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.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Spy Games: Nobody Does It Better (Than the US)?

by Simone Kaiser

Source: Cory Doctorow/
Are you on Facebook and do you meticulously revise your privacy modifications? Do you share your photos via Instagram and accept that the app has access to all of your photos on your phone? Do you take advantage of free texting across borders thanks to WhatsApp and allow the app to access all of your contacts and messages you sent and received? Did you ever seriously consider the countless, often well-camouflaged cameras in supermarkets, parking decks and public buildings? Have you ever questioned the actual purpose of membership cards, or do you believe their primary goal is to get you discounts and not record your purchases and shopping patterns? How much do we really care about privacy? I say that there is a difference between willingly giving away information and personal data and being the object of secret surveillance, especially by persons you consider partners, allies or even friends.

When the Guardian revealed the NSA's comprehensive surveillance program in June 2013, a wave of worldwide outrage, debate and a crisis of trust in the political and civil society sphere followed, dubbing whistleblower Edward Snowden both a betrayer and a hero.  But were those revelations really that surprising and shocking?

On Tuesday, February 18th, a videoconference organized by the European Union Center at the University of Pittsburgh brought together experts from the UK, Germany, Israel and the US and vividly discussed “Spy Games: Technology and Trust in the Transatlantic Relationship."

No doubt, the surveillance affair raised political and ethical issues – spying on your foes may be justified, but what about spying on your friends?

“If you want privacy, don’t communicate!” Prof. Anthony Glees, Director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies, University of Buckingham, said. Hard to imagine that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose private phone was tapped, would agree with that piece of advice. Data protection and privacy are taken very seriously in Europe. As Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding stressed in the wake of the revelations last Fall, “friends do not spy on each other”, calling privacy a fundamental and non-negotiable right. The scandal put strains on the transatlantic relationship and on diplomacy, but moreover it affects the bilateral free trade agreement (TTIP). Now the EU’s self-declared position as a victim of US intelligence operations has created both an excellent bargaining position and a leverage for the EU to apply pressure in order to obtain stricter rules on data protection.  The NSA scandal might give the EU impetus to challenge the US’ digital hegemony and question their right to collect data of their supposed friends. It is an abuse of power.  The EU can put the US in their place by emphasizing that it is not okay that the more powerful player in terms of intelligence is free do whatever it wants to its friends and allies without being called to account.

Also, what is the role of civil society in the data scandal? The German and European reactions of outrage showed that the NSA scandal affects the public opinion on TTIP and on transatlantic relations. German civil rights groups filed a complaint against Merkel, the German interior minister, the German secret service and as well as US and British intelligence. The European citizens voice their concerns and actually have a good chance to be heard by the Commission and supported by the European Parliament, for once. NGOs all over Europe are now more active than ever in the battle against data collection and data sharing. Civil society might not overthrow the TTIP, but it can certainly change its terms, since data policy is a central issue of the agreement.

In a nutshell, spying on partners is not okay. Even if a world without secrets would perhaps be a safer world, it comes at the price of sacrificing privacy. Pe
rmanent surveillance without your consent makes you a permanent suspect. However, unlike on Facebook or Instagram, you can’t chose what information and with whom you want to share it. That’s your own responsibility, and you can either appreciate data transparency or live with the damage it might cause to you.

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. Her current research focuses on European Union cultural policy, the European Heritage Label and identity-building in the EU.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

War Dimmed Sarajevo Games' Glow

The EUC is a co-sponsor of the Sarajevo Winter Olympics: Photo and Media Retrospective exhibit and John Jurisic's lecture, White City.

This article was originally posted on the News-Gazette website on February 22, 2014.

Photo by: John Dixon/The News-Gazette
Sanja Koric stands Friday in front of an exhibit about the
1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia,
at the University of Illinois Main Library.
Woman who volunteered as Sarajevo tour guide shares her memories at UI exhibit

Thirty years ago, Sanja Koric was a high school student in Yugoslavia, eager to learn English to satisfy her love for pop culture and rock music.

So she volunteered as a guide at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, mingling with foreign tourists and athletes like speedskater Bonnie Blair.

She even struck up a friendship with a couple from Champaign, an encounter that would eventually lead her to the University of Illinois.

The glow from those Olympics, which charmed a worldwide audience, would evaporate less than a decade later as her country plunged into a three-year civil war.

But with the world's focus once again on the Olympics, this time in Sochi, Russia, Koric doesn't want people to remember home "as a city that was bombed and shelled."

"I would like people to remember Sarajevo as a friendly and open city," Koric, an engineer with UI Facilities and Services, said this week. "Sarajevo still welcomes people from all over the world."

Koric's thoughts are part of a 30th anniversary exhibit on the Sarajevo Olympics at the UI's Main Library this month, timed to coincide with the 2014 Winter Olympics wrapping up in Sochi this weekend.

The exhibit features mementoes from the games, media coverage from around the world and Olympic photographs by Ivica (John) Jurisic, a Chicago-based photographer from Bosnia, as that region of the former Yugoslavia is now known. Among the memorable gold-medal faces in his photos are U.S. slalom skiier Phil Mahre and the British ice-dancing duo of Torvill and Dean.

