GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Author: Long Nguyen

The Holocaust Memorial and The German History Museum

Yesterday was our third day in Berlin. After having a wonderful tour and a briefing inside the German Parliament in the morning, we headed out for lunch. Our wonderful tour guide, Stevie, showed us many historical sites on the way. One of them was the Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which was dedicated to six million Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide during World War II. This special memorial is located near the famous Brandenburg Gate to remind people of one of the saddest moments in German history.


The Holocaust Memorial consists of 2711 rectangular blocks, and it was designed by architect Peter Eisenman. It is fascinating to see that the Memorial could be approached and walked through from all directions. Below it is a small section where Hitler’s bunker is buried. We did not have time to visit the bunker because everyone was so hungry after the site visit at the German Parliament. However, since this is once-in-a-life time opportunity to learn more about German history, my friends and I would like to come back here on our free day.

Being able to see the Memorial in person made me feel emotional. The holocaust has been always an unforgettable part not only in German history but also the world history. To me, this particular moment has made people to think about fundamental human rights. The right to life cannot be denied, and universal human rights should never be taken for granted.

After the Holocaust Memorial visit, we headed out to get a “currywurst” for lunch in a restaurant nearby. I had an interesting discussion with Dr. Birchfield about the site visit at the German Parliament in the morning. Most of us fell lucky to have such an amazing tour guide and a thorough tour inside the Parliament. We had a chance to visit not only different parts of the building but also many artistic works serving different political ideologies. Dr. Birchfield and Dr. Fabry said that the tour visit this year was significantly more broad than previous ones.

After a wonderful lunch, we continued our adventure to the German History Museum. I was astonished by the huge amount of information that the museum has to offer. With more than 500,000 objects from technical instruments, fashion, costumes, furniture, military weapons, to photo albums, newspaper, etc., the museum literally covers the entire German history from the beginning to the end of Nazi regime in 1945. I was more interested in the Nazi regime, so I went directly to the exhibition grounds where they are dedicated to modern history. It was absolutely captivating to see one of the darkest moment in German history as the Nazi gained control over the entire country. The exhibition depicts the political situation as well as the environment in Germany in that period and how Nazi step-by-step obtains power. One interesting fact that got my full attention was how the National Socialists proceeded from the Social Darwinist vision of a natural struggle for existence between people and races and later came up with the idea of the superiority of the Aryan race. This idea eventually led to one of the most brutal genocides of Jews, known as the Holocaust.

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This is my last blog of the semester, so I want to say that I couldn’t be more thankful to be a part of this wonderful study abroad program. It has opened a door of opportunities for me to learn more about Europe. I have had a great time, so thank you!

Today’s biggest concern: The UK referendum

The UK will vote either to remain or leave the European Union today. The referendum is considered the country’s most significant in half a century. No matter what the result will be, it is going to mark a significant obstacle to the EU-UK relations in the near future. Over the past month and a half in the EU study abroad program, Brexit has always been our biggest concern. We have had many opportunities to talk to different politicians at national as well as EU level on site visits and hear their perspectives on the issue. Like many of the speakers, I really hope the UK remains in the European Union. However, this is one of the most unpredictable referenda in the history of the European Union as the poll has shown an approximately equal amount of votes between “leave” and “remain”. The referendum result will not come out until 10 pm today or maybe even tomorrow morning; therefore, I would like to make some remarks based on my reading and what I have learned from site visits.

It is exceedingly difficult to say whether the UK will remain or leave the European Union. According to Financial Times database, the poll has shown almost a tie of 42 percent between “stay” votes and “leave” votes since January this year, and around 15 percent of votes is still undecided. Just a week before the referendum, polls showed an enormous shift of 10 percent towards Brexit. As reported by the Ipsos MORI poll for the Evening Standard newspaper, an approximate 53 percent of votes decided to leave, and the rest is going for remain. The reason behind such a significant shift exactly one week before the referendum was that the Remain campaign is losing support from citizens on the issues of immigration and contributions to the European Union budget. Demographically, polls show older voters supporting Leave, whereas the young immensely desire to stay in the European Union.

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Source : The Economist

Many people believe the UK is having a referendum because of Mr. David Cameroon’s promise under pressure from his own Conservative party. However, I find it very convincing that the reason behind it is the root of British Euroscepticism. The British still wanted to stick with the Common Wealth after seeing the reconciliation between France and Germany, which shortly led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and the European Economic Community in 1957. Only later in the 1960s did they tried to join as they were impressed by the continent’s stronger economy. Charles de Gaulle vetoed Britain’s application to join the Common Market as he believed they showed a lack of interest in it. The British finally joined in 1973 after Charles de Gaulle was out of office. Since then, British membership has been seen as “costs and benefits”, not as an “emotional commitment.” (Beddoes) Furthermore, the British have always been dreaming of absolute national sovereignty. The former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, states that Britain does not fit in the European Union parliamentary sovereignty. The ambition to gain back control becomes even clearer when Mr. David Cameron pulled his effort to get Britain exempted from the idea of “ever closer Union” despite the fact that he wants Britain to stay in the EU.

