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.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New Kids on the Block: A Complete Changeover of Europe’s Leadership in 2014

On April 18, 2014, Hans Martens, senior advisor to the European Policy Centre on energy and public service reform, gave a lecture entitled "New Kids on the Block: A Complete Changeover of Europe's Leadership in 2014."

From Mr. Martens' abstract:
A lot of attention has been devoted to the “Euro-Crises”, but although the media and the financial markets seem to have forgotten it, the crises still bites in the real economy across Europe. This will have an effect on the European elections in May, and possibly on the whole changeover process in the EU this year. What is likely to happen, and what will it mean for Europe internally and as a player in the World. On very serious test is TTIP – the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Are Europeans ready to go through with it? And will Europe keep sticking together, or will the UK prepare to leave.

The video can be viewed below or by visiting the Ensemble webpage:


Choice Cuts: How the Media Frames Immigrants

by Nate Hartmann

Immigration and Customs Enforcement police make an arrest
Image Source
In his talk about how immigration is framed both in French and American news and popular media, Rodney Benson brought up and focused on three frames (among 10 overall) through which immigration is seen. Those frames were those of immigrants as victims, heroes and threats. Focusing on page one news and the stories on national evening television in both countries, those three portrayals came up the most frequently. That said, the threat frame came up the most frequently though differed by country. In France the threat that immigration posed was to, more often than not, their arts and culture (Benson referred to it also as culture logic), whereas in the United States the focus was more financial and in terms of job and economic security (also referred to as market logic).

I don’t follow the French media much, but I closely follow the tech industry in America, and the impact immigration has on the industry and that industry’s impact on the overall economy. What I find interesting is the disparity between the stories that are most frequently shared by the mainstream media (those same front page and evening news stories) and those in niche media outlets, such as industry and business magazines. Back in December, an article in Quartz shared a study by the Kauffman Foundation that estimated that the introduction of a startup visa “could help generate 1.6 million US jobs over the next 10 years.” With unemployment (arguably) around 10%, those 1.6 million jobs would greatly strengthen our economy. And yet, as Benson found in his study, these are not the stories that hit the mainstream media. As he asserted, the political elite often shape news that goes out, regardless of the veracity of their opinions.

It seems that not only is there a greater instance of portrayals as immigrants as threats, but a relatively low amount of representations of immigrants as victims or heroes. Again, I can only think of industry media that focus on such heroic representations. The recent industry press that the startup Aereo, a TV distribution company started by an immigrant from India, has gotten has been largely positive, even as he heads off to the Supreme Court to defend his business model against companies such as Disney, CBS, and FOX. Another example of a heroic representation focuses on how dependent the American economy has become on immigration as a result of our aging population.

I generally read industry related publications, and hadn’t paid much attention to the disparity in representation and fact that often occurs in other media. As Benson pointed out, though, there is a clear bias, and that bias could hurt the economy of any country, not just the United States (right now, the EU faces increasing restrictions on immigration that could hurt member countries’ “trade in goods, services and capital”) that allows such stories to keep being published. While free speech and the right to share opinion needs to be protected, the choice inclusion or exclusion of these frames seem to border on the proverbial shouting of fire in a crowded movie theater.

Nate Hartmann is a first year masters student in the advertising program, and is a recipient of the Barton A. and Margaret K. Cummings Graduate Assistantship. He received his bachelor’s from the University of Illinois in Creative Writing in 2013. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics Spring 2014 Newsletter

The European Union Center is pleased to announce that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics has released their Spring 2014 newsletter. Many EUC-sponsored events are included in the newsletter, including the visit from the Chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Željko Komšić, the Mobilizing Difference conference, the "How Radical Was the Enlightenment?" workshop, and Kevin Featherstone's lecture, "A System Fit for a Purpose?". The newsletter also features the accomplishments of EUC-affiliated faculty members Ercan Balcı, Zsuzsanna Fagyal, Eda Derhemi, and Marina Terkourafi. The EUC is very pleased to continue our collaborations with the School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics as a whole and with its units, faculty, and students!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Turkish Nationalism: Constructive or Destructive?

by Brett Barkley

“It is impossible to advance just by selling plants and fruits. We need an industry.” Such was the impassioned rallying cry in 1960 of Cemal Gürsel, the Turkish army officer and fourth President of Turkey who seized power in the coup of that same year. That industry was the automobile industry. If Turkey could build its own car—with Turkish engineers and Turkish parts—they could prove to the world that they deserved a place on the world stage, and amidst such envisioned success, national pride lifted and solidified behind the newly empowered government.

