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.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Drama at the Toll Booth: Border Control, Jobs, and Boring Work

by Mike Nelson

The Turkish film Toll Booth was shown on campus on November 7 as part of the Global Lens Film Series. Turkey is not a member of the European Union, yet Turkey is one of the most discussed countries in EU studies. Toll Booth depicted a man who was an exemplary toll booth employee until his father became sick. One day, the man freaked out at work and was consequently transferred to a distant toll booth that has little traffic in order to hide the man from the majority of the public.

While watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think of border control in the EU. One of the most commonly cited successes of the EU is that Europeans can travel without passports throughout the EU, and all EU citizens can seek employment anywhere in the EU. This is called the Schengen Area. The Schengen Area makes internal travel easier, but it also places more importance on protecting the EU’s external border. Many immigrants, both legal and illegal, now just need to find some way to get in the EU and can then move around freely. For example, Italy struggles with protecting its border. The United Kingdom has refused to join the Schengen Area because of these security concerns.

Toll booths can be connected to many political issues. Many toll booth employee positions have been cut in the last two decades because of improving technology. There are toll booth unions that fight against layoffs and for better pay. Governments worldwide invest in infrastructure, such as major highways that require toll payments, to create jobs. In Illinois, tolls are now more expensive if you pay in cash instead of I-PASS. The Illinois rule is difficult for people with bad credit history who cannot have a credit or debit card and thus cannot have an I-PASS.

The film also raises the important question of how mundane but important work can be done over and over by employees. Jobs involving repetition can easily result in burnout and a decline in good customer service. The main character in Toll Booth seemed so tired during and after work because of the non-stop flow of cars for forty hours a week. A similar job with repetition that gets a great deal of news coverage is air traffic controllers. I feel like I read at least one story a year of an air traffic controller falling asleep on the job. The main responses to this issue have been to increase the amount of breaks, offer more pay with bonuses and incentives, and have employees work less hours per week than at other jobs.

From my own experience as a lifeguard, you have to personally put some effort into a repetitive job to keep yourself sane. It can get boring when you watch a body of water for eight hours in a row. I sometimes made up back stories of the swimmers or thought about what I would do if I won a million (or billion) dollars to prevent my brain from turning into mush.

Who would have thought there was so much to consider about toll booths?

Mike Nelson is a first year MAEUS student. He graduated a year early and received his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012. Mike has studied French, German, and Spanish and will be tackling Swedish starting this fall. He has traveled to Germany and hosted a French foreign exchange student. During the summer, he works as a manager at a water park. He is working as a Graduate Assistant and Teaching Assistant for the European Union Center this year.  

Photo Credit:
"Keokuk Rail Bridge toll booth, Keokuk, 1982." Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Keokuk_Rail_Bridge_toll_booth.jpg. Accessed November 15, 2012.
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

EU Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050

Speaker: Christian Burgsmüller, Delegation of the EU to the US, Head of Energy, Transport, Environment section

by Juju Manandhar

Rapid climate change in the last century, I believe, is directly related to human activity. Not only are humans creative and adaptive to the changing nature of this earth but we have transformed natural resources stored over millions of years and exploited it into cheap energy for a lavish lifestyle for many of us. I am a firm believer of climate change but there are plenty of people in the United States that won’t budge on climate change. Some want proof and statistics but they cannot be convinced even if you provide the evidence.  We cannot wait until there is no more ice left in the ocean and those non-believers won’t be here to see it; therefore, we must act now to reverse the trend or to at least limit environmental impact.

I give a huge credit to the European Union’s role in leading the path to minimize climate change and to improve lives of inhabitants of this earth. I already see positive impact due to European Union regulation of hazardous chemicals found in consumer products via Registration, Evaluation, Authorization & Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS), and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) that sets collection, recycling and recovery targets for a wide range of electrical goods. United States has to do a lot to catch up.

There were plenty of debates on Obama administration’s decision to increase fuel mileage for automobiles. In my view, those who hesitated had deep connections to the auto industry as well as the oil production sector that just didn’t want to change anything other than to increase their bank balance. I deeply support laws to increase automobile fuel efficiency as well as increase investments in public transportation such as high speed rail. These only help reduce our dependent on personal vehicles. I fully support EU’s vision 2020 package for 20% reduction in emissions and 20% increase in energy efficiency. The solution to energy problem is not to drill more and take more out of the earth but to accept a balanced middle path. We should take what is needed while working to reduce our needs by improving efficiency of our machines and reducing our dependence on non-renewable energy. 

