EU Day 2016

Learn about EU Day and the keynote delivered by His Excellency Henne Schuwer, Ambassador of the Netherlands to the U.S. on the 14th Annual EU Day on February 29th.

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.

EUC Dimensions of New and Heritage Language Education

Dr. Liv Thorstensson Dávila discussed langauge education as a part of the EUC Faculty Lecture Series.

Whose Legacy? Museums and National Heritage Debates

Watch the online roundtable discussion sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh.

2015 recipient of the Larry Neal Prize for Excellence in EU Studies

Read about the 2015 recipient of the Larry Neal Prize for Excellence in EU Studies, Michelle Egan, and her book Single Markets

Videos of Previous Lectures

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Immigrant and Minority Children in Public Schools: A European and American comparative discussion

By Rachel Johannigmeier

On November 14,  I had the opportunity to join in on a discussion about education with my community.  Letitia Zwickert, a Fulbright-Schuman Scholar and K-12 educator, visited the Champaign Public Library sponsored by the European Union Center and the Center for Global Studies along with the support of Illinois Humanities and the Illinois Speaks grant.  During the event, Zwickert presented the research she conducted from January to June of 2016 on education in Belgium, Luxembourg, and France and how it specifically impacts migrant children and their families. Then she opened the floor to lively audience discussion and questions.  

The development of her research began in 2014 when Zwickert wrote a proposal to study minority languages and the best pedagogical practices in different locations; from there, she wanted to use that information to compare the information and use those to improve on teaching practices in different areas.  She noted that she did not know if it would be possible to actually conduct her research, but with support from the European Union Center and the Center for Global Studies, she was able to successfully receive a Fulbright grant, and became the first K-12 educator who also was named a Fulbright-Schuman Fellow.

In her research, she found that each of the countries she researched had different approaches to their education system; she was careful to present a full picture of the education systems, rather than presenting only negatives or positives about each system. She also discussed how the political and social landscape of the communities had an impact on what she observed. For example, her arrival in France was preceded by the Paris Attacks in December, and it shaped the discussions she had with government officials.  During her research, she also visited Germany and Sweden, and she used her experiences there as comparisons to the information she collected in her research in Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.

She then provided the audience with advice she had developed based on her experience.  When approaching education, especially with regards to immigrant and minority children, she recommended the following:

  • Respect the mother tongue
  • Support all types of health (physical, emotional, and mental)
  • Connect with others with the use of pastimes and activities
  • Providing transitional academic support
  • Reach and connect with the family
After exploring her pieces of advice, she opened the floor to questions, and the audience was actively engaged in conversation.  This type of dialogue is what Zwickert wanted, as she noted that this event was meant to focus on discussion about education, and her research served as a point of discussion.  

In the end, Zwickert left the audience with a reflection on her research and the discussion.  The components of her research are a global issue, and not just a local issue.  We can consider our local viewpoint as a point of comparison, but we also should consider a global mindset as a point.  It is important that we understand and care about people and take on a global mindset so we do not label people as "other." 


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Transatlantic Relations in the Aftermath of U.S. Elections (video)

By Carlo Di Giulio

The roundtable taking place at the Illini Union Thursday, November 10 was hosted by the European Union Center of Excellence at the University of Illinois, following one of the most controversial campaigns in recent years. After an unprecedented, reciprocal exchange of accusations and allegations between the candidates of the two major parties, the President Electe Donald Trump emerged as the winner despite unfavorable polls until the very morning of the election day.

The three speakers, with the outstanding moderation of Mrs. Niala Boodhoo, were called to discuss the aftermath of the US elections and the consequences on Europe and the rest of the world. Valerie Rouxel-Laxton, Head of Economic and Financial Affairs Section at the Delegation of the EU to the US, reassured the audience on future commitment of the EU in discussing with the President Elect about the future of Transatlantic relations. In spite of bitter tones during his campaign and discouraging comments on free trade deals and the US role in NATO, Mr. Trump has not compromised the relations between the two blocks, and the US is still highly regarded in Europe by EU Institutions and citizens as a model of democracy and perhaps the most important partner in the international arena.

Professor Kourtikakis and Professor Gelbman dived deep into the technical details of the elections, sharing with the audience their expertise as political scientists. The early results of the polls, proved wrong later on November 8 after the results, as well as the possible consequences in international relations after Mr. Trump will take office at the White House.  More anecdotal notes on questions and reactions from their students in class were only a few points touched upon by the speakers.

The following reception was a pleasant opportunity for members of the audience to engage in further discussion, and approach the speakers to ask questions and exchange opinions.

The world has been waiting for the results of the 2016 US elections for months. Since the very beginning of the 2016 campaign, the two candidates have fostered curiosity, perplexities, and debate in the US and all around the world. The role of the US in the international arena is prominent for its economic and military power. As is typical with election results, almost a half of the electorate in the US celebrated a victory, while the other half was surprised with disappointment. Similar reactions were registered among US allies and partners. Yet, institutions are ready to welcome the President Elect when he takes office in January, regardless of his political affiliation and strategy to keep working for maintaining fruitful and solid relations.

