GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Author: Kayleigh Haskin

Ma Normandie

Today we took a break from bustling Paris to visit the quieter towns of Bayeux and Colleville-sur-Mer, the site of the Omaha Beach landings and now the Normandy American Cemetery.

We knew Bayeux was going to be a small town as soon as we stepped off the train onto a single outdoor platform–their entire train station. The town looked very nice, though, as we walked towards our first destination: the Bayeux Tapestry museum.

I’d read about the Tapestry before, but it was certainly mich more impressive in person. Technically, it’s not a tapestry at all, rather a 70 meter long embroidered cloth that depicts the Battle of Hastings and the crowning of William I of Normandy, considered by many to be the first king of England.

As a bit of an embroidery hobbyist myself, I can’t even imagine how long it would have taken to stitch together something as large and as detailed as this, especially since they had to also make the cloth and thread themselves!

After the museum, we had an hour to explore a bit of Bayeux and grab a bite to eat. The most prominent thing about the city was how many flags were flying from countries all over Europe and beyond. In particular there were a lot of British and American flags–the Cathedral even had two Union Jacks flying right alongside the French flags at the top! Bayeux clearly remembers their history with much endearment, as the flags reflect. They were the first city to be liberated during the Battle of Normandy in WWII, and Charles de Gaulle gave important speeches there during the final year of the war to rally the French people. Bayeux also has one of the largest cemeteries for British soldiers and still hosts annual memorials for British troops of WWII.

If you’re ever in Bayeux for lunch, their fish is said to be exceptionally good, and I recommend a good Norman-style fish and chips meal to everyone.

The mood became more somber as we got on the bus to the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer. I think for most of us, we had conflicted emotions between the joy of seeing the ocean and the knowledge of what took place there on D-Day.

The museum and memorial were really touching, and of course walking through the cemetery and just seeing the sheer volume of lives lost was a bit hard. Some people, however, said that these sites fill them with a sense of pride for the United States.

After the memorial, we walked down to the beach. The most striking thing was how difficult it was to walk down the hill even with clear pathways, and it really put into perspective how difficult the Normandy landings would have been in 1944, especially under heavy fire and with the coastlines being fortified. It was also interesting to see all the French sunbathers and beach-goers who can enjoy these beaches during their summer holiday because of the sacrifices of the Allied forces on the 6th June, 1944.

Finally, after the visit we talked about our impressions of the site, if we think America still keeps WWII in our memory the way the people of Normandy do, and other things related to our program and international relations in general. After a long day (and a quick stop at the local antique store), we hopped back on the train to Paris to be well rested for our free day tomorrow.

Robert Schuman’s House

Today was the much anticipated visit to Robert Schuman’s house in Scy-Chazelles, a conveniently short bus ride just outside of Metz. When we got there, we had a nice presentation on what the European Union is and how it has had ups and downs since the Schuman Declaration in 1950. We also got a play a competitive round of EU-related Jeopardy, which I think everyone really enjoyed (even those of us who lost).

If anyone didn’t know who Robert Schuman was before this program, I’m sure they can recite his life story by now. The Franco-German rivalry that we’ve been studying in many of our site visits was actually personal to him, as his family had been French or German and Luxembourgish, depending on which country had control over the area of Lorraine his father was from. Schuman actually lived in Metz for a significant amount of his life and was a representive for Thionville (just a 30 minute drive north) in the French National Assembly for almost 40 years, so he was very familiar with the situation in Lorraine after both WWI and WWII.

Most importantly for our program, he was the person behind the construction of the European Coal and Steel Community, which he announced in the Quay d’Orsay on May 9, 1950 during his time as the French Foreign Affairs Minister. Unlike the general sentiment at the time, Schuman wanted to welcome the Germans (and anyone else who wanted to join) into a union, rather than punishing them like they had after WWI. We actually got to see the desk where he wrote the document, and a copy of the text.