I was very enthused about the speaker’s comment on inefficient house construction in the United States. I happen to have built my house in the last few years and I was so disgusted with how it was constructed, I spent my after work-hours and weekends with cocking material to reduce air leaks from plywood seams and fixtures mounted on the ceiling. I upgraded to the highest level of insulating materials for exterior walls. I take satisfaction that my effort provided me with a much smaller energy bill compared to my smaller older house. Yes, if I had enough time and money, I would have thought of my grandchildren living in the same house and could have done even a better job. Only if efficient doors, windows, and insulation materials were driven by laws, the construction companies won’t be driven to use cheap materials. Developers in the United States really don’t have any incentive to improve efficiency and I think this is different to the way people in the European Union think. Our society must be willing to make investment now rather than let our grandkids pay for our failure to improve efficiency and reduce dependence on non-renewable fuels. If United States cannot be a leader in moving towards a low carbon economy, let’s at least follow the European Union’s vision 2020 and vision 2050.

Juju Manandhar has an Industrial Engineering degree from U of I and is currently finishing up his MBA degree. He was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, lives in Champaign, IL, and works for Caterpillar Inc as a Senior Engineering Specialist.

Credits:
1. http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/roadmap/index_en.htm
2. Image of Europe: http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/index_en.htm


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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bonjour, Monsieur Hollande: The French Presidential Elections

by Mike Nelson

In the French elections panel on October 1, one of the panelists noted that former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was called a “hyper” president. I know what you’re thinking: ce n’est pas possible! With the so-called ‘Merkozy’ relationship between Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and even an Internet Meme site that plasters Sarkozy’s face onto important historical images, the former president certainly created some entertainment.

A precious 'Merkozy' moment.

The goal of the panel was to determine if the results of the recent French presidential elections matter. I think that subject is too vague; how do we determine what matters, and what is the importance of mattering? The panelists considered the question from historical and political perspectives. I propose that all elections matter, which I would have guessed is not a controversial declaration. However, the panelists argued that many elections do not matter, either because elections are just a part of the democratic process or because one person will not make a difference in important matters, such as the European financial crisis.

A special reason why this specific election matters is because President François Hollande is a member of the Socialist Party. He is the first Socialist to be elected president since François Mitterrand. It cannot be a coincidence that as the euro crisis continues, France decides to return to socialism. Hollande’s viewpoints will influence the entire European Union’s handling of bailouts, bonds, and other austerity measures. Already, Hollande has requested changes to the EU’s newest budget treaty, although panelists discussed how he originally promised to revise the treaty line-by-line.

This election, I think, could be the beginning of many changes in Europe and the EU. I question if Angela Merkel will be the next leader to be rejected by a growingly euroskeptic public. Constituents are demonstrating their unhappiness with the financial crisis, and they want new leadership to fix the problems. If the French have made such a drastic decision as a return to socialism, it is plausible that fellow Europeans will decide to take action, too. Europeans may not approve of the EU, but they may decide to participate more in order to prevent future crises. For example, a euroskeptic political party, Europe of Freedom & Democracy, already exists and has several MEPs in the European Parliament.

In comparison to Sarkozy and his occasional goofy antics, Hollande should represent French better on the world stage and to the French themselves. I doubt that we will see any pictures of Hollande dancing with Merkel anytime soon. Hollande has now been in office several months, and we are now getting a better picture of his administration. Case in point, he has remained committed to pulling French troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2012. The question remains regarding how much the elections matter. Before we know it, we will need to apply this question to the German elections in 2013.

Mike Nelson is a first year MAEUS student. He graduated a year early and received his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012. Mike has studied French, German, and Spanish and will be tackling Swedish starting this fall. He has traveled to Germany and hosted a French foreign exchange student. During the summer, he works as a manager at a water park. He is working as a Graduate Assistant and Teaching Assistant for the European Union Center this year.