This is the true story brought to life by the 2008 Turkish film, Devrim Arabaları—i.e. Cars of the Revolution—screened at UIUC on March 5 as part of the LCTL Film Series. It is a story in the history of Turkey that I had not heard before, but its themes of nationalism and of a do-it-ourselves mentality are very familiar. Therein are attitudes that at once propel Turkey onto the world stage in this era of nation-states but at the same time complicate its relations with the international community.

Devrim, the first Turkish car, still on exhibit today in Eskişehir
Image Source

If it were not for this nationalistic ambition that first coalesced under the leadership of Atatürk, the Republic of Turkey as we know it today might not exist—left to be diced up like the rest of the Middle East after World War I. (Many Turkish youth still think so fondly of Atatürk that they tatoo his insignia on their arms.) Likewise, EU candidacy status probably would not have been possible if not for the economic achievement that partially stems from such ambition.

However, it is the same nationalistic fervor that has perhaps slowed its path to EU accession. Consider the persistence of the Kurdish issue or discrimination of other racial minorities, such as the Roma. Conflict over the Kurdish language has received a lot of press (it was recently approved as a medium of instruction in private schools), but lesser known issues include the far-reaching urban renewal projects in Istanbul that continue to displace thousands of Kurds and Romas.

Turkey is also one of the few remaining countries in the world to still have a ‘geographical limitation’ immigration policy related to the status of refugees. This, in effect, means Turkey only legally accepts immigrants coming from European countries and only receives asylum seekers on a very temporary basis. Without full documentation as a legal refugee, daily life of the already oppressed is made that much more difficult (e.g. in finding gainful employment). These policies, indeed, extend to current Syrian refugees, whom are only recognized under temporary protection status—not as “refugees” according to legal definition of the word. To be fair, the efforts of the Turkish government to provide for temporary needs of Syrian refugees have been commendable; they have built some of the most pristine refugee camps ever seen. Still, Turkey has refused to allow all but a few international NGOs into the country and has accepted very little in-kind assistance from UNHCR while decrying the international community for not monetarily funding Syrian relief efforts more generously.

In many ways, the Turkish government has seemingly confronted such contentious issues with much of the same attitude exuded in the quest to build the first Turkish car: ‘thanks for your help, but we’ll take it from here.’ Only a few Turkish cars were ever built, and it is not clear whether the same modus operandi, when projected onto current issues discussed above, will be any more sustainable in helping Turkey achieve its many aspirations.

Brett Barkley is a joint Master’s Candidate in the Departments of Agricultural & Consumer Economics and Urban & Regional Planning. He is currently a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellow with the European Union Center, studying Turkish. His research includes the impact of the EU accession process on environmental policy in Turkey, particularly as it relates to the management of transboundary waters.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Is Scotland Ready to Fly Solo?: Lack of Preparation Will Lead to Troubling Outcomes if Scotland Becomes Independent

by Caroline Clasby

Image Source
A rally held to promote an independent Scotland
Will Scotland remain part of the European Union if it secedes from the UK? If not, can it quickly obtain membership with the EU? What currency will it adopt? What will be the future of Scottish or the UK’s economics and businesses? Can Scotland survive without the UK? I say that the Scottish government needs to seriously consider these questions and the resulting different outcomes before voting “yes” to Scottish independence.

On September 18, 2014, there will be a vote on whether or not Scotland will become an independent nation from the UK. The Scottish National Party (SNP) has been working to convince the Scottish people that Scotland needs independence and has been promising the continuity of membership in the EU, economic security, and the British Sterling. However, how much of what the SNP actually promises will come true? Is the Scottish government prepared for secession?

The University of Pittsburgh hosted a videoconference on March 18, 2014, titled “English & Scottish Nationalism.” Several experts from England, Scotland, and the United States spoke about the Scottish referendum and how each of the predicted outcomes could affect Scotland and the UK. Throughout the discussion, the main question was: what would happen if Scotland became independent? The overall consensus was negative.

According to Neill Nugent, Emeritus Professor of Politics and Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration at Manchester Metropolitan University, no one knows exactly what will happen and, unfortunately, the Scottish government is not prepared for the outcomes. If we look at the outcomes that the SNP has promised, I believe Nugent’s statement is right.