Jurisic will visit campus Thursday to give a public lecture about what the Olympics meant to the people of Sarajevo, at 4 p.m. in 1090 Lincoln Hall.

Steve Witt, director of the International Studies Library, said the exhibit is pulled from the UI's Olympic and foreign-language collections, which include the papers of UI alumnus Avery Brundage, former head of the International Olympic Committee. Witt hopes it will convey the impact of the Sarajevo games, which represented huge growth for the winter Olympics as countries from Africa and Latin America participated for the first time. The two previous summer games — 1980 in Moscow and 1984 in Los Angeles — had also been boycotted in a Cold War battle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

For Koric, the games were a symbol of peace and brotherhood, as major religions had co-existed peacefully in that mountainous city for centuries. Amid the churches, synagogues and minarets were streets "decorated and crowded with people," she wrote. "Those who could not communicate in a foreign language did it in a friendly gesture, or with a big smile. We laughed for no reason. ... We were the center of the world."

Her father, who owned a small grocery store, ordered produce "from all continents" to make guests feel at home.

The fairy tale ended with the onset of war eight years later.

"The 'Zetra' sports center, the magnificent hall of ice and speed skating ring, and a place where I met American athletes and new friends, was bombed and set on fire, destroyed to its foundation," she wrote.

She and her husband, Seid Koric, eventually made their way to the U.S. during the war.

On her first day as a tour guide in 1984, Koric had met the parents of U.S. speedskater Erik Henrikson from Champaign. They gave her an American flag to cheer on U.S. speedskaters, and after learning of her plans to study engineering, told her about the UI's highly ranked engineering school.

It was her "wild dream" to visit, so during her junior year at the University of Sarajevo, she came to the UI as an exchange student in the early 1990s.

And when her husband was deciding where to go for graduate studies in engineering, she suggested the UI. Seid Koric won a scholarship and is now a research scientist at the UI.

"I keep telling everybody, there are magnetic forces that attracted me to Champaign," she said.

They try to visit Sarajevo every other year with their two sons, and she said people there are "trying to move on.

"Things are getting much better."

Monday, February 24, 2014

EU Center to Host Seven Scholars in Residence for Spring Semester

Image Credit
Champaign, IL – Every year the European Union Center (EUC) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign accommodates visiting scholars for a temporary period of residence, ranging from a week up to a full year.  The EUC attracts a broad range of scholars, with diverse backgrounds and interests, related to EU studies.  The time in residency for these scholars enables research, teaching, and professional development, while also giving them the chance to access the world-renowned library system of the University of Illinois, and work closely with EUC-affiliated faculty and students.

During their time in residency on the University of Illinois campus, visiting scholars give public talks and guest classroom lectures on topics related to the European Union. The visiting scholars this term hail from both domestic US and European institutions, and have traveled, studied, and taught around the globe.  They boast an impressive résumé of publications spanning a broad range of disciplines and approaches.

Dr. Bill Davies comes to the University of Illinois from American University in Washington, D.C. where he serves as a professor in the Department of Justice, Law & Criminology, having twice been awarded the department’s ‘Outstanding Teacher’ award, in 2011 and 2012. Having earned his Ph.D. in European Studies from King’s College London, Dr. Davies’ research focuses on constitutional practice of law in the EU. While at Illinois, Dr. Davies will deliver a lecture titled “The New History of EU Law: Promises and Challenges,” on March 20 at 2:00pm in Lucy Ellis Lounge, room 1080 Foreign Languages Building.

Dr. David Cleeton comes to the University of Illinois from nearby Illinois State University, where he is a professor in and chair of the Department of Economics. Since receiving his Ph.D. in economics from Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Cleeton has served in various academic and leadership positions at domestic and European institutions. Widely published in economic journals, Dr. Cleeton currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Political Economy Interest Section of the European Union Studies Association. Having been at the EUC since the start of the academic year, Dr. Cleeton has delivered lectures on campus and at the EUC’s regional faculty conference in Chicago, as well as in graduate courses on EU studies.

Dr. Dermot Hodson comes to the University of Illinois from Birkbeck University of London, where he serves as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics. Dr. Hodson received his Ph.D. in European Political Economy from the London School of Economics and since has served in various teaching capacities in the UK and Poland, and as an economist for the European Commission. His recent research focuses on the euro crisis and its implications, economic diplomacy towards China, and UK economic policy during the global financial crisis. Dr. Hodson will give a lecture, “Two Level Legitimacy: Changing Approaches to Treaty Revision in the European Union,” on April 2 at 12:00 pm in Lucy Ellis Lounge, room 1080 Foreign Languages Building.  

