GT in the EU

An extraordinary education


EU Study Abroad 2018!

Hello from Metz! We all arrived on Monday after a long journey from all over the world. This year, I am excited to have the honor of serving as the program assistant before heading off to graduate school in the fall. We a diverse group of 20 students, and of course, Dr. Birchfield will be with us for the whole 10 weeks. Dr. Markley will join us for a few weeks to teach the human rights courses and Dr. Young will give us some lectures next week. Head over to the Center for European and Transatlantic Studies website and click the EU Study Abroad tab to find the latest itinerary for our learning adventure. As an overview, we’re in Metz (at Georgia Tech Lorraine) until early June before heading to Brussels. Afterwards, we’ll visit The Hague, Paris and Berlin.

After arriving yesterday, we each settled into our individual rooms before heading over to the GTL welcome party. Here is a picture of the group for this summer taken with the program’s GoPro camera which we will use to log our summer activities.

The Group

After meeting some of the over 250 students participating in the GTL study abroad program, Dr. Birchfield treated us to pizza. We all got to know each other, and I’m really excited to work with such a great group of students.

On Tuesday, we started off by attending the GTL Orientation where we heard about important issues such as the honor code, computer and security procedures. We also participated in a tour of the campus and enjoyed lunch in the CROUS cafeteria. Most students thought that the food was really good!

After lunch, we had an introduction lecture where Dr. Birchfield gave us an overview of the summer program. We then headed into Metz and took our first trip on Metz Public Transportation to Place de la Republique. From there, we walked over to the Place d’Armes and got to see the famous cathedral up close. At the Place d’Armes, we ran into the Mayor of Metz, Dominique Gros and Dr. Birchfield introduced him to us.

The Mayor of Metz, Dominique Gros

The Group with the Mayor of Metz

You’ll notice that it looks like we are on a train. That’s the train touristique!! We started at the Place d’Armes and headed to the Place de la Comédie. Along the way, we saw the cathedral and the marché couvert (covered market). We then headed to the Tour Belle Isle, the Arsenal, and the Tour Camouffle. We also saw the old train station, Place Saint Louis and the Haut de St Croix. During the tour, we learned about Metz’s key role in the region throughout the years. Metz is currently the capital of the Lorraine region and the Moselle department in France. Before this, Metz went through 3 wars in less than 100 years (the Franco-Prussian War, WW1 and WW2). Metz was also an important Roman city, the birthplace of the Carolingian dynasty (Charles Martel and Charlemagne). Metz’s history shaped the region and we will be studying most of this. I’m excited for this summer and look forward to the rest of the blog posts. I’ll be back at the end to write a summary! A bientot!


After seeing Portugal win the EURO 2016 last night 12 years after losing to Greece at home, we had the pleasure of having a tour of Berlin today. Our tour guide, Stevie, is an American who has lived in Berlin for over 30 years, so she had plenty of knowledge and was obviously passionate about her city!

We started off by visiting the Charlottenburg Palace which is the largest palace in Berlin. Stevie told us that the palace was commissioned by Sophie Charlotte and a bit more history. Unfortunately, there was scaffolding so we couldn’t see it but upon doing a bit more research I learned that it’s made in baroque and rocco styles. After this we drove to our next point and on the drive Stevie told us that Americans are loved and told us about an experience she had when she first moved to Berlin- she was watching a film with a German friend and he said “I never thought I would be sitting with an American watching a film.” During this drive she also explained to us that in the area we were in many of the buildings were badly damaged, and therefore most buildings were new.

We got to our next stopping point, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The original was built in the 1890s but was severely damaged during the Second World War. Today, there is a memorial hall and then a separate church.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

After this brief stop, we continued driving and Stevie would point out where the Berlin Wall would have been as well as where the British, French and American sectors of West Berlin were. We then stopped along the wall and walked along where it would’ve been. Stevie also showed us where the Second Wall in East Berlin would have been, as well as the “no man zone.” Also near here was a piece of the Berlin Wall as well as the Former Air Ministry during the Third Reich which is now the Finance Ministry.


After this, we passed by Checkpoint Charlie and went to the East Side Gallery. She told us that it was developed after wall fell by an East German advertiser and West Berlin artist in 1990. We then drove through what would have been East Berlin and Stevie pointed out typical buildings and Soviet Art. Our last point on the tour was the Book Burning Memorial and the Neue Wache (New Guardhouse). The Book Burning Memorial commemorating the book burning consists of a glass plate in the ground, giving a view of empty bookcases (Which can hold all 20.000 burnt books). The Neue Wache was originally a guardhouse for the Palace of King William III of Prussia but is today the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Dictatorship. The sculpture inside is an enlarged version of one by Käthe Kollwitz, who was a famous artist who died during the War.

After this, we were free and a few colleagues and I went to the Topography of Terror which sits on the site of buildings of the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS. The exhibitions were quite interesting and informative.

Today was a truly informative and day and I look forward to visiting the Bundestag (Parliament) tomorrow!