Photo Credits:

1. (c)2012 Jean-Marc Ayrault, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en
2. (c)2009 Sebastian Zwez, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Germany license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Dr. Stefanos Katsikas Co-Edits Book on State-Nationalism in Greece and Turkey, 1830-1945

Dr. Stefanos Katsikas, Director of Modern Greek Studies and Lecturer of Linguistics and Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, is co-editor of State-Nationalism in the Ottoman Empire, Greece and Turkey: Orthodox and Muslims (1830-1945). The book has just been published by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
Tracing the emergence of minorities and their institutions from the late nineteenth century to the eve of the Second World War, this book provides a comparative study of government policies and ideologies of two states towards minority populations living within their borders.

Making extensive use of new archival material, this volume transcends the tendency to compare the Greek-Orthodox in Turkey and the Muslims in Greece separately and, through a comparison of the policies of the host states and the operation of the political, religious and social institutions of minorities, demonstrates common patterns and discrepancies between the two countries that have previously received little attention.

A collaboration between Greek and Turkish scholars with broad ranging research interests, this book benefits from an international and balanced perspective, and will be an indispensable aid to students and scholars alike.
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Friday, November 9, 2012

University of Illinois Professor K. Peter Kuchinke Named Ambassador of E.U. PromoDoc Initiative

The PromoDoc initiative promotes doctoral study in European Union countries. The University of Illinois, with three, is the only US university to have multiple PromoDoc ambassadors.

WASHINGTON, October 1, 2012 – Professor K. Peter Kuchinke, Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership has been appointed to serve as an ambassador of PromoDoc, an E.U. sponsored initiative that seeks to promote doctoral studies in European Union member states. Over the next year, the twenty five selected PromoDoc ambassadors will advise students in the United States and Canada on the options for doctoral education in the European Union and promote the opportunities that are available.

PromoDoc consortium members Campus France and the Institute of International Education selected the ambassadors based on their extensive experience in European higher education.

PromoDoc is a project funded by the European Commission within the framework of the Erasmus Mundus Action 3 (EM A3) program, focusing on the promotion of European higher education at the doctoral level. The project aims to showcase the attractiveness of doctoral-level study in Europe; improve awareness of opportunities for doctoral study; facilitate access to European doctoral programs among students in third countries, especially in the Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States.
The project also provides a comprehensive web-based resource to help students access doctoral study opportunities in the European Union. The PromoDoc website includes:  doctoral program listings, a guide to the organization of doctoral studies, and information on funding opportunities, application procedures, living in Europe, associations of doctoral candidates and career prospects in each European country.

The three-year project is being implemented by an international consortium, led by Campus France and composed of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Nuffic, the British Council, Eurodoc (The European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers), and the Institute of International Education. For more information, see www.promodoc.eu.

For more information about PromoDoc and opportunities for graduate study in Europe through the program, please contact K. Peter Kuchinke at kuchinke@illinois.edu.

See also: University of Illinois Professor Alma Gottlieb Named Ambassador of E.U. PromoDoc Initiative
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University of Illinois Professor Alma Gottlieb Named Ambassador of E.U. PromoDoc Initiative

The PromoDoc initiative promotes doctoral study in European Union countries. The University of Illinois, with three, is the only US university to have multiple PromoDoc ambassadors.

WASHINGTON, October 1, 2012 – Professor Alma Gottlieb has been appointed to serve as an ambassador of PromoDoc, an E.U.-sponsored initiative that seeks to promote doctoral studies in European Union member states. Over the next year, twenty-five selected PromoDoc ambassadors will advise students in the United States and Canada on the options for doctoral education in the European Union and will promote the opportunities that are available.

PromoDoc consortium members, Campus France and the Institute of International Education, selected the ambassadors based on their extensive experience in European higher education.  Professor Gottlieb has lived and taught in several countries in Europe.  For example, in 2010 she was a Guest Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris; in 2006-07 she  lived in Lisbon, where she was a Visiting Researcher at the Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa; and in 2003 she was a Visiting Scholar at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium).  Professor Gottlieb’s current research is with Cape Verdeans with Jewish ancestry, especially those living in Portugal as well as in New England.

A dedicated teacher and mentor, Professor Gottlieb has appeared on her campus List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students 32 times.  She is currently Director of the Undergraduate Program in Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she has received the Outstanding Mentor Award from the Graduate College.