Christos Kourtelis comes to the University of Illinois from King’s College London, where he is currently a Ph.D. candidate and teaching fellow in the Department of European & International Studies. Mr. Kourtelis has served in teaching roles at Birkbeck College and the University of Westminster, as well as working for the European Commission. His research interests include EU external relations, political economy of Euro-Mediterranean relations, and the integration of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) states. Mr. Kourtelis will deliver a lecture titled “The Integration of the Arab Mediterranean Countries into the EU Market: the Neighborhood Policy as a Three-Level Game,” on May 2 at 12:00pm in Lucy Ellis Lounge, room 1080 Foreign Languages Building

Dr. Mariah Larsson comes to the University of Illinois from Stockholm University where she is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Media Studies, having received her Ph.D., M.A., and B.A. all from Lund University. Dr. Larsson’s research interests are focused on film and media studies and she has published widely on gender and sexuality in Scandinavian film. She will deliver a lecture titled “Fictionalizations of a Welfare State Sex Scandal: The Re-telling of Historical Events and Call Girl,” on April 3 at 5:15pm in Lucy Ellis Lounge, room 1080 Foreign Languages Building.

Dr. Neill Nugent comes to the University of Illinois from Manchester Metropolitan University, where he is an Emeritus Professor of Politics and Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration. Dr. Nugent is currently serving as a Visiting Professor at the College of Europe in Bruges. He is widely published on the subjects of European integration, institutions, and policies, and in 2013 was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the University Association for Contemporary European Studies.  He will deliver a lecture titled “The United Kingdom and the European Union: Still an Awkward Member State,” on April 11 at 12:00pm in Room 302, Architecture Building.

Dr. Mike Robinson comes to the University of Illinois from the University of Birmingham (UK) where he serves as a Professor of Cultural Heritage and as Director of the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage. Having received his Ph.D. from the University of East Anglia, Dr. Robinson’s research has focused on cultural heritage and identity, and he has held research and teaching roles in South Africa, Italy, and Taiwan, as well as numerous institutions in the United Kingdom.

For more information on the EUC’s visiting scholars in residence, including more comprehensive biographies and lists of publications as well as past visiting scholars, visit the webpage, More information about public lectures by the EUC visiting scholars in residence, as well as a complete schedule of events for the spring term, can be found on the EUC web calendar,

Protest in Ukraine: A Minute with Political Scientist Carol Leff

This blog was originally sent out as part of the Illinois News Bureau on February 20, 2014.

Editor’s note: Three months of protests in Ukraine erupted into new violence beginning Tuesday (Feb. 18) as riot police attempted to clear protesters from a square in the capital of Kiev, with dozens killed and many more injured. Despite appearances, however, this is not a simple people-versus-government conflict, says Carol Leff, a political science professor at Illinois who teaches courses on Soviet, post-Soviet and Eastern European politics. Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, sits between Russia to the east and the European Union to the west, where it borders new EU members Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. The country also is divided by region, ethnicity and language, with western and central regions largely speaking Ukrainian and eastern and southern areas Russian. All of this plays a role in the conflict. Leff spoke about the situation with News Bureau social sciences editor Craig Chamberlain.

These protests began in November when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych pulled back from signing a trade agreement with the EU, angering those with loyalties to the west. Protesters have since called for the president’s resignation. So how much of this conflict is about east versus west, and how much of it is about other issues?

The east-west divide is definitely a political and not merely linguistic divide, as electoral maps since independence in 1991 clearly show. President Yanukovych’s political base is in the east, where he was born, while the protesters are predominantly from central and western regions. These areas do hold differing opinions on key issues, with the east more oriented to neighboring Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Customs Union, and the rest of the country more likely to aspire to EU membership.

Ironically, though, it was the Yanukovych administration that brokered and last year initialed the EU agreement before reneging at the last minute. Observers saw the president as positioning himself for re-election by appealing beyond his eastern stronghold.

But what has fueled the protests now transcends the EU issue alone. Every government attempt since November to repress the demonstrations has only swelled the ranks of the protesters, whose demands are now for constitutional reform, an end to corruption and early elections. These demands are much broader than a foreign policy dispute.

You say Ukraine’s economic problems have played an important role in what’s going on. How so?

Misgovernment has squandered the agricultural and industrial promise that Ukraine showed when it gained independence. Yanukovych would not have felt such strong pressure to pick sides between the EU and Russia if the country’s debt and balance of payments problems weren’t so acute – verging on default. Ukraine badly needed a bailout last fall. Economists tend to see the EU Association Agreement that Yanukovych declined to sign as a better long-term prospect for economic growth, but in the short run, in November, Putin made the offer Yanukovych couldn’t refuse – both a bigger loan up front, the largest Russia has ever given, and energy price relief for a Ukrainian economy that depends on Russian oil and gas.

And of course there was direct Russian pressure for an “either-or” choice, including the hold-up of border trade and some not entirely veiled threats of economic retaliation. Ukraine is caught in between the EU and Russia, since it trades about equally with both, and is better off when no choices between them are necessary.

What are the perceived stakes for Russia and Putin in all this? For the EU?

Russia has multiple stakes, both practical and cultural. Russians see the state of Kievan Rus of a millennium ago, centered on the city of Kiev, as the early Russian state. Kiev is of course now the Ukrainian capital.