First, it is likely Scotland will lose its EU membership and have to reapply like all new nation-states. In fact, the European Commission Chief, Jose Manuel Barroso, has stated numerous times that if Scotland becomes an independent state, it will have to follow the guidelines of the Lisbon Treaty and start at the very beginning of the accession process. If this is the case, Scotland is going to have to consider the challenges it will face to rejoin. For example, Spain is not supportive of Scotland separating from the UK because of Spain’s past dealings with Catalonia wanting to separate.

Second, Scotland needs to consider what will happen to its currency and economics. Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, claims that Scotland will be able to keep the current Sterling even when seceding from the UK. Again, this issue has not been clearly thought out. If Scotland wants to become a member of the EU, it would have to adopt the Euro by law. Plus, BBC interviewed UK Chancellor George Osborne during which Osborne clearly stated that the UK would not let Scotland keep the Sterling. A change in currency and a break from an economy in which Scotland relies on so heavily would leave Scotland and many of its businesses in less stable economic conditions.

Since there is no definitive answer to any of these potential outcomes, the Scottish government clearly needs to fully rethink the secession before jeopardizing its people’s lives.

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.  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.  Her hobbies include traveling, shopping, and enjoying a good cup of coffee.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Woman Politician in the Cold War Balkans from Biography as History: The Case of the Bulgarian Communist Functionary Tsola Dragoitcheva (1898-1993)

This blog was originally posted on the REEEC blog on March 10, 2014.

Prof. Krassimira Daskalova
On February 20, 2014, Krassimira Daskalova, Professor of Modern European Cultural History at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, delivered the REEEC New Directions lecture entitled “A Woman Politician in the Cold War Balkans. From Biography to History:  The Case of the Bulgarian Communist Functionary Tsola Dragoitcheva (1898-1993).”

In the beginning of her lecture, Professor Daskalova spoke about the tendency of Eastern European historiography to marginalize gender history and Western gender history scholars’ tendency to marginalize Eastern European gender history. She argued that exploring the gender history of Eastern Europe would expand the scope of historical inquiry, particularly in the fields of social and cultural history, history of everyday life, and transnational history. Professor Daskalova went on to state that political and diplomatic history cannot be regarded as gender-free or merely the realm of male agents, and that even topics like Stalinism, Cold War, or International Affairs cannot be adequately understood without considering gender as a category. Gender historians would greatly benefit from examining the gender aspects of Eastern European history, which would increase the breadth and accuracy of gender scholarship, as it would provide comparative perspective and decentralization.

According to Professor Daskalova, material scarcity has been an essential factor seriously affecting every aspect of women’s experience in Eastern Europe including women’s integration into the workforce, the struggle against male domination, as well as other crucial factors of gender history scholarship. In her opinion, women played an extraordinarily active role in building state socialist economies, but their perceptions of the meaning of women’s participation in societies differed sharply with the perceptions of Western gender scholarship.

Professor Daskalova noted the increasing importance of oral history, as it reveals that women had embraced new socialist identities which gave them positions of authority in their respective societies, where socialism was not simply an abstract ideology or a failed experiment, but an uplifting experience. Though we can indeed see oral history as an interesting field of study that enriches our understanding of the historical record, I would argue that the scholarship on oral history in post-1944 Bulgaria should include the accounts of the many victims – male and female – of the communist regime. A good start would be Atanas Kiriakov’s documentary on the survivors of the Bulgarian communist forced labor camps entitled The Survivors: Camp Tales, available at the REEEC Library as well as online

(with the accounts of female inmates at 36:17 and especially at 50:00).

With the Bulgarian communist regime’s human rights record and economic performance in mind, it seems unclear to me how the building of state socialism in Bulgaria could be considered an uplifting experience in any respect, except for officials like Dragoitcheva. While Nazi terror and crimes have been universally condemned, the Eastern European communist regimes’ state-organized terror practices and crimes against humanity are still little known. In addition to the above-mentioned documentary, there are some texts from western scholars who have examined the 1944-1955 experience in Bulgaria, such as the account of the Ethridge Mission in Bulgaria1, as well as John Horner’s article on Nikola Petkov’s trial and execution in 19472, although this period generally remains under-researched.