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I remember our discussion with the MEP Mr. Richard Corbett in the European Parliament a few weeks ago. According to him, there are three reasons why Britain should stay in the European Union: “idealistic, pragmatic, and selfish.” Those ideas refer to the purposes behind the creation of the EU, cooperative interactions between the EU countries, and a Britain with economic and financial benefits. The last rationale has the most relevant point of view since Britain has won many internal and external trade deals in the European Single Market system. During the discussion titled “Brexit/Bremain: what is at stake for the UK and the EU” on May 24th at Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Dr. Mario Telo, former president of ULB-IEE, stated in his panel discussion that the value of the pound sterling will drastically decrease, and British citizens will become poorer if “Brexit” really happens. In fact, this argument is also expressed by many experts from all over the world. For example, Guntram Wolff, from the director of the think-tank Bruegel has pointed out many interesting facts to support this idea. If “leave” wins, many international companies such as Hitachi might move some of their business outside the United Kingdom. Also, the European Union is the UK’s main trading partner, perhaps future trade negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union will not reach an agreement. Another reason I find very convincing is the potential detriment to the 27 European Union member states if “leave” succeeds. This will negatively affect many European Union citizens’ view towards the United Kingdom. Many EU countries have been warning the UK on Brexit: “If you leave, you leave. And we won’t grant you the benefits of the single market. You won’t move to an à la carte membership.” (Erlanger) As a consequence, it will be difficult for the United Kingdom to set up a special relationship with the European Union in the future.

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Recently, the murder of MP Jo Cox has raised many concerns over today’s referendum. According to the POLITICO analyst Francesco Guerrera, this incident has completely changed the dynamics of the referendum campaign. It seems that the death of Ms. Jo Cox has reconciled the conflict between both sides as “MPs were united in genuine shock and sadness at the loss of the 41-year-old mother of two little girls, aged three and five.” (Mctague) Many experts believe that this incident will strengthen “Remain”.

As a student who studies about Europe, I definitely wish the United Kingdom stay in the European Union.


Barker, Alex. “What a British Divorce from the EU Would Look like –”Financial Times. Financial Times, n.d. Web. 19 June 2016.

“BBC ON THIS DAY | 27 | 1967: De Gaulle Says ‘non’ to Britain – Again.”BBC News. BBC, 27 Nov. 1967. Web. 19 June 2016.

Beddoes, Zanny Minton. The Brexit Briefs: Our Guide To Britain’s EU Referendum. London: The Economist, June 2016. PDF.

Erlanger, Steven. “Britain Asks If Tone of ‘Brexit’ Campaign Made Violence Inevitable.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 June 2016. Web. 19 June 2016.

Erlanger, Steven. “E.U. Countries Warn Britain on ‘Brexit’: You’ll Pay If You Leave Us.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 June 2016. Web. 20 June 2016.

Guerrera, Francesco. “POLITICO Morning Exchange: UK Vote Bloodied by MP Killing — Germany vs ECB — Helicopter Money.” Politico. N.p., n.d. Web.

Mctague, Tom. “Jo Cox Death Unites Britain’s Warring Politicians in Sorrow.”POLITICO Jo Cox Death Unites Britains Warring Politicians in Sorrow Comments. POLITICO, 16 June 2016. Web. 19 June 2016.

“Jo Cox Death Unites Britain’s Warring Politicians in Sorrow.” POLITICO Jo Cox Death Unites Britains Warring Politicians in Sorrow Comments. N.p., 16 June 2016. Web. 19 June 2016.

Stone, Jon. “EU Referendum: Poll Reveals 10-point Swing towards Brexit as Campaigns Enter Final Stages.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, n.d. Web. 19 June 2016.

Wolff, Guntram B. “The Three Dangers of Brexit | Bruegel.” Bruegel. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2016.


Europe Day 2016

Although Europe Day was indicated as “optional” in our EU study abroad itinerary, I did not want to miss this wonderful opportunity. This event was held on May 28 this year to celebrate peace and unity in Europe. On this day, EU institutions (such as the European Commission and the European Parliament) are open to the public to visit various stands and activities, so this is a great day for EU citizens as well as international visitors to understand more about the European Union.

Since we have not yet explored the European Commission building, I decided to go there. The building was packed with people, especially kids. People learn about the European Commission as they stop by different stations inside the building. I had a chance to take a look at many different European Commission bodies such as Eurostat, the European Court of Auditors, TTIP, EU policy towards migration, EU competition policy, EU budget, climate and energy, EU guaranteed quality on food, etc.

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Europe Day has really opened my eyes to see how important Europeans think it is to educate children, the next generation of European citizens. The interesting part was that each station has a quiz or game that helps players understand more about the functionality of a particular body or policy as they play. There was always a big playground section at each station specifically designed for kids. To many people, the idea of European unity and diversity is something Europeans are proud of, and they want to pass it on to future generations.

2016-05-28 14.05.00            One of the most fascinating topics to me was the EU maritime and fisheries policy. Understanding the importance of aquaculture production as the main source of seafood in the future, the European Union applies strict rules to protect the consumers as well as the fish and to promote sustainable aquaculture. During the conversation with the staff, I learned some interesting facts. In terms of aquaculture production, the European Union is the eighth biggest producer. An estimated forty-three percent of aquaculture consumption is from the European Union. When eating fish, it is surprising to realize that the size does matter. For example, for sea bass, the minimum size to be considered legal is 25 cm and 18 cm for mackerels. This was something I did not know before.

Another thing that really caught my attention was the station for migration. There were many stands dedicated to significant topics such as legal migration, asylum information, and EU migration policy. In front of those stands was a big pillar posing one engaging question “what would make you leave your home country?”. It was an astonishing moment for me to see the answers on stickers and to witness how much Europeans care about the migration issue. Furthermore, interacting with the staff helped me have a better understanding of the main European Union legislation and initiatives towards migration policy. By implementing many directives and regulations such as the students and researcher’s directive, blue card directive, intra-corporate transferees directive, global approach to migration and mobility (GAMM), Dublin regulation, etc., the EU has been working hard to address irregular flows of migration while ensuring a proactive policy of sustainable and accessible process.

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In conclusion, I thought it was a productive day for me, and I was glad that I took advantage of this opportunity. To be honest, I am pro-EU, and I think this is definitely a very good way for the European Union to inspire their own citizens.

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