Much more recently, it was the Ukrainian independence referendum in 1991 that led Russian President (Boris) Yeltsin, only a week later, to hold the summit to dissolve the Soviet Union. Without Ukraine, the Soviet Union seemed pointless. Economically, Ukraine is central to Putin’s Customs Union project. Putin has accused the EU of intervening in Ukrainian domestic affairs, though he has modulated that tone in the past week.

The EU in turn wants a stable and economically open “neighborhood” at its eastern borders, but its hydra-headed foreign policy apparatus creates problems for agile response to the changing Ukrainian situation. There is discussion now of using the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) – to which both Europe and post-Soviet states belong – as a mediation forum.

Several stories have noted that this is the first time Ukraine has experienced significant political violence since leaving the Soviet Union peacefully in 1991. Even its Orange Revolution in 2004, which reversed a rigged election, occurred without bloodshed. So how much does this recent violence raise concerns for the future?

Until now, the political divisions in Ukraine, although very real, have been underpinned by an overwhelming consensus on the legitimacy of the new state. The independence referendum of 1991 passed with more than 92 percent support. What’s new is the extent of polarization, and the bitterness and anger that are creating destruction and clashes across the country.

One thing that differentiates this period from the Orange Revolution is that the Orange Revolution had a tight focus on achieving a re-run of the fraudulent presidential election, with a clear leader in the opposition candidate, and a judicial mechanism that affirmed the need for a re-run.

It is not obvious now that the protesters are willing to accept any opposition spokesmen as negotiators with the regime. In fact, knowing the feeling on the streets, opposition leaders in January refused Yanukovych’s offer that one of them become prime minister. Anything that looks like compromise with Yanukovych is toxic on the streets. And that is a real problem. It takes two sides to negotiate, and the protesters don’t want any negotiation that leaves Yanukovych in office.

Editor’s note: To contact Carol Leff, call 217-300-4338; email


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ukrainian Protests, Another Round of Battle Coming Soon?

This blog was originally posted on the REEEC website on February 14, 2014.

Protesters occupying the City Council building
(photo courtesy of Areta Kovalsky)
After a long cold winter, the protesters at Kiev’s main square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti, have not only renamed the iconic location to Euromaidan, but have also continued to occupy the main square since the end of November 2013. With makeshift tents complete with heating and food, only one thing is certain: it will take an incredible show of force to make the protesters give way.

After the two-month mark of the protests, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych signed into law some very disconcerting legislation that restricted the Ukrainian citizens’ freedom of speech. These laws against protesting and the media also added harsh penalties that turned many people into criminals in seconds, giving Yanukovych the opportunity to lock up members of the opposition for up to 15 years. As one can imagine, the legislation did not sit well with the Ukrainian citizens. After a brief pause in the protests, in late January 2014, the protesting intensified and became violent.

In the swirling clouds of black smoke from thousands of burning tires and the charred lines between the riot police and protesters, made even more dramatic by stun grenades, Molotov cocktails, and various rocks and baseball bats among other things, this was no place to be for anyone looking for a peaceful Sunday walk through the park. The violence led to multiples deaths, with the counts ranging from three to five, two of which allegedly on account of government snipers with live ammunition. Although the protests have died down again since then, they can gain momentum again at any moment.

Now, what next? After this bout of violence, Yanukovych offered to give opposition leaders spots in parliament, which they declined saying that they will not settle for anything less than Yanukovych’s step down from the presidency. Shortly after revoking the restrictive laws, Yanukovych took sick leave and failed to sign the new bills into power. One of the conditions was that the protesters had 15 days to leave the buildings that they were occupying, with the threat of police intervention if not evacuated within those 15 days. Now those 15 days are coming to an end. With that in mind, it is highly unlikely that the protesters will willingly give up the buildings they seized so get ready for some more action at any time.

What are the effects? Yanukovych’s decision not to sign an association agreement with the European Union and instead take on $15 billion in Russian bailout loans  in late November 2013 spurred the whole situation. However, there is currently more than ever at stake because Russia refuses to deliver the loan payouts until Yanukovych can prove that he has control of his people again. Seemingly, Yanukovych is stuck; no matter what he decides, the decision will give him some element of defeat. If he steps down, he loses his position as president and all the perks of being in power. On the other hand, if he uses force again to evacuate the protesters, he risks setting off another round of urban warfare, and faces both much international criticism and much more violence.

After having traveled to Kiev eight times, the city has become a favorite travel destination of mine. Although these protests will not stop me from going again, it is very sad to see one of the places I love most having such troubles. As far as the future of the current protests goes, I do not see any progress happening anytime soon. Both Yanukovych and the protesters are stuck fighting against each other, and neither party wants to give up. There have been talks of the EU and the US intervening to help find a solution, which seems possible. However, a recently leaked conversation of US government officials bashing the EU might throw their work off balance. That being said, the only option for now is to wait it out and see what happens. With the 15 days that Yanukovych gave the protesters to evacuate the occupied buildings coming to an end, there might be some interesting news in the coming days.