Professor Daskalova noted Tsola Dragoitcheva’s involvement in the 1925 terrorist bombing of the St. Nedelya Church in Sofia, but not the fact that the incident is one of the worst acts of terrorism of the early 20th century with over 150 dead, mostly among the civilian population, and hundreds of wounded. In addition to Ms. Dragoitcheva’s direct involvement in the bombing, she was among the executioners of communist assassinations prior to the September 9, 1944 Coup, as well as one of the main leaders of the Bulgarian Communist Party and government after that. The anti-Fascist German journalist Wolfgang Bretholz reported that she had taken pleasure in her direct participation in one of the most horrific mass killings after the People’s Tribunals’ kangaroo trials – the mass execution of 25 regents and ministers, eight counselors, and sixty seven former representatives in parliament in February 1945.3

Professor Daskalova defended an anthropological approach that treats people as individuals, rather than as members of groups and organizations, which would allow historians to better understand the reactions of men and women to historical events. While I agree with this point, I would add that research from a gender studies perspective on this period of Eastern European and Bulgarian history should not exclude the numerous accounts of the regime’s female victims. Certainly, Professor Daskalova’s work on Tsola Dragoitcheva represents only one part of her larger project, but the conclusions she draws and the sources she consulted (including the official archives of the Bulgarian People’s Women Union, the Bulgarian Communist Party, and Women’s International Democratic Federation, along with the published memories of Tsola Dragoitcheva) regarding the emancipator aspect of communist policies toward women would likely alter with a broader range of sources. Further research into oral history and biographic sources would bring to our attention other, less compromised female historical figures who were not involved in mass killings and official communist politics like Ms. Dragoitcheva. Their accounts examined in comparison with Tsola Dragoitcheva’s case would give us a broader and more accurate picture of women’s changed roles in post-1944 Bulgaria.

Hristo Alexiev is an M.A. student in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. A native of Sofia, Bulgaria, he has pursued Balkan Studies and East European and Eurasian Studies at the Sofia University, North Harris College, University of Houston and the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a graduate of the Music Department of Sofia University. Before being accepted into the MA program at REEEC on a FLAS fellowship in 2012, Hristo worked in Kosovo for five months in 2011, providing linguistic support to the US troops in KFOR. A recipient of the FLAS 2012 Summer Fellowship and the Boren Fellowship, Hristo studied in Turkey at Boğaziçi University during the 2012-2013 academic year. His acceptance of the Boren Fellowship includes an obligation to work for one year for the federal government. He hopes to pursue a career in the foreign service.

1 Stone, D. R. (2006). The 1945 Ethridge Mission to Bulgaria and Romania and the Origins of the Cold War in the Balkans. Diplomacy & Statecraft, 17(1), 93-112, available through the UIUC Library multi-subject search tool.
3 Cited in Troanski, H. (n.d.). The Communist St. Bartholomew’s Massacres. In Stanilov, V. (2004). The international condemnation of Communism: The Bulgarian perspective: excerpts from the reports presented at the Colloquium in Koprivshtitsa, Bulgaria, 24-26 September 2004. Sofia: Vassil Stanilov Literature Workshop. Available at URL: http://www.decommunization.org/English/Communism/Bulgaria/Massacres.htm for another account of the February 1945 killings and communist terror in post-1944 Bulgaria, see Black, C. E. (1979). The start of the cold war in Bulgaria: A personal view. Review of Politics, 41(2), 163-202. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/38283571?accountid=14553

Less Commonly Taught Languages Program Making an Important Impact on Campus

Ercan Balci is an EUC-affiliated faculty member. Since 2003, the European Union Center has also provided substantial support out of our US Department of Education Title VI grants towards instruction of European Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL) programs as described in the article below. 

This article was originally posted in the Spring 2014 School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics Newsletter.

The University of Illinois Department of Linguistics’ Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL) Program packed fall semester with events, including a wide variety of language courses, a film series, conversation tables, and two short-term winter study abroad courses.

Ercan Balci
These less commonly taught languages—Arabic, Hindi/Urdu, Modern Greek, Persian, Swahili, Turkish, Uzbek, and Wolof—are alive and well within the auspices of the School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics. And, through the tireless efforts of Ercan Balci, director of the LCTL Program, and its talented and dedicated faculty, more students are becoming aware of those languages and what they can offer to graduates in the emerging global job market.

Balci explained that the emphasis is on instruction in a “fun, proficiency-based way that includes extracurricular activities, cultural conversation tables, film series, and potlucks.

“We emphasize the acquisition of grammar and vocabulary as necessary tools for spontaneous, creative, and meaningful communication and as a part of the four skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking,” he said.

Classroom activities, conversation, small-group problem solving, and other tasks that simulate real-life uses of language are all encouraged, he added.

