In the course of our P-Seminar “Model United Nations Conference”, which is officially an English seminar but could more aptly be described with the word “political”, it seemed only fitting we visit one of the most important organs in our European Union: The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
And so our journey began, on a bright Wednesday morning at the Central Station of Aschaffenburg. We took the train to Strasbourg, which was the best way for a small group like ours. Sadly, some trouble occurred while we were on our way so we were delayed. The typical DB experience.
Upon our arrival in Strasbourg, we noticed to our dismay that it was not only not cooler (temperature-wise) than in Aschaffenburg, but it seemed even warmer! We immediately headed for our hotel and refreshed ourselves before beginning to explore the city.
The first planned stop was the Cathedral, majestic with its high-reaching tower. Tilman gave us a very nice presentation about the Astronomical Clock, which included interesting details like the fact that the gentle people of Strasbourg gouged the inventor’s eyes out so he couldn’t build a second clock for Paris.
After that, we moved on to one of the main parts of our journey: visiting the headquarters of arte. Now usually, tours for student groups are not a thing there, but luckily, Ms Schulze-Nicolai made use of her connections and managed to smuggle us in for an unofficial tour. It was fascinating indeed. We were given a general impression of how arte works and which drastically different jobs are needed to produce a show. After the general tour, we were taken into the, as we were told, “room with the best view in the whole building”. From it, we could see the European Parliament we were going to visit the next day and also got some unexpected information about observed happenings at the Parliament. But as our prepared questions for that day were specifically about arte, the topic soon changed back. We were told about how and why arte was founded and why it could never work with Germany and Poland. We also found out that arte does a little better in France than it does in Germany and that small differences between the countries, as the time the evening program begins, make the job for the people at arte a bit more difficult. When we asked about films we should definitely watch, we were told that “Schindler’s List” and “Les Intouchables” are very much worth watching. With these recommendations, we said our good-byes and left arte again to find a place for dinner.
In the end, we all settled on a small restaurant near “La petite France” and had a very enjoyable meal together, after which we were allowed to go explore the city on our own.
After a good, but relatively warm, night’s sleep, we had a very satisfying breakfast at the hotel and then left for our appointment with Mrs Westphal at the European Parliament.
To our amazement, we didn’t have to wait longer than ten minutes before we were led through the security checks and ushered into the building by Alan Gralik, an assistant to Mrs Westphal, who soon after joined us in a small meeting room. Her manner was delightfully non-boring and very suitable for young adults like us. She didn’t drown us in political jargon none of us would have understood, for which we were very grateful indeed. Even though not all our questions could be answered due to the limited time we had with her, we found out some very interesting things about the way the Parliament works and which problems it faces. One problem, for example, is the coming Brexit – she feared it will bring chaos to the EU. Another is the unwillingness of country leaders to surrender more power to the EU, which it needs to keep Europe together and functioning. She was very proud to tell us that her party, the S&D, had delegates from every single member country and ended the session with the urgent request that we should all go vote as soon as we could.
Following this private session, we witnessed a part of a plenary session about crimes against humanity committed in Eritrea and Burundi. It was fascinating to see such important politicians at work.