Zachary Grotovsky is an MA candidate in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Upon graduating in May 2014, he hopes to find a position where he can take advantage of his knowledge of German studies, and experiences in Ukraine and Poland to help people realize how much knowledge of other cultures puts them ahead. He became interested in Poland and Ukraine through contact with the people while traveling, and now frequents Ukraine as a favorite travel destination.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Effects of Violence in Kiev, Ukraine, Recognized in C-U

This post was originally published on the Daily Illini on February 17, 2014.

by Steffie Drucker
The events of the Euromaidan, the wave of protests that have erupted in Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev, have developed unexpectedly for Ukranians. Protestors took to Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the city’s main square, to rally against the president’s sudden decision not to sign a trade agreement with the European Union, and Ukraine’s government responded unexpectedly with violence, cracking down on those who gathered in the square by firing rubber bullets.
Carol Leff, associate professor of political science
at the University addressees the audience at a roundtable
discussion focused around the events in Ukraine.
Photo Credit: Brenton Tse, Daily Illini

“This new kind of radical eruption was a surprise for a lot of people,” said Ukraine-native Oleksandra Wallo, a visiting lecturer in the Slavic languages and literature department. “No one really expected to see it happening to Kiev when it did.”

Wallo said this violence stands in contrast to the scenes of the Orange Revolution — a large, non-violent protest that took place in Maidan Nezalezhnosti nine years ago — in which she participated. In November 2004, Ukrainians descended on Maidan Nezalezhnosti in response to the results of the country’s presidential elections, which was allegedly corrupted by voter intimidation and direct election fraud. Ukraine’s Supreme Court nullified the results of the first run-off in December 2004, and a second, fair election was held.

“The revolution was uniting the nation, but the events following didn’t do much for the people,” said Samiylo Habrel, freshman in the Engineering and another Ukrainian who experienced the Orange Revolution.

Protestors settled on Maidan Nezalezhnosti again last fall, almost exactly nine years after the start of the Orange Revolution.

The president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, had been working for several years on an association agreement with the European Union. This agreement is a political and free trade agreement that could ultimately lead to Ukraine becoming a member of the EU.

However, Yanukovych suddenly decided not to sign it in November 2013, causing protestors to take to the Maidan Nezalezhnosti. Carol Leff, an associate professor of political science at the University, explained that the president claims that he didn’t sign the deal “to ensure the national security of Ukraine ... and its trade relations with Russia,” as Russia is an important energy resource and partner for Ukraine.

Leff was one of the three panelists in a roundtable discussion of Ukraine’s current events and political protests Friday at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

Wallo, another panelist on the roundtable, also commented on Yanukovych’s sudden change of course.

“Since he was preparing for the association for such a long time, the suddenness of this was what really angered people,” Wallo said. “They felt like they were manipulated.”

The bad blood between the president and his people became even more volatile when he attempted to disperse protestors on the Maidan Nezalezhnosti using violence.

“The most appropriate action would be replacement of most of the government and maybe new elections,” Habrel said. “The current president does not look out for the people, and he has his own beliefs. The current president is trying to oppress the people.”

Use of force is one of the main differences between the Euromaidan and the Orange Revolution, which remained completely nonviolent during its duration. It has been a mobilizer for many to flock to the Maidan Nezalezhnosti and for other world leaders to stand with the protestors.

According to a December study done by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, 70 percent of people surveyed on the Maidan  Nezalezhnosti said they weren’t there because of the EU deal, but because the government chose to engage in violent crackdowns.

“The United States expresses its disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kiev’s Maidan Square with riot police, bulldozers, and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement in early December. “This response is neither acceptable nor does it befit a democracy.”

Wallo described the difficulty of watching the protests unfold from

“Watching how the riot police were trying to storm the Maidan one night, I knew I was afraid for who was there and sort of felt helpless since I couldn’t help them in any way from here,” Wallo said.

In contrast, she said her father and brother, who experienced some of the violence, said they felt tense when violence would erupt but supported by those around them and strengthened by the importance of their mission.

“Even though physically it’s difficult, emotionally it’s inspiring because you see so many people fighting together for a common goal,” she said, adding that the feeling was similar to that which she felt during the Orange Revolution.

Wallo also said her friends and family live in a strange mode now where they work during the day but spend much of their time following what’s happening on Maidan Nezalezhnosti by watching the news and following the Euromaidan’s Twitter account.

“It’s almost this surreal space — no one knows what’s going to happen,” she said.

Steffie can be reached at


Monday, February 17, 2014

EUC-Affiliated Faculty Speaks on WILL about Unrest in Ukraine

Image Source
On February 11, EUC-affiliated faculty member, Carol Leff, was featured on the WILL program, Focus. This particular episode focused on the recent unrest in Ukraine, particularly the anti-government protests that have been gaining international attention since November. Host Jim Meadows spoke with Carol Leff, an Associate Professor in Political Science, as well as Iryna Sukhnatska, a University of Illinois law student who immigrated to the United States from Ukraine in 1999.

A recording of the program is available to listen to and download on the WILL website.

