women. They did not expect any action to be taken by the European Parliament, they just wanted to share their message.

After talking to some of the demonstrators outside the parliament, we proceeded to go inside the parliament for our briefings. The first meeting was with Mady Delvaux, an MEP from Luxembourg and member of the S&D group. She is the Vice-chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs, which that day had just voted 13-12 in favor of the new EU Copyright Directive. The directive was a hot topic of discussion during the briefing, especially articles 11 and 13, that could restrict the access to news publications online, and force websites to have a copyright screening mechanism for all content uploaded by its users. MEP Delvaux voted against this directive, citing that it would be detrimental to the access of news online, and will hurt smaller, rising websites while it benefits the already well-established platforms.

Meeting with MEP Mady Delvaux

Sign Outside the Parliament Protesting the new Copyright Directive

The new directive could also infringe on the right to freedom of speech, making the internet less open, less free. Oh, and did I mention that article 13 will have the unintended effect of basically ending internet meme culture? Yeah, the internet is not very happy about that. Here are just a couple of memes to protest the likely extinction of memes as we know them.

MEP Delvaux was out to another meeting as we prepared to meet with Mr. Tamas Meszerics, a Hungarian member of the Green Party. Our discussion with MEP Meszerics touched on several important issues facing the EU, but one that stood out the most to me is what the EU is going to do about its own future. Naturally, the question about what his preferred scenario is came up (from the five scenarios presented in the White Paper on the Future of Europe). Mr. Meszerics’ response to this question was very different to every other we had received on this issue. First, he pointed out that none of the scenarios said a word about institutional change (to be expected since it was published by the Commission). Second, placing policies conveniently into packages creates fake consensus, and is manipulative, said MEP Meszerics. Why 5 scenarios? Why place Juncker’s preferred scenario in the middle? Why not 12 scenarios? Or 100? The conversation with Mr. Meszerics was a very interesting one, and it covered many issues from an angle that we had not been exposed to before.

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