GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Author: Sarah Moore

Our final lectures from Giorgio Cuzzelli

Today we arrived at our beloved conference room in the Euroflat Hotel for our last series of lectures from the esteemed Italian Brigadier General.

He enlightened us on the topic of International Security & Geography beginning promptly at 10 am. We started off learning that geography is the study of features and patterns formed by the interaction of natural and man-made environments. Geography impacts nature, development, perceptions, relationships, and politics. Speaking of which, “geopolitics” is defined to be the influence of geography upon politics, and developed from the 19th Century on through four different schools of thought.

Subscribing to the Anglo-American Classical School of thought was Mackinder (1904) who believed that the Heartland was the key to ruling the world and that land power prevailed, while his counterpart Spyman (1942) alternatively believed that ruling the Rimland was more important along with sea power over land power. Students of the German Classical School of thought believed in Neo-Darwinism and thought that the State would naturally need Lebensraum to grow, as it naturally has a right to expand with only the fittest surviving. They also thought that it was the Manifest Destiny of Germany to rule.

Those in the American Cold War School believed that the containment of the Soviet Union went hand-in-hand with the Domino Theory. It was thought that containment should be achieved by surrogate powers through the three pillars:  American engagement in Europe, a strong Europe, and a strong China.  The fourth and final school of thought is the American Post-Cold War School in which divisions were thought to be cultural. According to this School, conflict occurs among fault lines between civilizations, and connected geostrategic regions generate a dynamic world equilibrium.

A strong point Mr. Cuzzelli made in his lecture was that seas unite people, thereby stressing the importance of maritime transportation. He said that food, energy, and raw materials are necessary to form a country and later stressed his point that climate change is a human security issue. Global warming compromises space and food, determines migrations, damages land, hinders developments, makes water a scarcity, and leads less-developed countries into famine. As essential commodities continue becoming more and more scarce, resource wars will emerge, especially since the world population is increasing exponentially.

After learning all of this, we took a quick [2 hour] break for lunch and returned ready to learn more. Our second and final lecture from Mr. Cuzzelli focused on Security & International Law. We talked about the right to defend and the concept of “Just War.” An important change we focused on was the transition from punishing wrongdoers to punishing wrongdoings. UN Article 2.4 prohibits resort to force with the exceptions of collective measures, self-defense, and humanitarian-intervention. He stressed that hostile action by a non-member state qualifies as an attack, and therefore a response to terrorism makes for Just War. A controversial topic is that of anticipatory self-defense/ preemptive strikes, but in general habits and customs rule in International Law.

Moving on to some specifics, the Right to Intervene is only possible under a UN Charter so that intervention can combat threats to international peace and security. Humanitarian Intervention is very difficult to justify outside of a UN Charter and hardly acceptable. Some major strategies to succeed with humanitarian intervention are as follows:  act quickly and resolutely, withstand pressure from the public, engage with a coalition of actors, and plan an exit strategy. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) serves as a global commitment to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. This differs from humanitarian intervention because it is endorsed by the UN and it is comprehensive. The Right to Prosecute up to WWII deemed that a war of aggression was not an international crime, and national sovereignty is always paramount. After WWII, Germany was punished and forced to pay compensation, and the Nurnberg and Tokyo trials took place. (These trials served to punish wrongdoings.) As Jackson famously said, this was “not for vengeance but for justice.” After the horrors of WWII, the UN was established and the Convention against Genocide & Universal Declaration of Human Rights took place. Additionally, an International Court was established (to which the US does not adhere).

To sum up, war is formally prohibited as a means of resolution of international controversy, self-defense is an inherent right, there are doubts on preventative action, the right to intervene is limited to UN Mandate, and R2P is a more formal and legitimate version of humanitarian intervention. Whew! That sure was a lot.

After absorbing all of this information, we had a few hours before heading over to our group dinner with the host parents who could attend. Inside of those brick walls and amongst the white tablecloths, families, students, and Tech alumnus conversed and enjoyed a lovely three-course meal. We got to meet other students’ host families and find out a little bit about their lives in Brussels. Once everyone had taken their last bite of cake and wrapped up their conversations, we all trekked back to our houses to end the night.

Earning certificates for not destroying Europe

Today I woke up to some very lovely 63-degree weather outside (a full 30 degrees cooler from last week) and had some spare time before our first and only group task of the day at 2 pm. Some other classmates and I utilized this time to begin preparing for our EU-US debate in a week, so [like most people do early on a Sunday morning] I brushed up on my Russian foreign security policy. After this invigorating morning, we rushed over to the Parlamentarium for our simulation on the EU legislative process.


Upon our arrival, we were handed mobile phones and assigned one of 4 political parties:  Tradition, Solidarity, Liberty, or Ecology. (Yours truly was a member of Solidarity.) No single party had a majority in the Parliament, so we would have to work together to get any legislation passed.