Carol Leff also participated in a roundtable discussion on February 14, discussing the Ukrainian Maidan. More information about the roundtable discussion can be found on the Daily Illini's write-up of the event.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fighting Xenophobia: African Immigrants and Their Struggle for Integration in the EU

by Caroline Clasby
A controversial image depicting an immigrant
selling Eiffel towers in Paris with a shirt that reads ‘I Love Paris.'"
Image Source

Since the 1980s, there has been an influx of both North African and Sub-Saharan African immigrants to the European Union. A large majority of these immigrants have come seeking asylum from oppressive governments and poverty, but many have also come in order to seek better educational and career opportunities. Regardless of their reasons for migrating, these immigrants, like any others, have brought with them their own cultures, customs, and languages into an already extremely diverse institution of EU nation-states. In reaction to this increased immigration and introduction to these new and different cultures and customs, some European citizens have taken the initiative to protect their national identities, as well as what they perceive to be a common European identity. This “protection” against these other cultures is observable in the spread of xenophobic views and attitudes towards the immigrants, particularly by far-right political parties and their adherents. With growing support across a number of European countries for the xenophobic attitudes espoused by nationalist parties, there is a concern that such attitudes prevail among too many EU citizens.1

On October 21, 2013, Dr. Alma Gottlieb, professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign gave a lecture titled, “Immigration Issues from Below: Africans in Europe.” Professor Gottlieb talked about African immigrants, their reasons for migrating to the EU, the struggles they encounter when migrating, and the relationships between the EU citizens and these African immigrants. According to Dr. Gottlieb, an important question to ask is: how do EU citizens react to these new African immigrants?2 And, to add to that, one may well ask, what has caused these reactions often to be negative?

When African immigrants migrate to EU countries, they often bring their own religions—Islam, different sects of Christianity, and/or indigenous practices and, sometimes they bring cultural practices such as female genital cutting and polygamy (both of which are actually illegal according to EU law).3 These practices may be quite different from traditional European cultural and religious “norms.” Thus, when introduced to these new practices, many EU citizens are often offended by these practices because they greatly contrast with their own national and EU morals and values. These feelings often result in many EU citizens’ fear against these immigrants whom they perceive as “others” and the immigrants’ increasing population in the EU. In retaliation of this fear, there has been a rise in far-right parties that have established strong anti-immigrant views as part of their platforms; and, as these parties become more “mainstream” in EU politics, many EU citizens adopt these same xenophobic attitudes. These far-right parties and their followers have used means to show these immigrants that they do not belong in EU countries such as: blaming undocumented immigrants (and even those who have sought asylum) for the current debt crisis and denying them full access to health care, providing these immigrants with inadequate housing and schooling in ghetto areas, and discriminating against them in the job market. There have even been several documented accounts of violence against the immigrants.4 Each of these actions and/or attitudes come from different sources with different means of motivations, but their common target seems to be the vulnerable immigrant population.

In spite of this xenophobic mentality that has arisen, there are several organizations and government institutions that are fighting against it. For example, the European Network Against Racism is an organization that is trying to stop “…racism and discrimination based on colour [sic], ethnicity, national origin, nationality, religion, culture, language or legal status” in the EU.5 The EU Commission, too, is fighting xenophobia by enforcing “criminal law” on those who perform racist acts against others.6 However, even though these types of organizations exist and can give immigrants hope for justice and equality, they still have a long way to go to change the mentality of the far-right parties and many EU citizens. As a consequence, unfortunately, African immigrants will continue to struggle for integration and social acceptance into the EU as long as xenophobia continues to play a significant part in society.

Caroline Clasby is a first year MAEUS student.  She received her Bachelor’s degree in History and French from the University of Illinois in 2012.  During her undergrad, Caroline also studied abroad in Paris, France; and, after graduating, she spent a year in Montargis, France, as an English teaching assistant at a secondary school. Caroline has been awarded a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship to study the Arabic language for the 2013-2014 school year.  Additionally, Caroline has spent her last six summers as a technology specialist for her local public school district. 

Works Cited
“About ENAR: Who We Are.” European Network Against Racisim. (accessed October 31, 2013).

“A controversial image depicting an immigrant selling Eiffel towers in Paris with a shirt that reads ‘I Love Paris.’” By Hdepot. September 31, 2010. (accessed October 31, 2013).

Alma Gottlieb. “Immigration Issues from Below: Africans in Europe.” European Union Center and Center for African Studies. University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. October 21, 2013.
European Commission. “Framework Decision.” Europa. (accessed October 27, 2013).

European Commission. “Racism and Xenophobia.” Europa. (accessed October 27, 2013).

EU legislation. “Family Reunification.” Europa, October 27, 2011. (accessed February 15, 2014).

European Commission. “Eliminating female genital mutilation.” Europa, January 21, 2013, (accessed February 15, 2014).

Ford, Glyn. “In the Wake of Xenophobia: The New Racism in Europe.” UN Chronicle, September 2007. (accessed February 15, 2014).

Jacobsen, Henriette. “Doctors warn of rising xenophobia in Europe’s healthcare systems.” EurActiv, April 10, 2013. (accessed February 14, 2014).

Hall, Ben. “Immigration in the European Union: problem or solution?” OECD Observer, June 2000. (accessed February 14, 2014).

