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.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Teach-In on Syria

A teach-in on Syria took place on September 18th at Lincoln Hall. Co-sponsored by the European Union Center in conjunction with the Center for Global Studies; Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security; and Invisible Conflicts (University YMCA), the teach-in addressed key issues concerning the conflict in Syria. Speakers at the teach-in included Paul Diehl of the Department of Political Science; Lesley Wexler of the College of Law; Linda Herrera of the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership; Adham Sahloul, a student activist and a member of the Syrian Emergency Task Force; and was moderated by Edward Kolodziej of Center for Global Studies. Topics touched upon during the teach-in included international law, the use of chemical weapons and the rules of war, the use of children in debates surrounding possible military intervention and US policy considerations. Following these issues, a discussion was opened for the audience members to ask question and add their various perspectives.

A video of the teach-in may be viewed below or by clicking here:


Friday, September 27, 2013

LGBT Intolerance in Russia and Eastern Europe: Legacy of State Socialism?

by Caroline M. Wisler

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Dr. Cynthia Buckley’s presentation, “The Rainbow Curtain: LGBT Intolerance in Eastern Europe and Eurasia” is timely considering Russia’s recent legislative attack on gay rights. Russia’s actions contrast starkly to the steps Western European countries and the US are taking toward ensuring equality for same sex couples. While the US has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June of this year, Russia’s new policies allow for the arrest of those suspected of being gay, lesbian or a supporter of those groups. This law applies to both Russian citizens and foreign visitors, a cause for concern with the Winter Olympics scheduled to take place in Sochi, Russia in less than six months. During this time, athletes and visitors representing countries
from around the globe and who may identify as a member of these targeted groups could be subject to this discrimination. Other related laws include the criminalization of “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships to minors” and a more recent bill proposing the legal removal of children from gay and lesbian homes. While “nontraditional sexual relationships” in this case is defined as any sexual activity that does not result in procreation, it has been made clear that this applies to same sex couples, rather than heterosexual couples who are unable to have children due to sterility or for those heterosexual couples that are no longer able to have children due to age. Other questions in regard to this statement are sure to arise considering, for example, the use of contraceptives in a country with a rapid rise in HIV/AIDS cases since the early 1990s.

Although the legislation described pertains to Russia, this intolerance, according to Dr. Buckley, applies more generally to Eastern Europe where she attributes it to the common history and inheritance of state socialism and the very strong taboos and societal norms mediating sex. As a result of my frequent travels in the region, I can attest to the pervasive intolerance and discrimination that is often encountered within everyday conversation, regardless of how one may identify. Buckley’s comparison of data reflecting responses on the question of equality for same-sex couples from post-communist Eastern European countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia) to the countries of Western Europe reflect the strong division between these regions on this human rights issue. ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Map, “reflecting the national legal and policy human situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people in Europe” published in May of this year appears to corroborate this relationship. While these countries may be forging a common path as member states of the European Union, if Dr. Buckley is correct, their lack of shared recent history during much of the 20th century is to blame for their perspective on equality, particularly when concerned with same sex relationships. As Western European countries move ahead to ensure equal rights and recognition to same sex couples, will the presence of a so-called “Rainbow Curtain” grow increasingly perceptible?
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A demonstration against the Gay Pride Parade in Moscow in 2010.  Rather than acknowledge the issue of human rights, rhetoric against equality for same-sex couples reference attacks on religious identity and a concern for Russian children, as illustrated by these protestors. The arguments surrounding children are often linked to declines in Russian birthrate and falling population numbers since the break up of the Soviet Union.

Dr. Buckley suggests that by thinking sociologically about the origins and trends of intolerance, the understanding of current trends and their projection into the future may be improved. In this case, there is reason to be hopeful. The US and Western European countries have changed dramatically on the issue of LGBT tolerance in recent decades, partially due to the expanding roles of youth and greater interaction amongst diverse groups as well as increased access to education and information through online sources. Eastern Europe and Russia, likewise, are not immune to the impact of these influential factors. The first Pride Parade in the city center of Vilnius, Lithuania took place in July, despite efforts to diminish its visibility. This and other events may be good indicators of progress. It may be that the anti-gay legislation institutionalizing discrimination in Russia quickly becomes a thing of the past and Eastern European EU member states will pass laws ensuring the equality outlined in the legally binding EU Charter of Human Rights. Despite such legislative changes, while there are individuals and groups who actively fight against such equality - whether from governmental positions or out on the streets committing violent acts against minority groups - there is much work that still remains on both sides of the so-called Rainbow Curtain for promoting and institutionalizing human rights.

