GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Author: Stephanie Gaysowski

George Marshall’s Legacy in Europe

Today we had what I consider to be one of the most informative briefings of the trip thus far when we visited the George C. Marshall Center as well as the German Marshall Fund Center here in Paris.

The George C. Marshall Center is housed in the Hotel de Talleyrand, which is a beautifully ornate building not far from the Place de Concorde. Not surprisingly, the property once belonged to the Rothschild family until it was purchased by the US Department of State in 1950.

We started our visit to the George C. Marshall Center with a video that highlighted the optimism and overall success of the Marshall Plan, otherwise known as the European Recovery Program (ERP). For those who don’t know, the ambitious plan provided assistance to a Europe who was, at the time, “on its knees” after the devastation of World War II and other disasters such as the drought of 1947. The Marshall Plan was able to not only stimulate the European economy but also provide the continent with much-needed health services and emergency assistance at the time. Most importantly, the success of their rebuilding efforts gave these European nations the opportunity to see the wonderful possibilities that arise when countries work together for a common goal.

We then had a lovely tour of the historical building before speaking with an American foreign service officer regarding his career path. It was very helpful, especially for those who would like to pursue such a career themselves. And for those who aren’t sure, it was nice to know that there isn’t just one way to enter such a field because this kind of work requires individuals with a variety of abilities, interests, and experiences. The best advice he had was to never become discouraged by the process. If you fail the Foreign Service Exam, you can always take it again later, when you have more experience and are better equipped for the task of representing America.

After the informal discussion and a quick lunch in the neighborhood, we then headed to the GMF, which wasn’t far from our own hotel. The GMF is a think tank that focuses on “strengthening transatlantic cooperation” by educating and building understanding on both sides of the Atlantic. The GMF is headquartered in DC but has seven offices across Europe, giving it a far-reaching presence across both continents. The office here in Paris was located in a quaint building, sandwiched between some local shops in the 6th arrondissement.

Our host was very knowledgable and rather than simply answering questions, she spoke to us about the current political atmosphere and the changes we are seeing with the recent election of Trump in the US and the election of Macron here in France. Both leaders are seemingly bringing a new wave of political action to their respective nations, whether it be good or bad. This changing tide in politics has created an overall unsettling feeling across the Western hemisphere as Europe struggles to find its place within the context of a new world order.

Overall, as the day progressed, I realized that America might have helped Europe get to where it is today, but it is now up to Europe to get to where it needs to be tomorrow. We should never forget the importance of the Marshall Plan because it paved the way for what we know today as the European Union by helping to rebuild the war-ravaged continent during the vulnerable post-World War II period. But over time, Europe has grown in power and influence. If the United States does lean towards more isolationist policies, the world should not fear a power vacuum because Europe has proven itself to be perfectly capable of assuming a greater position within the global context. This does, however, depend upon Europe’s ability to unite the individual member states, which should be all the more possible now as France is experiencing what was described as a “Macron moment” as well as renewed dedication to the overall European vision since Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

This is an interesting and exciting time to be in Europe. I have always admired Europe’s ability to look to the future while still being able to appreciate the rich history of its past. I am so excited to spend the rest of the week exploring Paris!

The Future of the EU

After a long weekend of travel, the lecture today offered an opportunity to explore the future of the continent many of us have been excited to experience. The lecture for class today focused on Jean-Claude Junker’s “White Paper on the Future of Europe.” His paper outlines the five potential scenarios for the future of the European Union.

The first scenario would be more or less a continuation of the current model, so the priorities would remain the same: strengthen the single market and pursue a common defense policy, etc. However, this option is seen as inefficient and impractical.

The second scenario would essentially revolve around the single market and nothing more. This would allow the member nations to put more of their energy and focus into strengthening the single market and less on policy areas where they are unable to find common ground. However, this option seems to reverse all the progress the European Union has made.

The third scenario is what has been coined “multi-speed Europe” as countries that would like to pursue further integration in regards to key policy areas are able to do so and those that would not are welcome to not participate. This scenario is more favored by many elites such as Junker himself.

The fourth scenario involves increased focus and dedication of resources to a few specific policy areas. This would decrease inefficiency and citizens’ distrust of the European Union. It might be hard to choose specific policy areas to target, but once this has been achieved, the EU can focus on these areas and create a more comprehensive policy agenda.

The fifth scenario would involve a European Union that would like to do more across all policy areas. The focus would be “deepening” the European Union and increasing cooperation so that the European Union would overall have one common voice. However, there are fears that this would increase the European Union’s power and decrease the power of national governments.

As a class, we were divided into five groups, each of which was assigned one of the five scenarios, and we were to present the essential argument of each possible scenario for the future of the European Union. It was interesting to explore one particular argument so closely. My group was assigned the third scenario, which I believe is the most likely future for the EU and currently serves as a major subject of debate. This is because, as Dr. Birchfield discussed during our class, many countries are already naturally inclined to group themselves according to issues that are most important to them due to geography, religion, culture, etc.

Scenario three and four seemed to be the most favored because they would decrease the perceived inefficiencies of the European Union, which seems to be one of the major issues today. Another major subject of debate is national sovereignty, which scenario three does address by allowing the individual member states to choose which policy areas they would like to take part in or not.

This was the overall topic of lecture for this day as we prepared for a week full of excursions to Fort Hackenburg, the Struthoff Concentration Camp, as well as the memorial site for the Battle of Verdun. These immersive activities will give us a better understanding of the sad history that ultimately led to the creation of this global peace project: the European Union.

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