To view the video of the roundtable, please visit Media Space to watch.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Populism – A Personal Reflection on the New Normal (Video)

By Carlo Di Giulio

What are the factors behind the rise of populism in Europe and North America? On October 20, as part of the Conversation on Europe video-conference series, the University of Pittsburgh hosted a debate titled “An Uncertain Future: Elections in the US and Europe.” The regional emphasis of this discussion concentrated on Canada, the United States, Spain, Italy, Hungary, France, and the United Kingdom (UK). These countries are some examples of what appears to be a shared phenomenon in Euro-Atlantic politics.

The discussion was an outstanding source of food for thoughts. It contextualized the rise of populism in relation to political mechanisms (for example electoral system) permitting historical political minorities to gather stronger consensus and on current problems in Western societies such as immigration, refugees, and financial struggles.

At the end of the debate, I wondered about the meaning of the concept of populism. Populism can be understood as a double-faceted term. On the one hand, it is a reaction towards the political establishment, a disapproval of the elite composed of people detaining institutional and economic power. It is an expression – in its most extreme adaptation – of the concept of Democracy, after all. It is surprising how this interpretation of populism is possibly closer to the idea of Democracy than Democracy itself in the modern age. With the exception of referenda, the result of a public vote in modern democratic systems is to delegate power to a restricted group of individuals, a legitimization to rule over the community. The actual government resulting from today’s elections is arguably an oligarchy. Populism opposes this idea to benefit the community.

During the debate, Professor Larry LeDuc, from the University of Toronto, pointed out how minority populist parties, once elected at the government can either face a failure in their intents of reforming the system, or become the new establishment. I could not help myself thinking about the recent visit of the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to the US. In his remarks at the Presidential Dinner, President Obama addressed him as Il Rottamatore—“the Scrapper”—a nickname suggesting his ambition to reform the Italian political system. Yet, Renzi faces considerable criticism at home, where populist movements—such as the Five Star Movement or the Northern League—consider him a member of that establishment they are opposing with such a verve.

Speaking from Paris, Jan Rovny, Assistant Professor at Sciences Po, mentioned in the debate how ideology does not appear to be principal vector behind populism, as much as populism itself. Populism is not concentrated to parties and/or groups on the right of the political spectrum. One can think of extremely different stances in the political spectrum still labeled as populist (examples in the US are Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump).

I must recognize how, on the other hand, populism represents the expression of a demagogic approach to politics; it gathers consent where discontent is stronger, acting as a catch-all movement regardless of values, but leveraging on few key ideas shared among supporters. In line with the Italian case, I reflect on the opposition by the Italian Prime Minister against the “establishment” in the EU institutions pushing for looser controls on national budget, how he is incessantly asking for an intervention of the EU on the issue of migration, shifting the complaint from the national to a supranational level, where the electorate and national opposition agree.

It is the game of politics, or what Putnam defined in his 1988 book a “two-level game.” It is a dialogue on two different, yet intertwined levels—national and supranational—balancing the results of two negotiation tables to maximize the results. This could still be a healthy form of (modern) democracy, as long as the electorate is adequately represented.

However, once detaining power, keeping a promise made during the political campaign is always a difficult task to follow through. The political realities, once at the helm of power, affect the maneuvering and implementation of ‘radical’ policies promised on the campaign trail. The risk of failure is high, and few goals are not the foundation of a political agenda (let’s think about what happened to UKIP in the Brexit vote’s aftermath). Populism itself—as an expression of Democracy—could play a positive role in the institutional landscape. The voters, however, must evaluate very carefully the promises they receive, as the expectation-reality gap tends to be undermined.

The video roundtable can be viewed below or on Youtube.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

EUC Lecture Series: Language Attitudes, Regional Loyalty, and the Implications of Regional Language Maintenance for the EU's Strategic Goals on Multilingualism

By Barbara Myers

On Friday, October 28, Professor Zsuzsanna Fagyal presented preliminary findings from an ongoing research project in her EUC Lecture, "Language Attitudes, Regional Loyalty, and the Implications of Regional Language Maintenance for the EU's Strategic Goals on Multilingualism.” In her presentation, Fagyal argued that the successful development and support of multilingualism should not overlook micro-level social factors and matters of local identity that are often missing in official governmental data.

Though EU states have adopted the Barcelona objective and Communication 566 on Multilingualism, and though the European Commission works with entities to protect Europe’s linguistic diversity and promote language learning, Fagyal pointed out that, “The EU does not have a multilingualism policy; it has multilingualism goals.” Fagyal went on to emphasize that these EU-level goals are currently more tied to market value than to culture, which is exemplified by Europol data on language use and proficiency. In these polls, regional and minority languages, such as Frisian and Catalan, “disappear” or are minimized in the rankings of language use.

This disappearance is surprising given regional and minority language speakers’ self-professed active (reading and writing) and passive (understanding and speaking) proficiency in their mother tongue. Yet Fagyal found that cultural and social factors such as age, gender, personal relationships, and regional loyalty play a role in regional and minority language use. Furthermore, “Regional loyalty corresponds to European identity,” said Faygal. “The greater the level of regional loyalty, the greater the sense of European identity.” To this listener, it would seem that, despite the dominance of state languages, regionalism could be a key to European cohesion.

For more reflections and conversations on policy and the state of European languages, please visit the EUC's blog, Linguis Europae.

The author, Barbara Myers, is a MAEUS student and FLAS Fellow (Advanced Swedish) at the European Union Center at the University of Illinois.