Outside the classroom, extracurricular activities include conversation tables, a film series, social hours, potlucks, and picnics. These help students practice the target language by learning about the culture where it is spoken.

The LCTL program capped their offerings for the fall semester with two sections of short-term study abroad courses that focused on culture. Taught in English, the following sections were led by experts in their countries and languages:

  • Conflict and Post-Conflict Resolution, Cyprus (Dr. Stefanos Katsikas) 
  • Cultural Diversity, Istanbul, Turkey (Dr. Ercan Balci) 

To learn more about these languages, the LCTL Program and its faculty, visit: lctl.linguistics.illinois.edu.

In addition, in 2014 the department will be offering its sixth Summer Institute for the Languages of the Muslim World (SILMW, for which Balci is also the director). The program is carried out in collaboration with the U of I’s Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; Center for African Studies; Center for International Business Education and Research; Center for Global Studies; European Union Center; and Russian, East European and Eurasian Center. The institute, which continues to grow in popularity each year, will be held from June 16 to August 9. Intensive courses are being offered in a variety of Muslim world languages, including Arabic, Urdu, Persian, Swahili, Turkish, and Wolof. To learn more about the institute, visit: silmw.linguistics.illinois.edu.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Understanding the Ukrainian Maidan: Between Russia and the EU

This blog was originally posted on the REEEC blog on February 28, 2014.

David Cooper, Director of REEEC, introduces
the panelists Kostas Kourtikakis, Carol Leff, and Oleksandra Wallo
Ukraine has been in a state of turmoil since November 2013, when President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union.  The refusal to sign the agreement served as the catalyst for ongoing mass protest and revolt in Kyiv, and across the country.

On February 14, the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center, the European Union Center, and Pi Sigma Alpha co-sponsored a roundtable discussion concerning the protests and the greater political situation in Ukraine.  The roundtable was comprised of three speakers: Carol Leff (Associate Professor, Political Science), Oleksandra Wallo (Lecturer, Slavic Languages and Literatures) and Kostas Kourtikakis (Lecturer, Political Science).

Carol Leff began the discussion by providing an economic, political, social, and transnational context for the situation in Ukraine.

Economically, Ukraine has been in a state of sustained economic crisis and under performance.  Due to a lack of international trade and international investment, Ukraine suffers from low GDP and GNP.  Professor Leff espoused that this economic failure was also a political failure.

Politically, Ukraine is divided between Western Ukraine and the Eastern Ukraine.  These divisions have created distinct orientations towards Western Europe and the European Union, or towards Russia and the Customs Union.  The political divisions also echo regional and linguistic divisions, i.e. the Ukrainian-speaking West and Russian-speaking East.  The East/West orientation was clearly seen in the 2004 Orange Revolution and in the 2010 Presidential Elections.

Carol Leff discusses the linguistic
and ethnic divisions in Ukraine
The political and social division of Ukraine is important in understanding the protest trigger in November 2013.  As Professor Leff explained, Yanukovych did not sign the Association Agreement with the European Union because was facing immense pressure from Russia to join the Customs Union.  His stated reasoning behind not signing was to protect the national security of Ukraine and trade relations with Russia.  Russia also guaranteed a $15 billion loan to Ukraine in return for not signing the Association Agreement.  Western Ukraine, and those Ukrainians oriented towards Western Europe and the European Union do not share Yanukovych’s belief in a Russian-oriented Ukraine.

When the protests began in November 2013 they were primarily concerned with the issue of joining the European Union.  As the protests intensified and the police began to violently crackdown, people began to fight and protest concerning the larger issues at hand (such as the rampant corruption of the Yanukovych regime).

Oleksandra Wallo spoke on the protests specifically, and addressed the questions of who is protesting, how are they protesting and resisting, and the popular attitudes of protesters.

Oleksandra Wallo discussing
the Ukrainian protests
Dr. Wallo explained that the initial protest was mainly students.  Other people rapidly joined the protests in response to the crackdown upon the students, and to relieve the Orange Revolution.  The protests are made of men and women, and have generally been a younger, university-educated demographic.

The protesters took over many buildings, including the Kiev Central Administration Building, which served as a sort of headquarters for the protesters.  There has also been an elaborate systems of barricades erected by protesters to their territory from police attacks.

Dr. Wallo described the protests as a “self-organizing” organism.  Doctors have volunteered medical services, chefs have volunteered to cook food for protesters, and a Self Defense Unit was created to protect the protesters.  Artists and musicians have also been involved with protesting, providing inspirational art and music.

