EU Day

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, January 16, 2020

“Refugees, Migrants, Citizens: Political Socialization across Borders”: Addressing Gaps in the Academic Scholarship on Migration

Photo by Allison Wheeler
Last month, dozens of leading scholars from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and other universities across the U.S. convened to discuss migration, citizenship, and political socialization as part of a symposium titled “Refugees, Migrants, Citizens: Political Socialization across Borders.” The December 6, 2019 symposium was organized by Christoph Schwarz, Visiting Research Fellow with the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. “There is a certain research gap between migration research and political socialization research, in a broader sense,” said Schwarz, who intended for the symposium to be a means for fostering interdisciplinary debate.

The morning began with a panel of scholars who offered fresh perspectives on conceptualizing political socialization in a world of mobilities and hybrid identities. Tawnya Adkins Covert, Professor of Sociology at Western Illinois University, gave a brief history of political socialization research before advocating for a life course model that would consider both our personal experiences as well as institutions (e.g., family, church) in molding our political views. Not only do our political views continue to evolve well beyond adolescence, Adkins Covert noted, but the nature of our political concerns also evolves as we take on new roles in society. Speaking very generally, for instance, parents might take more of an interest in education, whereas older adults might be more concerned with healthcare policy. 

Diana Owen, Professor of Political Science at Georgetown University, zeroed in on the political socialization of migrant communities vis-à-vis mass media. Owen explained that media becomes a more significant source of political socialization for migrants, whose personal ties in their destination countries may be more limited. Social media in particular becomes a way for migrants to maintain a connection to their cultural and community identity and facilitate mobilization. 

The next panelist, Liz Dávila, Assistant Professor of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, discussed the question of how newly arrived immigrant and refugee high school students conceive of civic engagement. Twenty years ago, Congolese migrants began to arrive in Champaign-Urbana, and today there is an established Congolese migrant community. In presenting findings from interviews that she has conducted with local Congolese students, Dávila emphasized three themes. The students voiced pride in their cultural heritages, showed awareness of how notions of legal and illegal citizenship is tied to race, and expressed complex understandings of civic engagement in relation to personal advancement and rights. 

Kicking off the second panel, Veronica Terriquez, Associate Professor of Sociology at University of California, Santa Cruz, shifted the focus to the political socialization of Latinx youth in California’s politically conservative Central Valley. Terriquez found that while hostile regional contexts constrain Latinx youth’s political participation, youth organizing groups can act as a counterweight by providing civics education and training in grassroots organizing. Peer-to-peer phone banking in particular increased political participation. 

The next presentation by Teresa Barnes, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, explored the story of Jerry Essan Masslo, an African migrant who was working as a tomato picker in southern Italy when he was killed by thieves in 1989, at the age of 30. Barnes’ presentation showed how the public telling and retellings of Masslo’s death were shaped by and contributed to the dynamics of the international anti-apartheid solidarity movement. An opponent of apartheid in his native South Africa, Masslo arrived in Italy as a political refugee. He came to represent a progressive moment in Italian migrant history, Barnes said, as hundreds of thousands of people marched in the streets to bring attention to the treatment of migrant workers in Italy. 

However, as Barnes went on to explain, Masslo may not have actually been South African. Neither Essan nor Masslo are South African names, and one of Barnes’ colleagues had once been told by someone who knew Masslo that he was not South African, yet Masslo had always identified himself as a migrant from South Africa. But more importantly, Barnes asked, why is Masslo’s nationality important? How valuable is Jerry’s story if he wasn’t South African? 

The panel then turned its focus back to the U.S. as Jonathan Inda, Professor of Latina/Latino Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, discussed the case of undocumented immigrants in Chicago who were denied organ transplants and the hunger strikes that they organized in protest of hospitals’ refusal to treat undocumented immigrants. While there is no law barring undocumented people from receiving organ transplants, Inda explained, undocumented status and lack of health insurance tend to go hand in hand, and undocumented people’s right to healthcare is the underlying issue. 

From left to right: Jonathan Inda, Teresa Barnes, Veronica Terriquez, Dara Goldman. Photo by Allison Wheeler
After a break for lunch, the symposium reconvened for a panel on human rights and border regimes. Jessica Greenberg, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, discussed the case of Somali and Eritrean refugees traveling from Libya across the Mediterranean, the relationship between the European Court of Human Rights and European nation-states, and questions of national sovereignty and human rights. Greenberg focused on Hirsi Jamaa, who won a case in the European Court of Human Rights after Italian authorities intercepted migrants traveling by boat and returned them to Libya. Lauren Aronson, Director of the new Immigration Law Clinic at the Illinois College of Law, told the stories of Brian and Ali, pseudonyms of two individuals who were eventually granted asylum in the U.S. Brian was fleeing abuse, sexual assault, and gang violence when he arrived in the U.S. at the age of 14. His asylum was granted in 2018, shortly before former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that domestic and gang violence would not be grounds for asylum. 

Closing out the third panel, Christoph Schwarz, the symposium organizer and a sociologist by training, discussed the transnational nature of the 2016-17 Hirak protest movement that demanded more cultural, political, and economic recognition of the marginalized and predominantly Berber region of Rif on the part of the Moroccan government. As the Rif region has one of the country’s highest rates of migration to the EU, the Hirak movement was able to mobilize the Moroccan — and especially the Rifi — diaspora in Europe. Protesters gathered not only in front of Moroccan embassies and consulates in Europe, but also in front of the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg. 

The fourth and final panel was a reflection on space, time, and memory. Rakesh Bhatt, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, analyzed the question of how displaced minority communities deal with the experience of migration through the case of the forced migration of Kashmiri Hindus from the Kashmir Valley. Bhatt noted that the Kashmiri migration to other regions of India was marked by a sense of disorientation and impermanence: adults found themselves alienated from their homeland, whereas their children were alienated from Kashmiri customs and language. Questions of identity and belonging were also at the heart of the next presentation by Dara Goldman, Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who discussed the place of Cuban Jews in configurations of Cuban citizenship.

The final panelist, Cynthia Buckley, Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, presented the case of ethnic Russians in Estonia as an example of borders moving across populations rather than people moving across borders. Much of Estonia’s ethnic Russian population is descended from Russians who moved to the former Soviet republic in the second half of the twentieth century. Today, the Estonian government’s efforts to assimilate ethnic Russians have been both controversial and of limited success. Buckley showed a few photos of street signs that are in both Estonian and English — the latter in order to be welcoming to other EU citizens — but not in Russian. 

The image of migrants that emerged from these presentations was highly varied and geographically diverse — which was one of symposium organizer Schwarz’s aims. “The images that circulate often focus on the most dramatic stories, and migrants tend to be presented either as a threat or as helpless victims,” Schwarz said. “The first tendency is surely more problematic than the second, but in both, the political subjectivity of the migrants is overlooked. That means they are not perceived as individuals with political aims, ambitions, orientations, or participation in political life.”

This symposium was sponsored by the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; European Union Center; Centers for East Asian & Pacific Studies and Global Studies; Departments of Political Science, Sociology, and Spanish and Portuguese; Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities; and Women & Gender in Global Perspectives. A Q&A with Christoph Schwarz will be published in the next few days.

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Friday, December 20, 2019

It's my way or the Huawei: The EU's struggle to unify on Chinese telecom rules

by Jordan Evans-Kaplan, MAEUS student

This blog post was written for the course "Dialogue on Europe" during the Fall 2019 semester.

Photo Credit: Jon Worth, via Flickr
License available here.
Few issues of international regulatory cooperation have sparked as much conflict and confrontation as the EU's mixed relationship with Huawei.  When unraveling the news regarding this cooperation, there exist three critical factors for consideration: Europe's difficulty finding a single regulatory voice, the transatlantic implications of greater EU integration with China, and the inherent security risks of state spying.  The combination of these three factors with the current trade environment has produced a "perfect storm" with respect to EU-Chinese relations and 5G infrastructure.

One of the most salient aspects of the Huawei clash has been rooted in Europe's difficulty in unifying on issues of security.  However, if security alone was insufficient to elevate the issue to this level of international concern, technological and regulatory hurdles provided the rest of the legwork.  Once specific example of this form or jumbling is in Germany's recent "security catalog".   This policy has drawn the ire of many EU nations for being a "toothless" provision, as the only requirement being imposed on Huawei is that they agree to a "no-spy clause" without the EU having plans for either enforcement or verification.  Further, given the already strained trade relationship, coupled with a backdrop of trade tensions, it is clear how unification on this multidimensional issue could pose quite difficult for the European Union.

The transatlantic relationship is undoubtedly a key component in the friction between Chinese telecom and the European market due to a host of security and economic concerns.  One such concern is the threat of Huawei inserting a backdoor into their technology, as they were accused of doing with Vodafone Italy.  In lawsuits going back to 2011, Huawei was found to have the means to access the private data of millions of citizens through so-called downstream packet collection via backdoors in critical infrastructure.  Further, recent evidence has come to light showing that routers and fiber optic infrastructure built by Huawei demonstrated serious security vulnerabilities and backdoors which would allow the company to effectively "siphon" data from optical nodes and broadband network gateways, gathering information secretly without risk of detection.  Despite this, the US position seems to have softened with respect to Germany, as they walked back the demand that Germany ban Huawei's 5G plans.  As a result, the current refrain coming from the United States with respect to Huawei can be summed up in the Cold War adage, "Trust but verify."

Security and privacy concerns are not limited to the transatlantic relationship, as the European Union has been hotly debating this issue on the grounds of state spying as well as citizen privacy.  The threat of backdoors leading to Beijing is clearly on the minds of European regulators and politicians.  However, in response to these accusations of clandestine surveillance, Huawei has pushed back on Europe for what they see as being "singled out" by the European Union.  One proposed solution favored by Huawei is common telecom securi
ty standards within the European Union.  While many see this as an attempt to share blame with the entire sector, it speaks to a larger trend within the common market of the Eurozone: a centralization of security-based policies in order to ensure infrastructure cannot ever be compromised by a foreign nation.

Huawei represents one of the most challenging regulatory and security hurdles for an actor such as the European Union due to the complex and multifaceted way through which it interacts with Europe and its people.  As a result, it can be said that the issue of Huawei is largely one of integration and securitization of infrastructure, in which the solution can only be hammered out through a rigorous democratic process that prioritizes not just the security of Europe, but its privacy as well.  Only time will tell how this issue will be regulated and drafted into law, but it is clear that the way forward is in a more closely integrated Europe with consistent policies around the world.
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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Who is seen as "European" in Europe? And who is "European" enough for the EU?

by Danielle Sekel, graduate student in Musicology and FLAS fellow at the EU Center.

This blog post was written for the course "Dialogue on Europe" during the Fall 2019 semester.

These are questions that continue to be relevant, with comments such as Bulgarian President Roumen Radev's call for Bulgaria to become a "normal European country", and French President Emmanuel Macron referring to Bosnia and Herzegovina as a "ticking time-bomb" in a recent interview with The Economist.  With such statements abounding in the current dialogue, it seems as good a time as any to pay close attention to not only the problems faced by those Balkan and Eastern European countries that already have a place in the EU and those that are struggling to gain entrance, but also the views held by others concerning their current and future status.

With Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia among the current candidate countries, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo as potential candidates, it seems that the European Union is at a crossroads of sorts, with the possibility of a significant change in the makeup of the Union through the inclusion of more Balkan members.  However, despite enlargement pushes from Hungary to expedite Montenegro and Serbia's entrance into the EU, Macron effectively blocked North Macedonia's bid.  Despite widespread backlash concerning this unmistakable setback for Balkan candidate countries, it remains clear that the road to EU entry will be long for the candidate countries, and both longer and rougher for the potential candidates.

ICAR Canned Beef Monument in Sarajevo.
Photo by Danielle Sekel.
Most recently, Bosnia and Herzegovina has come under fire not only through Macron's biting words, but also in their performance concerning the migrant crisis and housing of migrants within the country.  With more and more light being shed on the state of migrant camps, the rest of the world is becoming aware of the ongoing issues faced by refugees living in Vucijak, a camp with no running water that was haphazardly built atop a former landfill amidst mine fields from the most recent war.  European Union officials have repeatedly called for the closure of the Vucijak camp; however, it seems there is nothing put in place in the case that the camp is successfully closed.  Paired with Macron' recently voiced concern of the problem of "returning jihadists" to the country, it remains evident that there are harmful views of Bosnia being circulated still.  In the capital of Sarajevo, whispers of the European Union's assistance in the form of canned beef during the most recent war can be seen--consider for a moment the ironic ICAR Canned Beef Monument dedicated to the international community from the "grateful citizens of Sarajevo."  Now decrepit, the monument still clearly states the complexity of the region's past, but still leaves us to question the future of these European nations.

Following the blocking of both Albania and North Macedonia, one must consider what place Balkan nations with significant Muslim populations have in the future of the European Union.  Is there a future version of the EU that includes a place for countries such as Albania, North Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina?  And if so, does this future version include such countries in more than . amerely marginal manner?  The answer seems unclear given recent ruminations on the current state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the anger felt throughout North Macedonia and Albania regarding recent setbacks, and increasing tensions throughout the region.  It very well may be time to revisit the Bulgarian President's question of what constitutes a "normal" European country and really consider it from a number of standpoints throughout the European Union.
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The Tricky Trade Triangle

by Victoria Prince, MAEUS student

This blog post was written for the course "Dialogue on Europe" during the Fall 2019 semester.

Photo modified from the
Public Domain by the EUC.
The European Union, the United States, and China are currently in a very precarious balancing act when it comes to trade relations.  With tariffs being thrown around like footballs on Thanksgiving, each actor needs to decide what their policies are in each relationship and how the other leg of the relationship triangle affects those policies.  The US and China's trade wars is the instigator for the trouble at the table.  With the tensions emanating from here, China and the EU have used this opportunity to season their own trade relationship.

The business between China and the European Union is hard to define, because of the individual nations that make up the EU.  The European Union would like a united front in its dealings with China, especially as it condemns China's human rights violations.  But as countries are willing to forego these reproaches in pursuit of their own economic benefits this family dinner is looking more like a potluck.  Germany is spearheading this ignorance of EU positions by putting trade before human rights with Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to China in September.

This isn't the only time that Merkel has been criticized for Germany's dealings with China.  Germany received a very negative response when it opened its telecom market to China's Hwawei company.  The move was considered to be dangerous as it could allow for Chinese hacking in Germany and beyond.  The United States found this to be in very bad taste and has led to questions of future relations between Berlin and Washington.

The United States isn't only upset with Europe for this foul play, as it recently imposed tariffs on EU goods in response to the Airbus vs. Boeing dispute.  But the EU is taking the higher ground here and pledged to not retaliate with tariffs of their own.  The EU and US relationship has not strengthened with the US's focus on China in trade, which is of benefit to Beijing.

The trade war between the US and China has also negatively impacted the relationship between the EU and China.  As China focuses on the United States it is leaving Europe on the backburner.  Europe needs to reassess its current position.  Food was the centerpiece of a recent trade deal that put China and the EU back on the trade map.  This deal was cooked up in an effort to protect regional food names like Gorgonzola and Roquefort from Europe or Nanjing salted duck and Pu'er Tea from China.  This does instill protections for European and Chinese producers but makes it harder for those from other countries to market similar products internationally, such as the case with American blue cheese producers.

Is a focus on Chinese trade really a good thing for Europe, or is it beneficial to China by separating the EU from the US even more?  The European Union public views Chinese trade practices as a threat and they may have merit.  China's goals may be to not only insert a wedge between Europe and the United States, but to also divide the EU on policies to weaken it even further.
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