PromoDoc is a project funded by the European Commission within the framework of the Erasmus Mundus Action 3 (EM A3) program, focusing on the promotion of European higher education at the doctoral level.  The project aims to showcase the attractiveness of doctoral-level study in Europe; improve awareness of opportunities for doctoral study; facilitate access to European doctoral programs among students in third countries, especially in the Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States.

The project also provides a comprehensive web-based resource to help students access doctoral study opportunities in the European Union.  The PromoDoc website includes: doctoral program listings, a guide to the organization of doctoral studies, and information on funding opportunities,
application procedures, living in Europe, associations of doctoral candidates, and career prospects in each European country.

The three-year project is being implemented by an international consortium, led by Campus France and composed of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Nuffic, the British Council, Eurodoc (The European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers), and the Institute of International Education.  For more information, see www.promodoc.eu.

For more information about PromoDoc and opportunities for graduate study in Europe through the program, please contact Alma Gottlieb at ajgottli@illinois.edu.

See also: University of Illinois Professor K. Peter Kuchinke Named Ambassador of E.U. PromoDoc Initiative
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Thursday, November 8, 2012

How is your history?

by Michelle Asbill

As a senior in high school, I was convinced that one of my greatest achievements was passing the United States and European History Advanced Placement (AP) tests.  My success was not as much tied to the fact that I had passed these exams, but more that I would now be relieved from the obligation to take history courses in college.  Although my lack of appreciation for history did not prevent me from completing my degree, it did limit my ability to fully engage and wrestle with real world challenges.

A recent EUC sponsored lecture, “Does it matter? The French elections and the European financial crisis”, repeatedly made the point that in short, history matters.  Both directly and indirectly, this lecture stressed that history is not just important, but is critical when examining European Union affairs.1 The panel, which consisted of three professors representing two different language departments, spent a considerable amount of time critiquing recent French political and economic history. While there was disagreement as to what the specific consequences of the election were, there was consensus in the idea that examining the history of events leading up to the election is an imperative step.

The most repeated historical reference was directed towards the activity of current French President François Hollande and its relationship to the political and economic context it has inherited from Nicolas Sarkozy. The first speaker, Dr. Jean-Philippe Mathy, reminded the audience of the “Budget Treaty” and the strong relationship between Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel.2 However, with the entrance of Hollande, it will be interesting to see how this relationship impacts (or does not impact, but this is unlikely) not only each country’s internal affairs, but the affairs of the EU. Dr. Keller also noted the Sarkozy-Merkel relationship, but also made references to Germany’s known authority in the EU as well as several references to France’s voting history.3

So, how is your history?  Unfortunately, Americans are not well renowned for their knowledge of history.  Washington Post writer Valerie Strauss, in a 2010 article, quite clearly supports this premise through the use of several different statistical sources.4 Yet, the American Historical Foundation asserts that history is of great importance, even though Americans place more weight in keeping up with the present and looking forward to the future.5 All of this presents a question: how do we change direction and begin to flex our “historical” muscles? While there are many valid answers, I would suggest the following:
  1. Don’t only rely on one mode of communication- for example, a person could read a book, watch the History channel, and then listen to a podcast.
  2. Start by Narrowing interests to a specific person or event- there is no need to read a massive volume on the French Revolution in one sitting.  Why not balance this massive volume with a vivid biography of Marie Antoinette?
  3. Use credible sources of information for ideas- the History Channel provides great ideas for interesting books as well as other multimedia resources.6In addition, The New York Times offers a steady of stream of book reviews.7
So, does history matter?  In short, yes, because it gives us “access to the laboratory of human experience”.8

Michelle Asbill is a first year student in the Master of Arts in European Union Studies (MAEUS) degree program at the University of Illinois.  Her previous graduate work has been in the area of social work (MSW—U. of Wisconsin-Madison) and community development (Wheaton College).  Michelle lived in Sofia, Bulgaria for three years (2008-2011), as both an employee of a small Bulgarian non-profit organization and also as a graduate student at New Bulgarian University (degree pending defense of thesis).  Michelle has been awarded a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship for Bulgarian language study for the 2012-2013 academic year.  Her research interests include EU policies and programs related to combating trafficking and how they impact the effectiveness of non-profits working in this area, as well as Bulgarian agriculture.



1Lecture details can be founded at: http://illinois.edu/calendar/detail/1889?eventId=23854286&calMin=201210&cal=20121001&skinId=3185
2Information about Dr. Mathy can be found at: http://www.french.illinois.edu/people/jmathyhttp://www.french.illinois.edu/people/jmathy or the treaty here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16057252
3Information about Dr. Keller can be found at: www.french.illinois.edu/people/mkeller
4See article at: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/civics-education/what-americans-dont-know-about.html
5See more at: http://www.historians.org/pubs/free/WhyStudyHistory.htm
6For more information, see: http://www.history.com/
7For more information, see: http://www.nytimes.com/pages/books/index.html
8From: http://www.historians.org/pubs/free/WhyStudyHistory.htm
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A Nobel Peace Prize for the EU?

by Maximilian Biegler

On October 12 it was announced that the European Union will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.  The decision was criticized from many sites all over the world; The Bangkok Post stated that the “EU award diminishes [the, M.B.] Peace Prize”. An Author in the Long Island Newsday headlined his comment, ”Worst. Nobel Prize. Ever.” Iain Martin of the British Telegraph argued that the awarding is “beyond parody, like knighting Fred Goodwin in the middle of a mad boom” and the Daily Mail‘s headline was “It's got a collapsing currency and rioting on the streets but the European Union wins the Nobel PEACE Prize”.


But why was the EU actually awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? On the official website of the price, the committee explains why they bestowed it to the EU: "for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe."

If this is not a reason for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize, I do not know who should be awarded this prize.

Some days ago I attended a discussion by the German and French consuls generals. Both spoke very nicely about each other, calling the opposite part “my colleague” and emphasized the meaning of working together in a united Europe. What is so special about it? It is not special, it is amazing. It is the reason why the European Union deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

Not so long ago, both countries were what is in German called “Erbfeinde” or translated “arch enemies”. There have been countless martial conflicts between the two states in the past, which have cost thousands of lives.

To better understand what I mean and to illustrate the “Erbfeindschaft” look at the following pictures:

 
These frightful pictures were taken at the battle of Verdun in 1916. It was one of the main battles of WWI between Germany and France. 167,000 French soldiers and 150,000 German soldiers died alone in this battle.
These images show the German-French war in 1870 and 1871. 44,781 French and 138,871 German soldiers were killed in this war.


WWII: The last war between Germany and France. The pictures show the occupation of Paris by Nazi-Germany.

To my mind, the main success of the European Union was to end this long-lasting enemyship. One main figure was the French foreign minister Schumann who had the revolutionary plan to create a common authority for the German and French coal and steel production, which other countries could join if they want to: The European Coal and Steel Community, which was created in 1951 and is commonly seen as the  ancestor organization of the European Union. 


Its goal was “to strengthen Franco-German solidarity, banish the spectre of war and open the way to European integration.”

I think this goal was achieved due the further development of the European Integration in form of the EU and to me it seems worth awarding this incredible peace project.

But why was the award given right now, when there are these huge problems in the EU? It should, to my mind, remind the EU of its original purpose. The member countries should, like in a marriage, stay together in solidarity in bad times and never let these old time rise again.

Maximilian Biegler is a graduate student of Political Science at the University of Vienna. Currently he is a visiting student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He interned at the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, at the Austrian Parliamentary Administration and in the EU-Coordination Division of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Economy. 

Photo credits:
1.  European Union, 2013.
2. (c) 2012 Rafa Sañudo http://www.publicserviceeurope.com/article/2581/eu-awarded-nobel-prize-for-creating-lasting-peace. Accessed November 8, 2012.
3. "Verdun", http://www.faurillon.com/Verdun.htm. Accessed November 5, 2012.
4-8. http://www.manfred-gebhard.de/. Accessed November 5, 2012.
9. http://www.deutsche-schutzgebiete.de/webpages/Beschiessung_von_Paris_1871_.jpg. Accessed November 7, 2012
10. Battle of Mars-la-tour [The War], From "Canadian Illustrated News" Date: 19 November, 1870 , Pagination: vol.II , no. 21 , 336, Franco-Prussian War, 1870-71. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f3/Battle-Mars-Le-Tour-large.jpg. Accessed from Wikipedia.org on November 7, 2012
11. http://www.deutsche-schutzgebiete.de/webpages/Erstuermung_Eisenbahndamm_1870.jpg. Accessed November 7, 2012
12.http://www.annefrankguide.net/de-de/content/5_11_1%20ah%20paris.jpg. Accessed on November 8, 2012.
13. http://www.elsalvador.com/vertice/2004/220804/fotos/paris6.JPG. Accessed on November 8, 2012.
14. http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/World-War-2-Timeline-1940/ Accessed on November 8, 2012.
15. "Single stamp from Block 4 mark." First Day of Issue / Inception: 19 April 1968. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cb/Stamps_of_Germany_%28BRD%29_1968%2C_MiNr_556.jpg. Accessed from Wikipedia.org on November 8, 2012.
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Primos: A Hilarious Tale of Personal Discovery by...Spain?

by Chris Baldwin

A young man from Madrid, Diego, travels to the north coast with his cousins in what seems merely one of those “everyone finds their true self” comedies, but Primos is really a reflection of Spain's own search for itself as a country.

To begin, this movie depicts a shift in Spanish mores. For instance, cohabitation rather than formal marriage is becoming increasingly common, such as with the case of José Miguel and Toña. If they do get married, they would likely use a church, but many young Spaniards have little use for institutionalized religion apart from similar ceremonies, as the movie reflects by only showing a church at the very beginning. Elsewhere in the movie the characters say that they do not particularly mind that their significant other sleeps with someone else now and then, as long as they are honest about it. While that is certainly not the norm, I personally have run into several people in Spain who had similar perspectives.

The financial crisis is not readily apparent in the film, but Spanish resentment at the European Union's fiscal demands can be seen through José Miguel, whose nurse-girlfriend has been making him medically dependent on her. This sort of treatment is how many Spaniards feel regarding the European Union, rather than interpreting any actual desire to help.

The EU dominates Spain's economy in a way that Spaniards feel is selfish and ineffective, but the movie facts that Bachi reflexively recites point to the cultural dominance of Hollywood in Spain. All of the movies he mentions are classic American movies, and one of the characters even mentions a desire for a stronger Spanish cinema at one point. Similarly, the song the cousins sing at the end is by the Backstreet Boys. Primos takes place recently enough to include at least one reference to a famous Spanish director or song, yet pop culture remains dominated by the United States, leaving Spain somewhat on the defensive for cultural recognition in its own country.

Though the movie is ostensibly about the cousins, this image depicting dialogue (including both disagreement and reconciliation between old and young and between rich and poor) as well as the person most closely tied to cultural imperialism in Spain more fully represents what I believe the movie is trying to say.
Bachi's estranged relationship with his daughter is another reason why he is important for the movie. Such a relationship mirrors feelings in general between the older and younger generations, specifically those generations divided by the end of the dictatorship (Spain became a democracy three years after General Franco's death in 1975 after ruling for 36-39 years). The movie is not explicit in this regard, but such conflict between the old and new is definitely present in Spain and is visibly present in the misunderstandings between Bachi and Clara.

The movie also shows increasing mobility among young Spaniards. The cousins do not face any real problems with making a spontaneous six hour drive from Madrid to the north coast. Such mobility was not unheard of 30 years ago, but has grown increasing common due to investments in the freeway and rail system. Most Spaniards still feel strong links to their ancestral towns, but this mobility, potentially re-framed as restlessness, is visible.

Primos shows a Spain that is trying to establish itself. Spain finds itself financially dominated by Europe, like José Miguel is by Toña, and culturally dominated by the United States. There is an increasing divide between younger and older generations, with the main dividing line being the end of the dictatorship, as represented by Bachi and Carla. Diego internalizes all of these conflicts, the mutual exclusivity of which is embodied by Martina and Yolanda. Hopefully Spain will follow Diego's example and decide on a steady path to follow.

Chris Baldwin is a double major in History and Spanish with a minor in Portuguese, for which he received a FLAS scholarship through the European Union Center. After graduating, he will pursue a doctorate in History and ultimately plans to become a professor with a focus on Iberian history. Languages feature prominently in his personal interests, and so in addition to those previously mentioned, Chris also studies Catalan, Basque, Esperanto, Latin, and Irish and is involved in Catalan and Esperanto language and culture groups on campus. His other primary hobby is a fictional world, similar in principle to that of Tolkien, in which he can explore historical and linguistic principles in a creative setting.

Image source: http://revistaatticus.es/2011/02/12/primos-pelicula-de-daniel-sanchez-arevalo
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Forging Ahead Amidst Crisis

by Whitney Taylor

It is not every day that we at the University of Illinois are graced with a Consul General, but to have two in one day was a true delight. On October 16th, the European Union Center hosted a Panel Discussion with the Consul Generals of France and Germany to discuss EU-U.S. transatlantic relations.

Consul General Graham Paul of France and Consul General Christian Brecht of Germany were extremely receptive to our questions and treated us to a wonderful conversation. Not only were relations across the Atlantic discussed, but so too were those between EU Member States. As the ongoing euro crisis shows its stubbornness, some of us may begin to question if the EU has the political will to conquer both the economic and political infighting that has been unleashed on the EU stage.

There have been a myriad of suggestions lobbied at “Eurocrats” suggesting different methods for uniting Member States and reforming their individual and shared economic woes. Some have called for Greece’s departure from both the Euro and the EU while others have suggested that the European Central Bank’s authority be enhanced to act as a safety net in the event of Member State defaults. Whichever path the EU chooses will not be an easy one, but the Consul Generals gave us an indication of a possible course forward.
As the EU grows ever closer, it is clear that when problems arise, they can affect multiple Member States, the phrase “contagion” has become popular and aptly describes the swiftness of monetary instability recently seen in parts of the EU. However, we can also see some of these problems in the United States as well and here we may draw upon the idea of implementing federalism in the EU. As Consul General Brecht suggested, the goal of the EU today is to further develop the close relationship between Member States, bolster the power of the EU institutions and perhaps slowly move towards a federalist model. Consul General Paul of France echoed Mr. Brecht’s sentiments and noted that in the case of France, if they want to have a say and assist in shaping their future, they will need to come together alongside other Member States and act in a more unified manner for stronger integration. Instead of Member States falling out of the EU, they need to stay in, but work on reforming their national policies in order to work towards a stronger EU.

Although this is no small act, the EU’s Member States are not new to crises or difficult economic times. Today the world is equipped more so than at any other time, to pool resources and use globalization to its advantage. The EU is a great example of a union of countries that has benefited from close relations and now, more than ever, is another opportunity to come together in mutual support. As we witnessed a congenial atmosphere between the Consul Generals of two nations that used to be bitter rivals, it is hopeful that the EU’s recent Nobel Peace Prize award is symbolic of not just their past, but what the EU can forge by staying the course, united.

Whitney Taylor is a Master's Candidate in European Union Studies at Illinois where she is also pursuing a graduate minor in Corporate Governance and International Business. Her research interests include monetary policy, corporate social responsibility and trade.  

A video of the Consul Generals' discussion may be viewed here.
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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Jumping in the Pool

by Brent Rosenstein

To native English speakers, it seems elementary that the word “pool” can mean more than just a small body of water. We understand that it can also refer to group, as in a pool of applicants, or can even be used as a verb (e.g. one can pool resources or ideas). Personally, I have used such uses of the word “pool” countless times throughout my life, but it had never occurred to me that this usage was a peculiarity of the English language. At least, not until Professor Joaquin Roy (semi) jokingly referred to it as the only thing that Britain had really contributed to the European Union.  This seemed kind of silly at first, especially when punctuated by his anecdote about mistaking the “press pool” at a conference for a swimming pool reserved for journalists. However, the more that I thought about the idea, the more it stood out to me.

Professor Roy said that the more abstract usage of the word pool was introduced as a solution to the greatest problem facing the formation of supranational organizations: the issue of sovereignty. For such an organization to work, it needs to find a balance between its own supranational sovereignty and that of its constituent member states. Most modern states are reasonably concerned about surrendering too much of their sovereignty, or even sharing it, and it can be enough to scare some off. To mitigate these concerns, the European Union chose to present itself as pooling sovereignty. This implies that none of a state’s authority is given up. Instead, it is combined with that of other states to become something more. Some might argue that such a level of international cooperation cannot be achieved without giving up some sovereignty, and they may be right, to an extent. After all, the European Union itself has not overcome this issue entirely. For example, there are still plenty of conflicts between the European Commission, pushing for more integration, and the Council of the EU, representing the rights and interests of the member states1.  However, this does not mean that the idea is useless. It can still be a goal to reach for. Or, if one is looking for a more pragmatic use, the concept of “pooling” something seems to carry a more positive connotation than sharing it (which implies having to give some up) or outright sacrificing some.

