Summer Study Tour to Europe – Day 2 (Part 2)

Mussels.  High quality, pricey chocolates.  Hand crafted lace and tapestry.  Unique beers.  The seat of the EU and NATO.  Gourmet food. Cobblestone streets. Palaces.  Museums.  History.  Culture.  Brussels!  These were my expectations at the start of my WAC adventure, and I have not been disappointed.

I have learned so much about the EU in just two days in Brussels. The thought has crossed my mind more than once how the world has changed since my cousin and godson was an infant in Warsaw.

Chernobyl had contaminated the milk supply throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Pawel—my cousin and godson—needed special injections of vitamin D.  I had to have  his script  translated at Duquesne and filled by a Polish pharmacist.  In his lifetime, Pawel has seen the fall of the Berlin Wall, Solidarity breaking down the barriers of Communism, Poland’s admission to the EU and the zloty exchanged for EUROs.

Today’s lectures clarified in my mind the workings of the EU:  the Parliament, the Council, the Commission.  I enjoyed the bookend lectures:  EU 101 followed by a visit to chambers, and concluding with Natasha’s “insider’s view.”  Having everything put into perspective made me acknowledge the greatest barrier to total integration:  the Nation States.  Listening to the reports of the three presidents and the corresponding comments at the Parliament by five of the political parties made both the process and the posturing come to life.  Yesterday and today, we were exposed to various points of views:  those of the EU inner circle and those of others on the periphery or with a connected organization.  I agree that the economic goals driven by peace are lofty, but the reality is that the sovereignty and the  nationalism of the member nations will make total integration  a definite challenge.  The economic, nationalistic, and education/communication obstacles will not be overcome over night.

One key component to today’s lecture is the apparent need for more open and more frequent communication with the citizens of the EU.  All residents of member nations- student to adult- must become better informed about the actual programs, policies, and issues currently in the lens of the EU.  The changes will not take place over night, but in order for substantive changes in the attitudes of the residents of the member nations to occur, citizens of each country who are also citizens of the EU must be informed of the rationales behind the decisions made by Parliament.  The future off the EU will be an interesting chapter in the story of Europe.

Mary Lou Ellena-Wygonik
Hampton High School