Caroline Wisler is a third year doctoral student in the Department of Landscape Architecture and a 2013-2014 European Union Center FLAS Fellow. She earned a BA in Archaeology and Religious Studies from Hamilton College and MA degrees in Landscape Archaeology and Anthropology from the University of Bristol and UNC, Chapel Hill, respectively. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Eurozone Crisis: Glasses Half-Full or Broken?

On September 20, George Ross -- Adjunct Professor of Political Science and ad personam Jean Monnet Chair at the University of Montreal and the recipient of the 2012 Larry Neal Prize for Excellence in EU Scholarship -- gave a lecture based on his book publication, The European Union and Its Crises: Through the Eyes of the Brussels Elite (2011). Ross's book presents analyses by EU leaders of the great problems and prospects that the EU faces and his lecture took the same approach to look at the recent Eurozone crisis.

A video of the lecture can be viewed below or by clicking here:

More information on the event can be found on the event's webpage.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Merkel Elected to a Third Term as Chancellor of Germany

by Gosia Labno

"This is a super result," declared German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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On Sunday, September 22, Chancellor Merkel, leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), celebrated a landslide victory over the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Roughly two million votes went to the party, making the results the best that the party has seen since 1994.  Merkel’s win makes her the only leader of a European Union member state to be reelected since the eurozone crisis.  

The CDU’s last coalition partner, the liberal Free Democratic Party, did not gain any seats in the Bundestag – a shocking loss not seen since the party’s creation in 1949.  Negotiations for a grand coalition with the Social-Democrats have already begun. 

The anti-Euro Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party received a surprising 4.7% of the vote – about half a million votes—just short of the 5% threshold needed to gain seats in the German parliament.  The Pirate Party was also unable to obtain enough votes to earn any seats.

The distribution of seats in the Bundestag will be: 
CDU/CSU: 311 seats
SDP: 192 seats
Left Party: 64 seats
Green Party: 63 seats

The EU Observer reports that Merkel has no plans to change Germany’s relationship with the rest of Europe. Merkel stated, “We will continue our European politics, this is the most important message to the people. European politics is part of our core brand and we will continue that in spirit.”

The European Union Center will host a videoconference panel discussion on the outcomes and impacts of the German elections with the EU Center of Excellence & European Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh. The event will take place on Thursday, September 26 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 507 E. Green St, Room 411, Champaign, IL. A recording of the discussion will be made available for those unable to attend.


Journalism Professor Nancy Benson Discusses Student Reporting in Turkey on Illinois International

by Lauren Hoerr

On September 4th, Nancy Benson, Assistant Professor of Journalism at the University of Illinois, was interviewed by Nicole Tami, Director of International Student Integration, as part of the Illinois International video interview series. In 2012, nine University of Illinois journalism students studied Turkey and then visited the country in order to get a greater understanding of Islam and the diversity of Muslim societies. Professor Benson’s students were in Turkey during a critical time leading up to recent demonstrations. A few of the students went to the Syrian border and others interviewed Syrians both in refugee camps and Antakya, Turkey.  One of the students did a piece on the development of the protests in Istanbul, reporting on the different views of the events that were transpiring.

Professor Benson’s students must spend a semester prior to their time abroad immersing themselves in the culture of the country they are about to enter. Throughout the semester, Prof. Benson brings in several guest speakers who are experts in certain areas that are pertinent to what the students will be studying. For example, prior to the recent trip to Turkey, students experienced lectures from experts on issues such as Turkey’s place in both the region and the global sphere, and what it means to be a Muslim in Turkey today. Students need to gain context and a global picture of the country that they will be entering and reporting from.

Oftentimes, American journalists and journalism students have more freedoms than the journalists in other countries, and therefore can have more access to information and be bolder in asking certain questions –although Professor Benson notes that this is not a universal rule and that there are some questions and topics that can cause problems and trouble for journalists. Students must be respectful of the boundaries of a certain culture and this is done through listening and learning. The goal was not to push boundaries, but rather to understand how one needs to look at a culture and understand how that effects the reporting. The main goal is to understand the culture instead of overlaying a viewpoint that is distinctly influenced by American culture onto the stories.

