Strasbourg – politics, the Pope and Flammkuchen
Updated: Feb 5, 2020
It’s a lazy Sunday in Luxembourg. After a fun but cold day exploring the Christmas markets in Trier, I enjoyed sleeping in this morning and chatting to my housemates over lunch. I’ve brought my laptop to a cafe and am enjoying a cappuccino, safe in the knowledge that no one will judge me for drinking one in the afternoon (such behaviour is strongly disapproved of in Italy).
So, it’s the perfect time to catch up on my blog and tell you about the traineeship trips I mentioned in my last post. The trip to Strasbourg came first, and it was a great experience. I’ve lived there before but only for a few weeks when I did a short internship at the Council of Europe during my Masters. The Council of Europe, which is separate from the European Union, set up the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights (so the next time someone says we should leave the EU because they disagree with a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights, tell them that the organisations have nothing to do with each other!). We visited the Court and the Council while we were in Strasbourg, but since I had already spent some time there, the most interesting part of the trip for me were the visits to the Parliament buildings, which I had never been inside before.
Strasbourg was in chaos on the day we arrived because of another visitor: Pope Francis, who was addressing the MEPs. Sadly we weren’t allowed to go to the plenary chamber, where the speech was being given, but we found a conference room where we could watch a live broadcast. Completely by chance, we even got a good view of the Pope when he was leaving the building. Even though I’m not a Catholic, it’s not every day that you get see an important religious leader in person, so it felt quite special!
We had the opportunity to sit in on some of the debates and votes in the plenary chamber (something that all EU citizens have the right to do). Having spent the last couple of months translating documents written by MEPs, it was interesting to recognise some names and put our work into context. If you’re ever in Strasbourg I would encourage you to visit! For me, the highlight of the visit was a Q&A with Terry Reintke, a German MEP from the Green group. She is only two years older than me, and I was impressed by her answers to our questions and by the fact that she seemed genuinely interested in our opinions, rather than just wanting to preach at us. It was refreshing to meet a young, passionate politician who believes in Europe – something that seems hard to come by in the UK!
Since we were in the town for three days, we also had time to explore and be tourists. The Petite France area is beautiful, with timbered houses next to the canals, and the cathedral has an impressive astronomical clock. We ate as many Flammkuchen as we could, a regional speciality a bit like a pizza which is usually covered in crème fraîche, onions and lardons.
So, if you ever find yourself in the area, I would definitely recommend a visit to Strasbourg! I really enjoyed the trip, it was great to spend time with the other trainees outside of work and learn more about how Parliament works. A post about the Brussels trip is coming soon!