EU Day 2017

Learn about EU Day and the keynote delivered by David O'Sullivan, Ambassador of the EU to the U.S. on the 15th Annual EU Day on March 15.

Master of Arts in European Union Studies

The European Union Center at the University of Illinois offers the only Master of Arts in European Union Studies (MAEUS) program in the Western Hemisphere. Learn more here.

Language Shapes Opinion Towards Gender Equality

Dr. Margit Tavits discussed langauge and gender as a part of the EUC Faculty Lecture Series.

Conversations on Europe

Watch the collection of online roundtable discussions on different EU issues sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh.

Transatlantic Relationships after US Elections

Watch the EUC Sponsored Roundtable on Transatlantic Relations after the 2016 US Election with Moderator Niala Boodhoo

Videos of Previous Lectures

Missed an EUC-hosted lecture? Our blog's video tag has archived previous EUC-sponsored lectures.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Is the EU Conflating Integration with Mobility? Assessing Erasmus after 30 Years

By Adalric Tuten, EUC Staff

During the monthly installment of its Conversations on Europe series, the University of Pittsburgh’s European Union Center (EUC) hosted a video conference entitled “European Integration through Study Abroad: 30 Years of the Erasmus Program.” Panelists included Dr. Sabina Von Dike (University of Pittsburgh), Dr. Theresa Kuhn (University of Amsterdam), Dr. Christof Van Mol (University of Antwerp), and Dr. Florian Stoeckel (University of Exeter). Dr. Jae Jae Spoon, Director of the EUC at the University of Pittsburgh, moderated the panel.

The purpose of the conference was to assess the accomplishments of the 30-year-old Erasmus Program, the European Union’s (EU) billion-euro student and scholar exchange program.  More specifically, the discussion focused on how the Erasmus Program has contributed to increasing European integration through support for international study abroad within the EU.

While all of the participants emphasized the positive nature of the program as a whole, there was division on the kind of impact the program has had on European integration. Based on his 12-country research of the Erasmus Program, Chris Van Mol argued the program has not only had an overstated impact on EU integration, it has even worked in the direction of dividing the EU. This is because those participating in the Erasmus Program have traditionally been university students representing a small, privileged group within the overall EU population. Theresa Kuhn confirmed this point by highlighting that this relatively small and privileged group of Europeans shows a selection effect in favor of the EU and its deepening integration, since this group already approached the program with a favorable view of the EU and its institutions. To remedy this situation, both Van Mol and Kuhn argued in favor of broadening the Erasmus Program to include members of society not traditionally associated with university students, such as vocational school students and government administrators.

Although supportive of this idea of greater program inclusiveness, Florian Stoeckel argued that in his research on Erasmus, he did find a positive correlation between program participation and a stronger sense of EU identity. Yet, he cautioned that his findings stressed a stronger experience of being European, versus possessing an EU political identity. Here, Sabina Van Dike made an important distinction that has evolved over time between a cosmopolitan identity and a European one. Van Dike suggested the cosmopolitan identity reflected a neoliberal and instrumental view of study abroad, grounded in the belief that participation in Erasmus means professional advancement. In this way, she hit on an underlying and unresolved question of the conference: does the Erasmus Program conflate EU integration with increased mobility? Given current political trends within the EU, including the rising popularity of Eurosceptic and nationalistic political parties, one could also ask whether fostering special programs for an already privileged part of the EU population, as the Erasmus Program currently does, has the inadvertent impact of dividing the EU by exacerbating societal differences, for example, along class and age lines?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

When Boxers Take to the Soccer Field: How Populism is Confounding the Game of EU Integration

By Adalric Tuten, EUC Staff

On November 16, the European Union Center (EUC) of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign co-sponsored a lecture by Emilia Zankina, Associate Professor in Political Science and Provost of the American University in Bulgaria. Dr. Zankina’s talk, Theorizing Populism East and West, was part of the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center’s (REEEC) New Directions lecture series and addressed the nature of populism in today’s Europe.

The focus of Dr. Zankina’s talk was on the problem of defining and theorizing populism and on discussing her new theoretical approach to the subject. According to Zankina, populism has found renewed interest among scholars due to its success in Europe and around the world. Yet, populism defies easy articulation, because it exhibits chameleon-like traits, making it visible across the political spectrum, in rightwing, centrist, and leftwing forms. Despite this resisting of easy definition, Zankina argued that populism does exhibit some important commonalities that make it a meaningful term for analysis. These include, for instance, reliance on charismatic leaders for political direction, avoidance of specific plans for executing policy, and aggressive assault on the political rules of the game that populist parties see as inhibiting easy resolution of major social crises, such as immigration or economic decline.  In other words, no matter the political message of a particular populist party, be it left, right, or centrist, the party sells itself as the savior of society, because it can bypass the political status quo to rescue the country from ruin and peril.

Here, Zankina forwarded her new theoretical approach for studying populism. Since all political parties sell themselves as able and ready to solve pressing social problems, Zankina distinguishes populism as a political strategy that relies on informal institutions and informal means to do so. Hence, populism promises to reduce political transaction costs by sidestepping formal political processes, such as use of vetoes and checks and balances, to expedite the saving of the nation. By informal, top-down means, Zankina noted, one of Bulgaria’s populist parties promised national salvation within 800 days.

So, what happens, as several audience members inquired, when populist parties win and win within the context of the European Union (EU)? Zankina responded that populist parties adapt to the formal political processes already in place, or they fail to survive. This is because the platforms of the parties are often highly emotional, lacking substantive policy foundations. Only when such parties form coalitions with traditional political parties are they able to carry out sustained policy changes. However, as Zankina further noted, because populist parties succeed through their rejection of formal political rules of the game, they pose challenges for the EU, even when they do not win elections. This is because the EU has no effective means for stopping these parties. As Zankina concluded, harsh reports and sanctions do not work against these parties, causing them to “freeze” the process of EU integration. Subsequently, then, these parties appear to be like boxers taking to the soccer field. They are successful at what they do by not complying with the rules of the game.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Gallery Conversation on "Propositions on a Revolution (Slogans for a Future)"

By Cassia Smith

l-r: Kristin Romberg, Jaleh Mansoor, Tameka Norris, & Terri Weissman
Though the Ten Days event series features several individual events such as lectures and performances, it also includes longer exhibitions dedicated to the themes of revolution and change. One of these exhibitions is the "Propositions on a Revolution (Slogans for a Future)" exhibition at the Krannert Art Museum. Morgan Shafter, a Ph.D. candidate in Slavic Languages and Literatures, has written up this exhibition and a gallery conversation featuring it for REEEC's E-News blog. The gallery conversation, which took place September 22, 2017, featured curator Kristin Romberg, as well as contributing artist Tameka Norris, Dr. Jaleh Mansoor, and Dr. Terri Weissman. The exhibition is still running at KAM through December 22.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Universal Prostitution and Concrete Abstraction: The Biopolitics of Abstract Art, 1888-2008

By Cassia Smith

Edouard Manet's "The Balcony" (1869)
On September 21, Dr. Jaleh Mansoor gave a talk on "Universal Prostitution and Concrete Abstraction: Labour and the Biopolitics of 19th-Century Abstract Painting" at the Krannert Art Museum as part of the Ten Days event series. The lecture considers two paintings, one by Manet and one by Seurat, within a Marxist-feminist theory framework. LeiAnna X. Hamel, a Ph.D. candidate in the Slavic Languages and Literatures program, has written up Dr. Mansoor's talk for REEEC's E-News blog, complete with an overview of the main arguments and images of the two main paintings under discussion.