M.A. in Political Science, European Union Policy Studies

EUPS in Strasbourg

Louise Weiss Academic Excursion 2019



By Chelsea Jones 

Last February, the EUPS group embarked on their second academic trip of the year to Strasbourg, France. Home of the European Parliament’s plenary sessions, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg and the surrounding Rhineland is rich in Franco-German history and culture. When we arrived, on Sunday afternoon, many of us branched off to explore the city and immerse ourselves in this unfamiliar, non-Italian setting. The calm French streets, inviting restaurants that smelled of freshly baked baguettes, and the towering gothic Cathédrale were notable features of the city.

We started our first workday with Ambassador Meglena Kuneva, the energetic and passionate Head of the EU Delegation to the Council of Europe, and discussed with her the need for multilateralism to be further promoted and maintained in Europe and beyond. Amb. Kuneva had kindly arranged for us to meet with Judge Yonko Grozev, a sitting Justice on the European Court of Human Rights, who presented the challenges of working in a transnational court that defends Human Rights across the continent. In the afternoon, we crossed the border between France and Germany, and explored the sister city of Kehl, Germany, comfortably passing by tram over the mighty and mythical Rhine, that separates, or rather unites, the two cities.

This was not my first time going to Germany. But Kehl looked actually more like the suburb of a US city than the cosy towns I had visited in the German heartland. Strasbourg, on the other hand, was much more quaint and authentic. The Cathedral Nôtre Dame de Strasbourg was breathtaking. Later that evening, we tried some authentic Alsatian cuisine. Someone even got ambitious and ordered the famous French delicacy, les escargots à la bourguignonne!

The following days were packed with meetings. We talked with several Members of the European Parliament, including Petras Austrevicius of Lithuania. As the Chair of the Delegation for Relations with Afghanistan, the Lithuanian MEP was incredibly informative on the continuing issues the country faces. It was so exciting for us to talk to him, knowing that he is running for the Lithuanian Presidency! Some other important keynote speakers included Secretary General of the European Parliament, Klaus Welle, probably the most powerful person in the House. It was truly an honor for us to meet such important top officials and discuss with them about the topics that are currently at the center of European and global politics!

My favorite and perhaps the most memorable part of this entire trip was attending the Parliamentary plenary session, which included a debate with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. The debate was supposed to be focused on Europe’s future, but instead ended up looking more like a political attack by the Members of Parliament from opposing parliamentary groups against the current Italian government, with Mr. Conte attempting to dodge those at times even harsh criticisms. I was surprised at the language used by MEPs like Guy Verhofstadt, who made it a point to directly call the Prime Minister a “puppet” of Matteo Salvini. It was quite a heated debate, but, regardless, also a fantastic experience for us Italy-based EUPS students, as it placed our second home country at the center of the stage, although controversially.

The Louise Weiss academic trip to Strasbourg, together with the two other excursions to Brussels, are three unique jewels of the EUPS program. Even among other Europe based American programs or European universities, it is hard to find any academic program that offers its students the opportunity to not only travel to these cities and EU institutions, but to interact with high level EU officials in all branches of the institutional structure. The diversity we experience between Brussels, Strasbourg and Florence sheds new exciting perspectives on our lives as Americans and will provide us with a beneficial professional background as we move into careers in government, the not for profit sector, politics, policy analysis, consultancy, law or the private business sector. Culturally, Strasbourg is a treasure and EUPS students are lucky to have the opportunity to enjoy such an extraordinary European gem, immerse themselves into Franco-German history, and taste the delicacies of the local cuisine.

Chelsea Jones is a graduate of the EUPS Class of 2019 and served as a research assistant to the on-site director, Caterina Paolucci. She graduated from JMU in 2018 with a B.A. in International Affairs and Spanish and a minor in Latin American and Caribbean studies. She studied abroad with the JMU Semester in Salamanca, Spain program in the spring of 2016 and then interned in Valencia, Spain during the summer of 2017.

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Published: Friday, August 16, 2019

Last Updated: Saturday, January 2, 2021

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