A FLAS Fellow's Semester Abroad in Amman

Audrey Dombro, an agricultural and consumer economics student and 2019-20 FLAS fellow, reflects upon her experience studying in Jordan.

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.

Reading Contagion through Boccaccio's Decameron

Dr. Eleonora Stoppino discusses the moments of social and ethical breakdown described by Boccaccio, as well as the potential for reconstruction after the plague.

Conversations on Europe

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

COVID-19 and Liberal Democracy in Hungary

Dr. Zsuzsa Gille responds to the "Enabling Act," passed by the Hungarian Parliament on March 30, 2020.

Videos of Previous Lectures

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Snowman's Land

by Chris Baldwin

From an American point of view, this movie is extremely bizarre, though it is not too far off the mark for other German and Scandinavian comedies. Despite the seeming pointlessness of the plot, there are several possible aspects of contemporary German society that one can take away from Snowman's Land.

The movie itself follows the path of a hit man named Walter who botches a job and subsequently cannot find work until he goes to the remote Carpathian Mountains to work for a reclusive criminal. Once there, he runs into an old acquaintance and the two pass their time doing nothing in an incredibly isolated mansion waiting for Berger, the criminal businessman, to return. In the meantime, Sibylle, Berger's young, sex- and drug-obsessed wife accidentally kills herself and so Walter and his colleague must hide the body. In the end, everyone except for Walter is killed or goes missing, and so he packs his bag and walks off into the snow. As an epilogue, Walter becomes an exterminator somewhere hot, dry, and definitely not Germany.

This film does not mention the euro crisis specifically, but it does reflect some current economic realities. For one, Walter's joblessness though a simple error and his inability to find new work are not necessarily unfamiliar experiences for Germans. The movie takes place in a world of drugs and prostitution, yet the criminal elements seem to blend with legitimate business. This seems to indicate that illegal means are the way to really make money despite longing for normal jobs, such as ski resorts and restaurants. The volatile relationship between organized crime and the use of drugs and prostitution to finance the organizations is embodied in Berger and Sibylle. It becomes evident that the dangerous and unpredictable drug and sex trades are ultimately unsustainable when Sibylle accidentally kills herself.

In addition to the concerns regarding criminal involvement, by locating most of the film in the Carpathian Mountains the movie also expresses trepidation regarding further incorporation of Bulgaria and Romania into the European Union, whether by their eventual adoption of the Euro or the progressive elimination of internal borders within the European Union, and the wildness and isolation surrounding the mansion can represent other Eastern European countries' continued lack of integration. On a less political note, the characters also express a certain desire for more natural spaces in an increasingly urban Europe, even while aiming towards further development.

The movie ends on a seemingly positive note. After walking off into the snow, Walter becomes an exterminator in what appears to be southern Europe. By including this epilogue, instead of just letting the movie end uncertainly, it seems to suggest that there is an escape from drugs, prostitution, and other sorts of crime, as well as hope for Germany and German society. Nevertheless, unpleasant and dangerous situations may lie before the final goal, and the path to reach there remains unseen.

The snowy wilderness in which the movie takes place effectively portrays a sense of isolation, danger, and apparently comedy.

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.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, accessed 1/30/13. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Snowy_Mountains_in_January.jpg

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Congratulations to the Spring 2013 Photo Contest Winners

The European Union Center sponsors an annual photo contest, which invites U of I students, faculty and staff, to submit photos that were taken in the EU and are inspired by a specific theme. This year's winners will be recognized at the  EU Center's annual European Union Day in February 2013, and their photos will be on display at the event.

This year's theme is "Competition & Cooperation". The EU is a major force on the world stage; its member states collaborate extensively both within and outside of its borders. These relationships are built not only through high-level politics and trade, but also in everyday society: sports, arts, culture, science, and research all play a role. Collaborative efforts are evolving amidst the current financial crisis and other global events, such as the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. These photos show what it really means for European countries to compete and cooperate within the EU, across the Atlantic, and beyond.

Congratulations to our winners!

1st Place

"A Connection" - Prof. Kathryn H. Anthony (School of Architecture )
“A Connection” by Finish artist Kaarina Kaikkonen spans a street in Nicosia, Cyprus adjacent to the Greek-Turkish border as part of the United States of Europe exhibition. Shirts of many sizes and colors represent connections between people and countries. At first glance from a car window it appeared to be hanging laundry lines. Only a small sign across the street revealed its significance. Public art projects like this bring color, beauty, and joy to a depressed streetscape and play a powerful role in promoting peace across the globe. Photographed November 2012.

 2nd Place:

"Le Belle Bandiere (The Beautiful Flags)" - Sean P. Murphy (College of Law)

Between June 8 and July 1, Europe was captured once again by their overwhelming passion for football. This picture was taken as thousands of Italians gathered in front of the Duomo of Milano, the largest cathedral in Italy, to celebrate Gli Azzurri. For those 90 minutes, all worries about the euro crisis and Greek debt took a back seat as the people of Italy, Spain and Europe watched a fantastic game of football.

 3rd Place:

“Progressive Tradition” - Kristen E. Knight (College of Veterinary Medicine)

 This image was taken on a dairy farm in Betzhorn, Germany. Pictured is Mr. Helmut Evers, the owner of the dairy farm, which has been in operation and in the family since 1486. Helmut is seen here, instructing students on the important principals of farm animal indentification and tracking.

