A Memorable Visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg


In June 2009, I had the quite uncommon opportunity to visit the European Parliament in Strasbourg, together with 23 other students mostly from our school, as well as various European Studies teachers. We were particularly lucky to be the only group chosen to represent Malta and Gozo at the meeting in the EP for students from most of the European Union states.

Our educational visit, partly subsidised by the European Parliament, started on the morning of Tuesday 2nd June, when we flew to Germany. From Frankfurt Airport we travelled for about three hours by coach and tram, arriving in Strasbourg at around eight in the evening. Our confortable hotel was quite near the EP.

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Strasbourg is in the east of France, not very far from Germany. As signatories of the Schengen Treaty, both Germany and France form part of the so-called borderless zone in Europe. As a result, when crossing between these two countries, we were not stopped for border controls.

The following day we went to the Europa Park, which is situated in Rust, Germany. It took us about an hour by coach to reach this theme park, one of the biggest in Europe. It consists of fifteen different areas, mostly named after European countries or regions.
The Europa Park provides a lot of entertaiment and relaxation for all ages. We were able to admire ice-shows and puppet shows. We experienced rides through a haunted castle and dinosaur-infested caves. Going on roller coaster rides and various boat and water coaster trips added more excitement.

Watching a 4D movie called ‘Sammy’s Great Adventure’ was another highlight of our visit. It was very informative, focusing on environmental awareness, on global warming and oils spills in the oceans.

The day’s excursion ended with an awaited stop at a shopping mall in Strasbourg, called ‘Place des Halles’. This commercial complex hosts some high-street favourites, from which we were able to pick some last-minute gifts.

On Thursday 4th June, eager with anticipation, we walked from the hotel to the ‘Louise Weiss’ building of the European Parliament. We received a warm welcome and were treated for the day as normal MEPs. In fact we sat in their places and pressed the electronic buttons to register our votes, as they usually do. It was also a treat for us to be offered dinner in the Parliament’s restaurant.

The meeting began with a presentation of the various establishments present.  Spokespersons introduced their group in an official language of the European institutions. Our school was presented by Katia Bezzina, a Form 5 student. Then a debate on the construction of Europe was held and the students were able to put questions which were answered by EP officials
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‘One of the Maltese students addressing the Euroscola Session’

In-depth discussions in working parties followed. We were divided in five groups, each focusing on one topic chosen from: European democracy, enviroment, the place of European values in the world, youth, the future of Europe. Finally each working team had to come up with practical proposals on how to improve the present EU states.
Back in the hemicycle, these proposals were read out. All the students present then used the electronic voting system to select that working party which had made the best suggestions. The finalists of the ‘Eurogame’ were also announced. After several questions regarding EU countries and popular songs, the winning team made up of four students was awarded four big trophies – one to each participant.

We, Gozitans, were especially proud of Fifth Former Adriana Camilleri. Her team, consisting of another three students of different nationalities, managed to fight through to the final and win this game. The European Anthem was played as the  conclusion of our highly remarkable visit to the EP.

All the members of the Gozo group interacted very well with each other and with the foreign students. During our free time we also walked about the city of Strasbourg and in the local park, called ‘Orangerie’. We usually had dinner at some restaurant or from a take-away.

It was still very cold at 3 am on Friday 5th June, when we had to wake up to start our return journey to Frankfurt Airport. We landed in Malta before noon. Although somewhat tired, we still had our minds full of our unforgettable, instructive and enjoyable experience. We are grateful to Mr Saviour Grech, the Assistant Head, who organised this tour and to all the teachers who accompanied us.

Marie Christine Scicluna
Form 5 Kara

 




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