Hammarberg, Thomas. “Human Rights in Europe: No grounds for Complacency.” Council of Europe Publishing, 2011. (accessed October 30, 2013).

Soares da Silva, João. 2011. Report on “Human rights in europe: No grounds for complacency speaker: Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe.” CEPS. 2011. (accessed October 27 2013).

1 Alma Gottlieb, “Immigration Issues from Below: Africans in Europe,” European Union Center and Center for African Studies, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, October 21, 2013; and, Ben Hall, “Immigration in the European Union: problem or solution?,” OECD Observer, June 2000, (accessed February 14, 2014); and, Glyn Ford, “In the Wake of Xenophobia: The New Racism in Europe,” UN Chronicle, September 2007. (accessed February 15, 2014). 2 Gottlieb, “Immigration Issues from Below.”
3 Gottlieb, “Immigration Issues from Below.”; and, EU legislation, “Family Reunification,” Europa, October 27, 2011, (accessed February 15, 2014); and, European Commission, “Eliminating female genital mutilation,” Europa, January 21, 2013, (accessed February 15, 2014).
4 Ford, “In the Wake of Xenophobia”; and, Henriette Jacobsen, “Doctors warn of rising xenophobia in Europe’s healthcare systems,” EurActiv, April 10, 2013, (accessed February 14, 2014); and, Thomas Hammarberg, “Human Rights in Europe: No grounds for Complacency,” Council of Europe Publishing, 2011, (accessed October 30, 2013), 32 and 38; European Commission, “Framework Decision,” Europa, (accessed October 27, 2013); and, European Commission, “Racism and Xenophobia,” Europa (accessed October 27, 2013).
5 Quoted in “About ENAR: Who We Are,” European Network Against Racism, (accessed October 31, 2013).
6 Quoted in European Commission, “Framework Decision.” See also, European Commission, “Racism and Xenophobia”


Thursday, February 13, 2014

EUC-Affiliated Faculty Member Receives Honorable Mention in 2014 Laura Shannon Prize for Contemporary European Studies

Information from this post was found on the Nanovic Institute for European Studies of Notre Dame University's webpage

Yasemin Yildiz, Associate Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and a European Union Center-affiliated Faculty Member, has received honorable mention in the 2014 Laura Shannon Prize for Contemporary European Studies for her book Beyond the Mother Tongue: The Post Monolingual Condition (Fordham University Press, 2012).

Jury Statement: No problem is more crucial for European identity than that of the relationship of the monolingual to the multilingual and the relationship of each to the concept of the nation-state. Yasemin Yildiz’s Beyond the Mother Tongue is a finely-crafted exploration of a group of 20th-century German writers which excitingly recasts how these authors are defined or define themselves in terms of German as a language, revealing how the powerfully affective notion of the “mother tongue” functions for writers as different as Kafka (and Yiddish), Adorno (and the Fremdwort), Tawada (and Japanese), and Zaimoglu (and Turkish). Her studies disrupt a “monolingual paradigm,” showing how multiple our relations with languages can be. Yildiz brilliantly highlights what is at stake, ethically and politically, in the monolingual paradigm and in resistance to it, even where—perhaps especially where—the resistance might simply appear as linguistic playfulness. At stake is whether national identities can come to terms with multilingual realities. All future work will have to take account of her innovative work.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Year, New Member: Latvia Joins Eurozone

This post was originally published on Diplomatist Online in February 2014.

by Chris Jackson and Matthew A. Rosenstein

Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, Ollie Rehn, has stated that Eurozone membership has placed Latvia at the “political and economic heart of our continent.” Though there is no guarantee of success, Latvia joins the Eurozone with the potential to reap benefits for its own economy and strengthen the monetary union as a whole, write Chris Jackson and Matthew A Rosenstein.
Image from BBC News

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso believes such expansion is not symptomatic of a failing monetary union, asserting that Latvia’s membership gives the Eurozone a vote of confidence.

On January 1, 2014, Latvia became the eighteenth member of the European Union to adopt the common currency, the euro. The Baltic state with a population of just over two million joins Slovakia, Slovenia, and neighbouring Estonia as the fourth former-communist member of the Eurozone. Latvia’s entry into the Eurozone comes at a critical time in the history of the common currency and the EU itself. Currently, the EU is burdened with uncertainty. Economic crisis still plagues Spain and Greece, and serious economic problems linger in Italy and Portugal. Fuelled by concerns of immigration and subsidising failing economies, anti-Europe parties are on the rise in some of the traditionally most pro-Europe member states, such as France, Denmark, and The Netherlands. States have shied away from or delayed adoption of the euro. Though there is no guarantee of success, Latvia joins the Eurozone with the potential both to reap benefits for its own economy and strengthen the monetary union as a whole.