Ear tags, are one of many ways to identify an animal througout its life on the farm. Europe has forged a path for food animal health by implementing more strict tracking and record keeping, such as individual animal “passports”, with the goal of improved public health and safety. The cooperation of farmers within the EU must be maintained in order to keep the nations’ food supply safe and free from harmful pathogens such as foot and mouth disease. Animal welfare and husbandry are a direct line to the farmer’s livlihood, and while competition amongst producers may lead to the development of a superior product, it is the cooperation between them that makes the entire food system safe, affordable, and reliable.

This was one of the many stops Veterinary Students from the University of Illinois, University of Georgia, and University of Ohio, made on their trip to Germany while studying public health and veterinary medicine in Europe.

 Honorable Mentions

“Kırkpınar (Olive Oil Wrestling) in Edirne, Turkey” - Natalie Cartwright (European Union Studies)

Young men wrestle each other for the title of the top wrestler of the tournament. It is the longest running sports competition in the world, exemplifying how Turkey is holding onto tradition within its own borders while engaging in its long partnership of cooperation with the EU. Turkey is a nation on the rise boasting a competitive side within its own borders, but also across its borders.

“locks/river” - Maureen Stroke (College of Business)

This photo was taken in Prague, close to the Lennon wall. Although the owners of the locks overlooking the river are unknown, it shows that love and cooperation are alive in the Czech Republic and through the European Union.

"Under Construction" - Nathaniel Koppel (College of Law)

Cranes tower over Berlin on a cloudy August afternoon as statues keep watch over the city. As seen from the Reichstag, the German parliament building. Visitors from all around the world can tour the chambers, learning about politics in post-war Germany. The tour culminates in a trip to the top of the building, where one can see all of Berlin.

 "Good Food is Understood in Every Language" - Katherine Fleissner (FSHN-Dietetics)

This photo shows EU cooperation and hospitality outside its borders as Italians and Americans set aside any cultural differences or language barrier problems and enjoy a meal together. While neither country’s economy is currently thriving, friendship, understanding and trust can be cultivated through hospitality between these nations by fostering university students’ desires to experience education in another culture.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Avoiding Political Swan Songs

by Whitney Taylor

Recently, the European Union Center at the University of Illinois, alongside EU Centers from the US and Europe, participated in a teleconference with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz.

During Mr. Schultz’s visit to the US, he spoke with scholars, young professionals and journalists about the state of EU-US relations. This topic is particularly noteworthy as both the EU and US are facing tough budgetary decisions. Responding to recent Euro-skepticism in the media, Mr. Schultz was quick to mention that naysayers of the EU should consider the significant progress that has been made since the end of the Second World War. It is no small feat, in Mr. Schultz’s words, that the leaders of EU Member States now negotiate over conference tables; these are not brutal fights that lead to wars between States and this fact alone, should signal that the EU has accomplished quite a bit. The economic debates that shape current affairs in the EU are important as Mr. Schultz acknowledged. Moreover, he mentioned the importance of the EU deciding how it will structure itself from here forward.

It is true that both the EU and US have experienced jarring shifts in constituency opinion of late, mostly on account of economic factors. Financial crises have risen to become critical threats to national sovereignty; whereas in the past, wars more often held this position. The collateral damage perpetrated in the wake of a financial crisis of the magnitude most recently seen, cannot be ignored and people are displeased with their leaders.  We have noticed in elections in the US, that the economy is the number one concern of many. Similarly in Europe, political parties that fall to both ends of the spectrum have picked up steam and popularity. With parties such as the Pirate Party in the Czech Republic, France’s National Front and Greece’s latest “Golden Dawn” party, it is apparent that many want a seat at the bargaining tables within their national governments as well as in Brussels. These political shifts can cause fractures and economic and social momentum gained, to be lost. Mr. Schultz referred to the US “fiscal cliff” as a defining moment where political compromises must exist in order to move forward. Likewise, leaders in the EU must also find political compromise if the EU is to prosper and continue breaking new ground.

But these compromises do not stop at the EU and US borders – they move into the transatlantic partnership between the EU and US. It is this partnership that has helped both and can continue to do so. As Mr. Schultz said, financial crises are no longer black swan events and we must compromise if we are to properly handle future events in the financial sector. However, without compromise within our borders, it will be difficult for the EU and US to work together to further shared values abroad if internally, we are weakened by economic downturns and disagreement over solutions.

The EU may be experiencing growing pains, but it seems that the political will for it to further develop exists quite strongly and there is reason to believe that the EU is not a black swan either. If the EU experiment has shown us anything, it's the importance that economic compromise can play in smoothing over political rows and a warring past. So far, the EU has the staying power of a white swan. Nevertheless, if the EU and US are to work together abroad and share their political and social values, they must act like white swans at home. Both cannot act as exceptions to rules and must instead choose solutions that yield staying power and long-term economic and social health.

*For an alternative take, U.S. News published an interesting article by Jeff Weiss titled “Washington Doesn’t Need Compromise, It Needs Creativity”.

Image source: http://www.pbs.org/parents/talkingwithkids/negotiate.html

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. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fulbright Belgium Interviews EUC Director and Associate Director Bryan Endres and Matt Rosenstein

European Union Center Director Bryan Endres and Associate Director Matt Rosenstein discuss the Master of Arts in European Union Studies (MAEUS) program and the University of Illinois during the EU Centers of Excellence World Meeting in Brussels in October 2012. Courtesy of Fulbright Belgium, video of their discussion is available here and is posted below. 


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