Unfortunately, this concept does not always transfer well to other languages. As Professor Roy pointed out, even though the idea of pooling sovereignty has been introduced to Latin America, which is trying to unify following the pattern of the EU, they do not seem to embrace or even fully understand the term. This is unfortunate for those trying to create a supranational Latin American organization, as fears of losing national sovereignty seems to be the primary obstacle to such a union progressing. Though their concerns are understandable, perhaps they should give it a try anyway, even if only to come to an understanding of the concept. Maybe they just need to jump in the pool.

Brent Rosenstein is a first year student in the Master of Arts in European Union Studies (MAEUS) program at the University of Illinois. His research interests include international security efforts and human rights issues within the EU.

Professor Roy's lecture is available for viewing here.


1 Andreas Staab, The European Union Explained: Institutions, Actors, Global Impact (Indiana University Press, 2008), 63–4. 

Image source: http://www.fordesigner.com/maps/8909-0.htm
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Monday, November 5, 2012

An Appealing Tagline: Come to Germany for a Three Year Bachelor’s Degree

by Mike Nelson

Europe, the most common destination of American college students studying abroad, has been undergoing massive changes to its higher education system because of the Bologna Process. Germany has taken a leadership role in these reforms. In his talk on September 25, Edwin Kreuzer of the Hamburg University of Technology shared some of the exciting and challenging aspects of implementing the Bologna Process in Germany.

Despite the United States not joining the other 47 countries to have signed the Bologna Agreement, the German system of higher education has become strikingly similar to its American counterpart. Currently, 81% of all German programs lead to Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, instead of the former German equivalents. The Bachelor’s degree can be earned in three years. Americans and Germans are now focused on the same goal. This should lead to an increase in exchange opportunities and participation in those opportunities by college students. People will be less confused. College administrators should have an easier time accepting transfer credits between similar Bachelor’s degree programs.

On the subject of transferring, it can be a rough process. I transferred from Illinois State to the College of DuPage and then to the University of Illinois (and had to change my allegiance and chanting from Redbirds to Chaparrals to finally “Go Illini!”). In the process, I lost at least four credits. Other classes were evaluated as electives instead of regular classes. The EU is tackling this issue with the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). ECTS avoids many headaches for Europeans who wish to transfer credits.

Another important similarity between the American and newly updated German higher education system is the importance placed on a study abroad experience. One goal in the EU is that by 2020 at least 20% of college graduates should have spent a semester abroad. All universities are recognizing the life-changing experience of living in a different country. Study abroad provides the opportunity to learn a new language, understand a different culture, and foster a better relationship between the countries involved. Study abroad also looks great on a resume. (Not everyone agrees. See a controversial Daily Illini article that argued against study abroad.)

The Bologna Process is an example of subsidiarity in the EU. The idea of subsidiarity is to handle various issues at the most localized level of government. The EU, as a form of supranational government, should only govern in areas that cannot be managed at the local, state, or national level. The Bologna Process was established through intergovernmental agreements, and the actual application of the changes was implemented at the local level. In general, the EU tries to avoid interfering in education.

It will be helpful to see more data in the coming years in order to evaluate the Bologna Process. In Germany, there are currently questions of how competitive Bachelor’s degree holders will be on the job market. Also, we will see if the EU meets its study abroad goal by 2020. Either way, the Bologna Process has created a more unified higher education system throughout Europe and beyond.

Photo source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Germany 

Mike Nelson is a first year MAEUS student. He graduated a year early and received his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012. Mike has studied French, German, and Spanish and will be tackling Swedish starting this fall. He has traveled to Germany and hosted a French foreign exchange student. During the summer, he works as a manager at a water park. He is working as a Graduate Assistant and Teaching Assistant for the European Union Center this year.
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