His house was actually very modest, but interesting at the same time. I probably could’ve spent hours just looking at his book collection on the shelves in almost every room in the house. The guide also told us that he collected autographs, and we actually got to see the signatures of the Belgian monarchs from 1950 and the signatures of King George VI and the Queen Mother Elizabeth. Apparently, he also had signatures from famous philosophers and writers like Goethe and Kant, as well as French kings (unfortunately we did not get to see those).

After visiting the inside of the house, we went outside to the gardens. They were filled with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and also these really interesting signs that tell the story behind the national anthem of each member state.

Also in the gardens was a monument called the “Flamme de l’Europe” which I imagine looks quite nice at night.

We also walked across the street to the chapel where Schuman is buried. It’s quite modest, much like his house, and interestingly all the flags of the EU member states, most of whom weren’t members when Schuman died, are inside. I thought that was a touching tribute to the vision that he had and how it is still carrying on today.

This was an excellent final site visit of the Lorraine region, and I think it was also a great way for us to review what we’ve learnt so far and to put one of the “founding fathers” of Europe into a more personal perspective.

Back in the Swing of Things

Today we all returned from our long weekends feeling refreshed and ready to jump back into learning about the EU and transatlantic relations. It’s pretty hot in Metz right now (mid to upper 90s!), and since air conditioning is more of a luxury in Europe than in the US, I think we were all relieved to be spending the day inside the nicely air conditioned classroom.

Since the NATO and G7 summits had been held this past weekend, it was fitting that we started off class by watching a virtual briefing on Trump’s foreign policy and transatlantic relations after his first 100 days (which you can watch here) before seeing if any of the things mentioned came up this weekend. The members of the panel, including Dr. Young from Tech, also talked a bit about Brexit, so that factored into some our our discussion too, especially on the EU side.

Of course, during our discussion of the positives and negatives that came out of the summits, we couldn’t help talking about this incident:

We also talked about what some of the possible implications are of what was said during the summit—like Trump being the first president not to explicitly state US support for Article V, his meetings with both the Belgian and French leaders, the call for members to meet the 2% GDP spending, and the possibility that the United States will pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.

There were also multiple questions asked today that we will be keeping in mind during our trip. The first: To what extent are the EU and US diverging, and what are the consequences of such divergence? We heard this weekend that Angela Merkel essentially said Europe could no longer rely on the United States, which certainly hints at a divergence—especially if the US ultimately decides to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord as well. We’ll have to see what else happens before coming up with an answer by the end of the summer, and I’m sure this question will come up again during the EU-US relations simulation we’ll be doing later.

The second question was difficult to answer, and I actually didn’t even give an answer when Emma asked the class: Do you think Brexit and Trump will be a good thing for the EU? It’s hard to say because there are both positives and negatives that have arisen since each event in the EU context. Of course more support for the EU from the European people is a good thing, but I’m not sure having two difficult allies and losing an important member state will be. It will certainly be something I think about as the summer continues, especially during our time in Brussels and with the U.K. General Election happening on June 8th.

The last thing we did in class today was have a mini lecture on EU foreign and defense policies, learning more about the European External Action Service (kind of like the State Department of the EU) and the Common Security and Defense Policy. First, we identified the resources that the EU has, like member states that are medium sized and nuclear powers, have seats on the UN Security Council, and collective defense and soft power. We also identified some obstacles, like disagreements or different national interests that make it hard for the EU to form one foreign or defense policy. In particular, we learned about how the CSDP in particular works in relation to NATO and discussed the possibility of there ever being a European Army after what took place at the NATO summit.

Finally, we took a break from discussing the future of the world to watch a film discussing an issue that is still very real in America: racism. The film was called “I Am Not Your Negro” and it used the writings of James Baldwin to discuss the Civil Rights Movement in America and some of the movement’s key figures. However, it was made even more powerful by incorporating footage and drawing comparisons with what is still happening in America today, like Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement. Overall, the film was really well done (a bunch of us cried), and it was very eye-opening as well.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén