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.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Is Democracy on the Wane in Turkey?

Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Is Democracy on the Wane in Turkey?

By Craig Chamberlain, Social Sciences Editor at the Illinois News Bureau

Originally published on the Illinois News Bureau on 4/19/17. Republished here with permission.


Once hailed as a model for Islamic democracy,Turkey plays a key role in both the Syrian refugee crisis and the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State. On April 16, however, Turkish voters appear to have approved sweeping constitutional changes that many opponents and observers see as another big step in a years-long march toward authoritarianism under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. University of Illinois political science professor Avital Livny specializes in the study of Turkish identity politics and is finishing a book on Islamic-based activism in Turkey and the wider Muslim world. She spoke with News Bureau social sciences editor Craig Chamberlain.

What were the key changes approved in the April 16 referendum?

The constitutional changes ranged from more minor administrative tweaks to major changes to the structure of political power in Turkey. The president’s role has been greatly expanded while the prime minister’s has been eliminated – the president will now serve as both head of state and head of government. He will also now have complete authority to appoint and remove cabinet members, as well as the vice president, a new position.

At the same time, he can now maintain an affiliation with a political party, and presidential and parliamentary elections will now take place in tandem, to the likely benefit of the president’s party. And while presidential decrees are now subject to judicial review, the constitutional court has been shrunk from 17 members to 15, with the president having the power to appoint 12 and parliament the remaining three. Meanwhile, the entire system of military courts has been dismantled.

How were these changes justified and what are the fears of opponents?

These changes have largely been justified as a necessary corrective to the 1982 constitution, put into place during Turkey’s last period of military rule. But last year’s failed coup attempt has also loomed large: Erdogan has argued that the fracturing of power under a parliamentary system is inherently destabilizing and that the concentration of power in the president’s hands is a safer bet in terms of security, as well as economic growth.

Opponents of the reform package are concerned about the removal of so many checks on the president’s authority, especially at the expense of the judiciary. With the new constitution in place, Erdogan will likely remain unchecked at the helm of the Turkish state until at least the next presidential election in 2019, if not beyond.

What happens now, especially given that opponents are questioning the legitimacy of the vote?

It is difficult to predict the future, but it seems likely that this will remain a contested issue for some time yet. While President Trump seems to have accepted the vote, a number of international organizations have questioned its validity. Regardless, I expect Erdogan’s government will push ahead with the changes, and opponents will have little recourse but to go forward. Protests will likely continue, probably with renewed fervor. But the imprisonment of members of the Kurdish political movement in Turkey speaks to the risks involved in even peaceful opposition.

How did the Kurds figure into this vote?

The Kurdish vote was always expected to play a large role in the outcome. Whereas Kurdish political leaders had called for the boycott of a referendum in 2010, they were explicit in their support for voting “no” this time around. That said, there were concerns that the Kurdish community, clustered in the southeastern regions of Turkey, could be disenfranchised. An analysis of the preliminary vote tallies would indicate that this may have been the case. Turnout was exceptionally low in many of these areas, and there were fewer "no" votes than would have been expected given past electoral results.

President Erdogan and his AKP party are Islamic in their ideology, in a country that has traditionally kept religion out of politics. Some might see that as a key factor in their moves toward centralized control. But is that the case?

My reading of the situation is that Islam played a negligible role in the most recent campaign. Instead, it would appear to have been a pretty straightforward power grab. There were at least a handful of references to Islam during the campaign, but I have seen little evidence that the centralization of power is aimed at installing a more religiously based political system in Turkey. Sure, Erdogan's government will continue making religiously laden statements or even small policy changes aimed at appeasing the more conservative members of its base, but this is a far cry from shari’a law – even if it may feel like a big shift away from Turkey’s staunchly secularist past.

Many people have viewed Erdogan’s success as evidence of a religious resurgence in Turkey. But you argue in your upcoming book that this trend, surprisingly, has little to do with faith. Can you explain?

The success of an Islamic-based party in Turkish politics, along with the rise of Islamic-based economics, has been a shock to observers and participants alike. But I have found little evidence that religiosity is on the rise in Turkey, nor do the most-pious people seem to be the main constituents of these Islamic-based groups.

Instead, it seems that references to Islam are less about advancing some sort of an Islamic agenda and more about solving a quintessential collective-action problem: large-scale political and economic activity requires that individuals trust one another enough to be willing to work together. But levels of interpersonal trust in Turkey are remarkably low. By referencing an identity that most voters and consumers have in common, Islamic-based movements are able to tap into the feelings of trust that people naturally have in members of their own identity group, making political and economic cooperation possible.

To reach Avital Livny, call 217-265-6796; email alivny@illinois.edu.
Share/Bookmark

Friday, April 14, 2017

EUC Washington D.C. Trip 2017 - Part Six - Atlantic Council

By Sonam Kotadia

As a part of the professional development of our MAEUS students, the European Union Center offers students the opportunity for a trip to Washington D.C. in the Spring semester. This year's trip happened from March 21 to the 25. This article is Part Six of a series of posts written by different MAEUS students. In this article, Sonam Kotadia discusses the trip to the Atlantic Council. Previous entries in the series can be found here. Entries on previous DC trips can be found here.

Our second meeting of the trip was at the Atlantic Council. A leading think tank in the field of international affairs, the Council was founded in 1961 in the hopes of bolstering transatlantic ties. In the past few decades, it has expanded its focus beyond Europe to include all corners of the globe. Nestled in the heart of DC, just a block away from K Street – the infamous lobbying district – the Council was a short, pleasant walk from the EU Delegation.