The Swedish Foreign Ministry


Today, after a weekend spent learning about Swedish history and walking around Stockholm, including a visit to the Vasa Museum, we visited the Swedish Foreign Ministry and the Swedish Parliament. I will talk about the visit to the Swedish Foreign Ministry and my colleague will talk about the visit to the Parliament tomorrow.

At the Swedish Foreign Ministry, we were briefed by an Ambassador who now heads up the European section of the ministry.  He last served as Ambassador for Sweden to the Netherlands so his view points were unique and interesting.

He started off his presentation by talking about the complicated relationship that Sweden has with the European Union and about the history of Sweden. He made a point on the wars with Russia in the 18th century which changed Sweden and led to the policy of neutrality that it successfully upheld during both World Wars. After the Cold War, and during the economic crisis in the 1990s, Sweden saw the benefits of the European Union and joined in 1995 (with Austria and Finland) after a positive referendum in 1994. However, Sweden is not part of the Eurozone and in the last referendum on whether Sweden should join the Eurozone, the public voted not to. As with other site visits, the Brexit issue emerged and the official stated that the UK is an important ally for Sweden within the European Union and that a Brexit would force Sweden to seek other similar minded allies. Interestingly, he also mentioned that about 65% of Swedes are for TTIP and that public backlash has been minimal. This is certainly interesting since in other countries the same percentage is opposed to TTIP.

Sweden is one of the EU member states that is not part of NATO, but Sweden allows NATO to conduct exercises on Swedish territory and with Swedish troops. Sweden also contributes to NATO missions as well as to EU missions. I think that the most important point that the official made was that the EU allows small countries like Sweden to influence global politics.

Tomorrow we had back to Brussels!

At the Foreign Ministry



Our visit to SHAPE

Today, our day started with a taste of social action in Belgium, since there was no public transportation due to a strike. It shows that there are economic and social issues that Belgium is dealing with and also illustrates how strong Unions are in Belgium.  Despite these challenges, everyone somehow made it on time to the meeting spot. After a two and a half hour bus ride, we finally made it to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers of Europe (SHAPE) in Casteau, Belgium near Mons.

SHAPE is the headquarters of the Allied Command Operations (ACO) which controls all North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operations worldwide. The commander of the ACO is known as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and is General Curtis Scaparrotti as of May 2016. His predecessor was General Breedlove, a Georgia Tech alumnus.

We had an introduction presentation by a NATO official and then another presentation by a EU Military Staff Officer.

The NATO official gave us a general overview of both NATO and SHAPE and reviewed information that we had learned in our security course and on our site visit at NATO earlier in the program. The presentation reiterated that NATO is a political and military alliance between sovereign states which are each responsible for their own and collective defence. One notable figure from the presentation was that in 1993, NATO has 32 different headquarters whereas in 2016 that number has been reduced to 11 to reduce redundancy.

Today, NATO has to react faster to local conflicts meaning that it needs a lighter and more capable structure. Risks today are harder to predict and can come from new challenges. The Very High Readiness Joint Task Force was created to be able to react to these challenges in a fast and effective manor (i.e. Within 48 hours).

The active NATO missions and operations are KFOR in Kosovo, Ocean Shield in the Gulf of Aden, Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea, Air Policing Mission in the Baltic States, Resolute Support in Afghanistan and a Deployment in Turkey. KFOR’s goal is to ameliorate the security situation. Ocean Shield’s goal is to combat privacy in a dense trading zone. Active Endeavour’s goal is to counter terrorism and deter weapons, drugs, and human trafficking. The Air Policing mission aims to preserve the integrity of the NATO Airspace in the Baltic States and has 25 fighter jets. The Resolute Support Mission’s goal is to train, advise, and assist Afghani military and police forces.

Our next presentation was by a EU Military Staff Officer. He gave us an overview of the EU structure and then discussed the European Common Security and Defence Policy as well as EU- NATO Relations. One important point that he made is that the EU often has a complimentary job to NATO in terms of defence so as to not duplicate effort from common member states (of which there are 22). It was interesting to note that NATO has a Permanent Liaison Team to the EU and that the EU has a Cell at SHAPE. The EU Military Staff are the military experts within the European External Action Service (EEAS). Our present or then discussed common areas for deployments, the Berlin Plus Agreement and EU Military Operations.

The common areas for deployments were (and are) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Somalia, and Afghanistan. The Berlin Plus agreement assured access to NATO planning capabilities, availability of NATO command operations (through the DSACEUR- who is also the commander of EU operations), presumption of availability of NATO capabilities and common assets as well as the adaptation of NATO Defence Planning. This agreement was the most important step in developing EU NATO relations.

The EU Currently has 6 ongoing military operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mali, Central African Republic, Somalia, the Gulf of Aden, and the Mediterranean Sea. Past operations have occurred in Macedonia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic.

We had the honour of having lunch with a NATO official who shared several interesting points of views on different issues before returning to Brussels.

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