Aspirations of European Accession

At the collapse of communism in Europe, the European Union made efforts to attract former communist states and keep them from turning eastward again. Latvia along with the other Baltic States signalled its intentions of joining an integrated Europe early in its independence from the Soviet Union. Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia were the first to sign ‘Europe Agreements’ in December 1991, and the Baltic States followed suit in 1995, formalising their aspirations of European accession. As Yale political science professor David Cameron notes, the signing of a Europe Agreement was only a formalisation of Latvia’s intent, and, in fact, the majority of strides toward democracy and a reformed economy were made prior to 1995. The primary barrier to Latvia’s accession was its failure to grant citizenship to non-Latvian speaking persons including most members of the sizeable Russian minority remaining in the country. Not until 1997 was this issue resolved in compliance with the Copenhagen criteria’s provisions for the respect for and protection of minorities.

Impressive Political and Economic Gains 

In addition to the adoption of existing European legislation and process, the Copenhagen criteria – a set of standards established in 1993 by the European Council to evaluate a country’s suitability for membership – can further be broken down into three requirement areas – geographic, political, and economic. Latvia is undisputedly within the bounds of continental Europe. Politically, democracy and a multiparty system had been introduced almost immediately following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In fact, few gains in democratisation were even needed after 1991 and by the end of the decade, Latvia had earned near perfect ratings from Freedom House (an average of 1.5 on a scale of 1-7, with one being ‘free’ and 7 ‘not free’). Even more impressive were the substantial gains made in the economic area. After an unsteady period following independence, characteristic of most of the post-communist states, the Latvian economy rapidly grew as privatisation continued, and in 1999, Latvia became a member of the World Trade Organisation. 

Economic growth continued for Latvia after EU membership in 2004, the same year the country joined NATO. Between 2001 and 2005, unemployment dropped by 3.6 percent and investment in fixed assets increased by 40 percent. And in 2004 alone, exports across all sectors increased by 28 percent. However, like for the rest of Europe, 2008 spelled economic downturn in Latvia. A 21 percent decrease in GDP was one of the worst worldwide. Less well known than the efforts of Greece, Latvia immediately sought the help of the European Union, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank to assuage its hardship.

However, unlike Greece, Latvia has made a rapid and substantial recovery from its economic downturn. As early as 2010, Latvia’s economy returned to growth. The sudden rise in the country’s unemployment in 2008 and the ensuing downturn was reversed along with the GDP. With five percent growth in 2012, Latvia boasted the fastest GDP growth in the EU. And accordingly, Standard & Poor’s investment grade of ‘non-investment’ at BB has been raised to BBB+. 

At the ‘Political and Economic Heart’ of Europe

Adoption of the euro, at the outset of 2014, is an important step in Latvia’s exit strategy from its international loan programme. Membership in the Eurozone is, by no means, a cure-all solution for the Latvian economy. But it does carry with it a number of benefits. With adoption of the common currency, increased foreign investment is anticipated, through lowering of borrowing costs and eliminating currency exchange risks (the risk of an investment’s value changing due to exchange rate fluctuation). This has no doubt already contributed to the increase in Standard & Poor’s investment grade. 

In addition to the anticipated investment boost for Latvia, membership also carries with it benefits for the Eurozone, though more symbolic than economic. With the fourth smallest economy in the Eurozone, Latvia cannot be expected to make an impact on a monetary union dominated by the German super-economy. Benefit comes in the form of hope for other floundering Eurozone economies. Five years ago, Latvia was one of the most distressed economies worldwide, and today is the most rapidly growing within the EU. Strict adherence to its economic recovery plan and front-loading austerity measures has won the applause of the European Commission. Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, Ollie Rehn, has stated that Eurozone membership has placed Latvia at the “political and economic heart of our continent.”

Economic growth since it independence has certainly outweighed the setbacks Latvia experienced both prior to and after EU accession. As a country, Latvia has displayed great resilience in the face of the greatest crisis faced by the European Union. It is important to note, however, that throughout Latvia’s relatively young existence as an independent entity, its accordingly young economy has been susceptible to drastic fluctuations, induced by external conditions. Economic downturn, both in Russia and the EU, has wreaked havoc on the Latvian economy, indicating that despite its growth and resilience in recent times, it is not a well-founded economy. Failure of the Eurozone to recover, or future tribulations within it have the potential to spur rapid downtown in the Latvian economy again. Thus, while the prospects are high, it is important to recognise and keep in mind the potential for future downturn, as an economy as small as Latvia’s will now fluctuate with the Eurozone as a whole. 

While economic unrest has dissuaded EU members Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland from joining the monetary union, at least for the time being, Baltic integration is set to be complete next year with Lithuania slated to join in January 2015. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso believes such expansion is not symptomatic of a failing monetary union, asserting that Latvia’s membership gives the Eurozone a vote of confidence. A strong and growing Latvian economy enters a stable Eurozone on the path to recovery from crisis. Hardships have been contained and overcome in the case of Ireland. It can be concluded that the time is right for a small, yet strong economy such as that of Latvia to join a monetary union during what EU leadership sees as the early stages of the euro’s recovery. 

Chris Jackson is a Graduate Assistant at the European Union Center at the University of Illinois, USA.

Dr Matthew A Rosenstein is Associate Director of the European Union Center at the University of Illinois, USA. Previously, he was Associate Director of the Program in ACDIS at the University of Illinois from 2001 to 2010.


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