We had the pleasure of meeting with two staff members. They first introduced us to the history of the organization and a few of its current projects, most notably the Future Europe Initiative. Understandably of the most interest to us, this relatively new program focuses specifically on European and transatlantic affairs. One of our hosts then gave us her top tips for living and working as a young professional in the capital. A native of Slovakia, she provided insight into how non-US citizens can maneuver through and be successful in DC. She stressed the importance of internships and networking, a theme we would hear echoed over and over throughout the week. Afterwards, our other host gave us a brief rundown of what he believes are the most pressing challenges facing the EU. We had the opportunity to ask questions, which sparked some interesting and insightful discussion. Before we knew it, we ran out of time and had to hurry to our next appointment!

The trip to DC was a fantastic opportunity to learn about what career paths are available with a MA in European Union Studies. It could not have happened at a better time: I have recently begun to question whether I still want to pursue my previous career goals. After hearing the experiences of professionals in a wide range of positions and expertise, I feel more confident that I will find the right path for myself.
Share/Bookmark

EUC Washington D.C. Trip - Part Five - Pew Research Center

By Jessica Mrase

As a part of the professional development of our MAEUS students, the European Union Center offers students the opportunity for a trip to Washington D.C. in the Spring semester. This year's trip happened from March 21 to the 25. This article is Part Five of a series of posts written by different MAEUS students. In this article, Jessica Mrase discusses the trip to Pew Research Center. Previous entries in the series can be found here. Entries on previous DC trips can be found here

This spring break I had the great honor of joining my fellow MAEUS students and Professor Vander Most on a trip to the nation’s capital to explore an array of careers that may appeal to our particular area of study. While in D.C., we had the opportunity to meet with several organizations, including the EU Delegation,  the Department of State, and the Library of Congress, as well as state offices in the Capitol. However, I was most interested in our final visit on our first day of appointments. Our last stop of the day was at the Pew Research Center where Jacob Poushter, Senior Researcher, welcomed us. He introduced the facility as a nonprofit fact tank that does not take a position in any policies. At Pew, experts conduct global public opinion research and focus on transatlantic issues. Mr. Poushter then gave a presentation on how staff members conduct their research and how that research is published.

As of its most recent annual report (Spring 2016), Mr. Poushter reviewed some of the highlights from the center’s European Public Opinion Survey. In the survey, several current topics were touched upon. Mr. Poushter discussed the presence of refugees and other minorities in Europe and the importance of language in national identity. He then continued to address the statistics based on survey results concerning Brexit and the recent U.S. presidential campaigns. As this report was published before the triggering of Article 50 and the U.S. election results and inauguration, Mr. Poushter is looking forward to further research exploring how Europeans will feel come this spring and the next.

The Pew Research Center’s website contains salient topics on all areas of the globe and are fascinating for anyone who may be interested in further research. The website also includes interactive tools where visitors are encouraged to participate in online polls. Under the “Careers” link on the website, Pew has listed internships for anyone considering learning about working for a fact tank. Pew is a fantastic resource for MAEUS students in the process of writing their theses or for anyone who is curious about statistics on current EU sentiments.

The full article detailing Mr. Poushter’s 2016 research can be found at pewglobal.org under “Europeans Face the World Divided.”
Share/Bookmark

Thursday, April 13, 2017

EUC Washington D.C. Trip 2017 - Part Four - Library of Congress


By Rafael Rodriguez

As a part of the professional development of our MAEUS students, the European Union Center offers students the opportunity for a trip to Washington D.C. in the Spring semester. This year's trip happened from March 21 to the 25. This article is Part Four of a series of posts written by different MAEUS students. In this article, Rafael Rodriguez discusses the trip to the Library of Congress. Previous entries in the series can be found here. Entries on previous DC trips can be found here.

As described in my statement of purpose to attend the trip, it is important to take full advantage of all the opportunities to create networks and establish new points of reference whether for academic or professional purposes. The trip to Washington D.C. opened a new opportunity for the students of the European Union Center to connect even better with each other and the faculty participating in the trip. Beyond that, we all had the chance to connect with very interesting people with professional paths that serve as an example for our future professional paths.

On the third day of our visit and as the last meeting of the day, we visited the Law Library of Congress. We were received by Dr. Jenny W. Gesley, Foreign Law Specialist; Luis Acosta, Chief of the Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Division; and Dante Figueroa, also Foreign Law Specialist. After the proper introductions, Mr. Acosta took some time to kindly present the way in which the website has been shaped to provide easy access for the public to the files in the library. As the largest law library in the world with a collection of about 5 million items, they told us about the type of relevant requests that they sometimes receive from different nation states, that, due to internal conflicts, have their files destroyed. The presentation was a systematic orientation on how to properly use the search engine of the website and even to request research assistance on US, foreign, international, and comparative law.

We found it very interesting that the services provided by the library go beyond a simple book keeping process. The Law Library of Congress offers, as mentioned, research assistance, but also in-classroom and virtual orientations, courses, and information sessions regarding legal research. They also provide constant connection with their public through email newsletters, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, the bulletin of their Global Legal Monitor, the development of a mobile application, and programs and events organized annually to strengthen the understanding of global legal issues. One of those technological aspects that I found very relevant for today’s society, is their blog titled “In Custodia Legis”, in which several articles are posted regarding global legal matters, congress developments, and legal history with different international perspectives.

To conclude our visit to the library, Mr. Clifton Brown, an employee at the library for more than 30 years, gave us a tour of the basement of the library where most of the archives are. We could look at books more than 2 centuries old, and we saw the incredible level of organization that the library has gone through to keep records and easy access to the files. In summary, this was one of the most interesting meetings since we got to understand better the relevance of the Library of the Congress and some of the specifics of why it is currently the biggest law library in the world.

For more information on the different services offered by the library: www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/law_library_congress/llc_services_for_aba.authcheckdam.pdf
Share/Bookmark