We watched a short introduction on the EU Parliament which reviewed some basic procedures with which we were already familiar. There were 2 directives that needed to be passed:  one on water solidarity and one on personal identification. The first addressed the scarcity of fresh water and its unbalanced distribution in the EU, while the second addressed a microchip that could be implanted into people to help with easier identification. Within our parties, we further split up into groups of those addressing the water issue and those addressing the microchip. As I was an MEP working on the microchip issue, I’ll be able to provide more details on that compared to the other directive.

We learned about our parties’ manifestos and what stance we would have to take on these issues. Whenever notified by our phones, we would move locations into conference rooms, press rooms, information sites, and even a bar. Some main debate points for the personal identification directive where if the decision should be made by the state or the individuals, if it should be used for health/ security/ commercial purposes, and if everybody or only adults should be allowed to get it. A main concern was that if the chip could be used for commercial purposes, companies could abuse peoples’ personal rights by accessing unwanted information. After numerous press conferences and debates, we were informed that the Council didn’t agree with our proposed amendments, so there would be second readings.

But then ~disaster struck~ in the form of a major earthquake in Europe (how unlikely is that??). The disaster just happened to affect water infrastructure that was over 100 years old and took place while school was in session, so kids had to be quickly identified. With this knowledge in mind, more negotiating took place and we were able to reach an agreement with the Council on the water directive and got that passed (woohoo!). Despite that success, we were still unable to reach a compromise on the microchip directive, so that led to a last chance meeting to prevent further rejection. Amidst the yelling and passionate persuading, people held true to their parties’ values while finding points on which to compromise. In the end, the Council proposed that individuals would get to decide, it could be used for health and security and commercial purposes, and anyone over 18 could get it OR children with parents’ consent. Luckily this was adopted, and that brought an end to our time as MEPs.

We received a lovely and very official certificate for “not destroying Europe,” and on that happy note, we parted ways for the day.  Overall I had a very fun (and intense) experience with this simulation, more so than I was expecting. Even though it was only for a couple hours and the scenarios were made up, this gave me a taste of how stressful and frustrating it must be to work as an MEP when you can’t reach a compromise. I think I have gained a better understanding of the legislative process in the EU, and I certainly consider myself an expert on microchipping at this point. I look forward to framing my certificate as soon as I get home and getting some rest after my rather taxing experience as an MEP.

GTL2000 Lectures

The first GTL2000 lecture was given by Dr. Birchfield and covered some of the information our class already knew. She restated her fundamental belief that the EU is a peace project and kept the lecture engaging by opening up questions to the audience. One of these questions asked what people thought were the requirements for a country to join the EU (our class knew the answer of course). Some correct guesses were about the economies and democracies, but one interesting guess was that the country had to be in Europe. Surprisingly, this is not true, and this led to an interesting discussion. Instead, the third and final requirement is that the countries have to be able to adapt to everything else already in place.

I really enjoyed this lecture because it served as a review for things we already knew, and it was stimulating because it hit the highlights of the EU. Dr. Birchfield had a slide giving statistics on how two-thirds of people surveyed feel that they are citizens of the EU and some other powerful statistics to fully back up the claim the the EU is a peace project, even though some people have realist or Euroskeptic viewpoints. She also talked about Lafayette and how he was a hero of both the American and French Revolutions, and she brought up the notion of what it means to be willing to spill your blood for an idea.

Dr. Birchfield also included an anecdote about asking previous students to try to find positive media coverage of the EU for extra credit (which they could never do), and this transitioned into an explanation of the irony of Brexit and how it has impacted people’s perceptions of the EU. Now people are more educated on what the EU actually is (as proven by the most popular Google search following Brexit), and opinions regarding the EU are more positive. Although people may still have mixed opinions, it is important avoid using a “single story” on which to base judgements, as pulled from Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk called “The Danger of a Single Story.” I think my favorite thing I took from Dr. Birchfield’s lecture is that even when we are already educated on the EU, there is always more to learn and understand about how and why it functions, and what that means in the greater context.

The second GTL2000 lecture was given by Sonia Serafin on the culture of France. She gave an overview of some things France is famous for and kept it exciting by including pictures and videos. A memorable one of those video clips showed fireworks surrounding the Eiffel Tower which was quite an impressive display. She went over some famous drinks, musicians, etc. from France and even touched on cultural differences between France and the US by showing us the Google results from typing in “snail” versus “escargot.” I think the most interesting part of her lecture was when she talked about how French people are very proud of their country because this is even visible in my everyday life here in Metz. I’ve noticed this displayed in things like the pronunciation of “Metz,” the reappearing symbol of “RF,” and even the way French people speak about their country compared to others. I think it was nice to get an overview of France in a lecture while also being able to go out and explore this country on our own.

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