If you’re not familiar with the DIS program you’re probably wondering, what the heck is Core Course Week?? Well its a week where students focus on the main core that they’re taking at DIS which for me is The European Game of Politics: Crisis and Survival.
On Monday, we started with a lecture from one of our professors, Kristian Weise. Kristian is the director of a think tank in Copenhagen called Cevea, but he has also worked in the Danish Parliament and in Brussels, Belgium with various EU institutions. The lecture focused on the Single European Market and how the EU is first and foremost a trading union that began with the integration of France and Germany’s coal and steel industries post WWII. Later that afternoon we had a guest speaker, Bjark Moeller the director of Think Europa, another think tank based in Copenhagen. This lecture focused on the EU in general and the various problems they’re currently facing including Donald Trump, BREXIT, and the immigration crisis. Though Monday only consisted of lectures, these lectures gave us plenty of information to take with us into the rest of Core Course Week.
On Tuesday, our class visited the Danish Parliament at Christiansborg (and yes I seem to go here multiple times a week so I really should be living there at this point). We spoke with Rasmus Nordqvist, a member of the Alternative party in the Danish Parliament. He is a member of the European Affairs Committee on Culture and the European Affairs Subcommittee on Foreign Policy. Nordqvist primarily spoke about his party which was founded in 2013 and which he has been representing in parliament since 2015. His party’s platform focuses on issues relating to climate change as well as getting more people involved in politics and the democratic process. But as an EU spokesperson, Nordqvist talked about the importance of working with similar parties in other EU countries as well as working on increasing their party’s membership so they could run for a seat on the European Parliament in the next cycle.
Wednesday was a break from activities with our core course in order to rest before we left Copenhagen early on Thursday morning. On Thursday, our class visited the Danish District Heating Association (DDHA) and Danfoss, both Danish institutions that focus on making services more efficient for consumers. The woman from DDHA, Nina Detlfsen, first explained what district heating was to us, since no one from my class knew. Essentially, district heating is a more efficient way for people to heat their houses or businesses because a central factory heats water that is pumped through underground pipes to the houses where people can adjust the temperature to their liking rather than for each individual consumer to have individual water heaters in their houses. (But for a better definition check this out: District Heating Explained). This presentation was really informative and gave us a better sense of how the Danes have invested in more efficient energy solutions for some time and how other European countries are starting to implement these ideas within their own countries.
Danfoss’s presentation was similar in the sense that their company’s main goal is to create machines that are the most energy efficient on the market. Jan Petersen, our presenter and tour guide, said “no system is better than the products you put into the system.” After giving us a background on the company we got to take a tour of the factory which was really cool; unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures on the tour 😦 But imagine a factory similar to one where cars are manufactured or anything else that would be made on an assembly line. That’s the basics of what Danfoss’s factory was like with the exception that 85% of the work was being done by robots. These robots put every piece together, lasered or soldered them into place, and double checked the pieces after each stage to make sure that no mistakes were made. It was cool to see this process and hear about what Danfoss is creating to make machines, and essentially the world, more efficient.
On to Friday! In the morning we continued our drive south to Kiel, Germany where we met Rasmus Andresen a member of the Green Party in Germany and a representative in the Schleswig-Holstein regional parliament since 2009. Andresen explained how he had been involved with the Green Party since he was in high school and was very interested in American politics (he worked on President Obama’s 2008 campaign), but also about how he is a part of the Danish minority in Northern Germany. This area at the Danish-German border has changed hands many times throughout the years, but the border was eventually declared during a vote in 1920 through the Schleswig Referendum. While this border has remained in effect since 1920, there are still people in the Danish minority in Northern Germany and the German minority in Southern Denmark. This means that these two communities often have to work together to accomplish their goals. I had never thought that people who live on the border of two countries could feel an allegiance to a country they did not live in, but it was great to hear about Andresen’s upbringing with both the Danish and German cultures.
Later that afternoon we arrived in Hamburg where we heard a presentation from Denmark’s General consulate that helps Danish businesses establish a German market. This presentation didn’t focus heavily on the EU but it was still good to learn more about Denmark’s relationship with Germany.
Finally on Saturday we headed back to our homes in Copenhagen. But not before going on a harbor tour in Hamburg where we saw gigantic container ships from all over the world. Seriously, the pictures do not do these ships justice.
Overall this Core Course Week was a great time to get to know more about Denmark, regional politics, and my classmates much better! Now I’m even more excited to go to Brussels in two weeks to get a first hand look at the EU and all of their institutions!! For now, I’ll leave you with some pictures of the incredible food we had over the past few days 🙂