The end result of both the semester immersed in Turkish culture and the few weeks spent reporting in Turkey varied depending on the career interests of the particular students. However, each student had to produce a story in whatever format they chose to be included in an overall story that was turned into a half-hour program. This program was shown locally on WILL as well as WTTW in Chicago. It also won a student Emmy for the production value and content.

For more information on Professor Benson and her students and the works they produced as a result of their time in Turkey, please visit their blog:

The video has been embedded below or can be viewed on the Illinois International webpage

Lauren Hoerr is a first-year student at the University of Illinois' Graduate School of Library and Information Science and the webmaster Graduate Assistant for UIUC's European Union Center of Excellence.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Bryan Endres Compares Illinois SB 1666 to GMO Food Labeling Laws in the EU on the Mike Nowak Show

by Mike Nelson

On September 16, Prof. Bryan Endres, Interim Associate Provost for International Affairs and Interim Director of International Programs and Studies, discussed Illinois SB 1666, a proposed law in Illinois that would require mandatory GMO food labeling in Illinois, on the Mike Nowak Show. He was joined by Jessica Fujan, Midwest Organizer for Food & Water Watch, and Megan Klein, Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council. Radio host Mike Nowak interviewed the three experts.

Endres, Associate Professor of Agricultural Law, testified about the legality of the proposed law on June 20. During the radio interview, he reiterated the constitutionality of food labeling. Endres noted that similar laws, such as mandatory warning labels on tobacco products, have been allowed by the courts. The biotech industry argues that their products would become criminalized through food labeling, yet the speakers found that the labeling of peanuts for allergies and also of products with trans fat did not significantly reduce sales.

GMO laws in the European Union were a case study cited by Endres and the other interviewees. Not only is GMO labeling more common in the EU, but many member states restrict even the initial production of GMOs. Endres commented that there are not significant differences surrounding food prices in the U.S. and Europe, but European consumers have more control because of the knowledge gained by GMO labeling.

Endres’ interview continued the European Union Center’s dialogue on GMOs. In April, professor Gerhart Ryffel from the University of Duisburg-Essen came to campus and gave a lecture entitled, “The GMO Debate: European and US Perspectives on the Science Behind the Precautionary Principle.” Read a graduate student’s response to the lecture here.

The conversation on GMO food labeling in Illinois from the Mike Nowak Show can be listened to in its entirety here or in the player below.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

H20 {R+D} = EU + US: International Collaboration for Water Research and Policy

by Simone Kaiser

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Water, the access to it, and its distribution and management are more than ever important global issues. Being a common and precious good, water and especially transnational aquatic environments require common responsibility and action and international cooperation.

George Czapar, Head and Extension Educator at the University of Illinois Center for Watershed Science, presented in his lecture on the UI campus on September 6th a successful example of close transatlantic cooperation and of exchange between scientists of different disciplines and local agencies and authorities in water research.  The University of Illinois has established fruitful partnerships with the University of Leeds, UK, and the University of Zhejiang, China that includes collaboration in research and education as well as mutual visits. Dr. Czapar underlined the positive impact of multidisciplinary research and collaboration of public, private and scientific actors, enabling expertise drawn from and applied to real life problems.

The European Union counts on regional and global cooperation, not only among member states but also with partners in the whole world. The EU Water Initiative (EUWI), launched in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, aims to reinforce political commitment, promote water governance, improve water management, strengthen river basin approaches and catalyze financial resources. Based on a multi-stakeholder approach, the EUWI seeks to bring together governments, citizens, and the private sector in order to establish cross-regional partnerships and working groups focusing on particular regions (Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Central Caucasus Area and the Mediterranean).

Special attention is also paid to cooperation in water and sanitation research. The SPLASH Research Network, focusing on Africa and the Mekong River region, targets the coordination between existing programs, and the sharing of knowledge between researchers and practitioners to accelerate the putting into practice of research findings.

An important factor in international cooperation and research is, as George Czapar pointed out, the differences in water policy and legal regulations, especially in terms of drinking water quality. In contrast to the US, the EU’s drinking water legislation is much stricter. Comparing the cases of Ireland and Illinois, no contamination whatsoever must be found in drinking water in Ireland, while Illinois law permits traces of contamination, most notably amounts of herbicides used in corn growing. Dr. Czapar’s comment on this discrepancy was of a rather pragmatic nature: no herbicides in drinking water at all would mean not to farm corn—a risky enterprise in the US Corn Belt. However, this relative contamination tolerance in opposition to the EU’s strict water policy (which, as part of the environment policy, is a shared competence of the EU and its members) underlines the Union’s commitment to environmental issues.

The protection and management of water resources as well as drinking water quality are one of the cornerstones of the EU environment policy, and also an integral part of the Europe 2020 strategy  (although, this chapter won’t necessarily be closed after 2020). In the Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources, the Commission seeks to lift currently existing obstacles and to meet challenges like a better implementation of current water legislation, the consideration of water policy objectives in other policy fields as well as in the Europe 2020 strategy, and the distribution and efficiency of water.

International cooperation on both the European and transatlantic level is key to addressing current and future water policy issues. The EU already holds a leading role, but the potential of international and multi-disciplinary research is certainly not yet fully exhausted. 

Simone Kaiser is a first-year-student in the Master of Arts in European Union Studies (MAEUS) program at the University of Illinois. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Transcultural Communication and a Master’s degree in Conference Interpreting from the University of Graz, Austria.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Professor Peter Kuchinke Delivers Keynote at European Higher Education Conference

Professor Peter Kuchinke delivered a keynote address at the International Conference on European Higher Education in Vilnius, Lithuania, in early September. The conference marked the assumption of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and focused on the expansion and internationalization of European Higher Education within and outside of its 28 member states.

Kuchinke's talking points addressed the role of European universities for U.S. graduate study and research. In his presentation, he used the example of University of Illinois to explore student expectations, needs, and experiences of overseas study.

Kuchinke, a professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership, serves as one of 25 U.S. and Canadian Ambassadors for PromoDoc, an initiative by the European Commission's Erasmus Mundus program.

PHOTOS: Peter Kuchinke at international conference, photo by Martynas Ambrazas; opening address by European Union Commissioner for Education Androulla Vassiliou.

This post was originally posted on the College of Education News webpage on September 13, 2013.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Transatlantic Network to Enhance Environmental and Animal Health Education in the Baltic Region

Increasing public concern about environmental health is paralleled by a strong demand by students for related educational programs. Unfortunately, this demand in many universities has not always been matched by available
university curricula.

Developed jointly by the Envirovet Baltic (EB), a scientific network consisting of the nine countries bordering the Baltic Sea and the USA, and the Baltic University Programme (BUP), one of the most well developed educational networks in the world, the program in Ecosystem Health and Sustainable Agriculture (EHSA), was initiated in 2005 to develop a new series of university courses in ecosystem health and sustainable agriculture for universities in Baltic Sea and Great Lakes regions. These two regions face similar environmental protection challenges and needs for improvement of environmental health education.

The Baltic University Programme (BUP) is a network of 190 universities and institutions of higher education in the Baltic Sea region. The program, founded in 1991 at Uppsala University, Sweden, operates by producing courses on sustainable development, studies of the region, its environment and its political changes. In a given year, the BUP network delivers courses in more than 100 universities serving nearly 9,500 undergraduate and graduate students. The Envirovet Baltic was founded in 2001 on an initiative of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois, and the Centre for Reproductive Biology in Uppsala with scientists from universities in the Baltic Sea region.

The development and production of texts for the EHSA courses was made possible with funding from the Swedish International Development Authority, with the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Swedish Institute, European Union Center and Center for Global Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Hewlett Foundation, private donors, Baltic University Programme and EnviroVet Baltic contributing.

The textbooks were produced by Baltic University Press and include contributions by authors from 17 countries, making it truly an international effort. The three texts include 122 chapters on topics ranging from agro-tourism and management of manure to landscape services and infectious diseases.  The three-book series is entitled Ecosystem Health and Sustainable Agriculture, with the individual volumes focusing on Sustainable Agriculture, Ecology and Animal Health, and Rural Development and Land Use. Hard copies of the books in English can be purchased through the Baltic University Programme at the BUP Webshop (http://www.balticuniv.uu.se/webshop/). Free PDFs of the chapters can be downloaded at http://www.balticuniv.uu.se/index.php/teaching-materials.

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