Dr. Wallo also explained the method of resistance the protesters undertook.  A barricade system has been in place as a means to protect protesters, and deter the police from attacking.  During the more violent clashes with police, protesters have started large fires and burned tires.  To actively defend against the police, protesters have utilized Molotov cocktails, slingshots, and cobblestones.

Kostas Kourtikakis was the last speaker, and he discussed Ukraine and the European Union from the perspective of the European Union.  He focused on the current relationship between the EU and Ukraine, the future of the EU’s relationship with Ukraine, and the implications for other countries.

He began by explaining the two frameworks (bilateral and multilateral) that the European Union uses in creating relationships with countries.  Bilateral agreements include an Association Agreement to promote economic integration into the EU.  Multilateral frameworks include the European Neighborhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership.  Professor Kourtikakis explained that the countries that have these types of agreements with the EU are usually never going to be full EU members.

The European Union has a strategic interest in Eastern Europe.  They want to create stable political environments around EU member states, increase trade, and keep gas pipelines from Russia flowing.  However, due to the current situation in Ukraine, there is a changing discourse on the possibility of Ukraine’s membership in the EU.  The future of other countries’ Association Agreements are now also on hold.

Russia has a vital interest in Ukraine, and Professor Kourtikakis stated that Russia is essentially competing with the EU for Ukraine.  Although Russia would greatly prefer that Ukraine join the Customs Union, along with Belarus and Kazakhstan, instead of signing an association agreement with the EU, it seems doubtful that Ukraine will join the Customs Union.

Kostas Kourtikakis explains the EU’s Eastern Partnership

At the time of the roundtable, protesters were still fighting in the streets.  On February 18, massive street battles broke out between protesters and the police, with estimates of 70-100 killed and hundreds wounded.  Within several days, protesters re-took key buildings, Parliament voted to return to the 2004 Constitution,  Yulia Tymoshenko was freed from prison, elections were scheduled for May, and Viktor Yanukovych was chased out of Kiev with a warrant for his arrest.

Tori Louise Porter is a former logistics specialist in the U.S. Marine Corps. She is currently an undergraduate student in REEES.  She loves bacon, maple syrup, and ice hockey. 


Modern Greek Studies Releases Its First Annual Overview for 2012-2013

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Modern Greek Studies program has released their first annual overview for the 2012-2013 academic year. A copy of the annual overview is available online and on the MGS website. The newsletter covers several areas of interest, including past events that the program has held; outreach activities organized to reach out to populations outside of the University; grants and student achievements; co-sponsors and new members; as well as highlights concerned with the associate faculty and advisory board members.

From the newsletter:
The program in Modern Greek Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was established in 2008 after a moving initiative of University students led by the Hellenic Student Association, who in a meeting they had with the then Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost, Dr. Linda Katehi, asked for the establishment of a program in Modern Greek Studies. The aim of the program would be to foster the study of the Greek language, Greek history and culture, and to explore past and current perspectives on Hellenism. In creating this new program, the University of Illinois joined a growing trend among leading institutions of higher education in North America, offering programs in Modern Greek Studies that are dedicated to the study of language, literature, culture, and history of Modern Greece. The program is also continuing an educational tradition started by the Greek-American community in Chicago, one of the largest in the United States and historically the first to take an active interest in Greek-speaking education, whose geographical proximity to our campus is an important asset in our efforts. The program represents a collaborative achievement among several units across campus, which are supporting it with their knowledge and expertise: The School of Literatures Cultures and Linguistics (SLCL), where the program is housed, the Department of Linguistics, the Department of Classics, the Department of History, the Department of Political Sciences, the Department of Music, the School of Architecture, the College of Education, the European Union Centre (EUC), the Russian East European and Eurasian Centre (REEEC), the Centre for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (CSAMES), the Program in Comparative and World Literature, the Program in Second Language Acquisition and Teacher Education, the Centre for Translation Studies, Dalkey Archive Press and the University Library are among the units supporting the program with academic input, resources, and expertise.
The European Union Center is a proud supporter of the Modern Greek Studies program, having collaborated on several research, teaching and public engagement activities over the past year and looks forward to future collaborations. Congratulations!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Conversations on Europe: English & Scottish Nationalism and the Future of the EU

On March 18, the European Union Center participated in a videoconference roundtable discussion entitled "A Thorn and Thistle in Europe's Side? English and Scottish Nationalism and the Future of the EU," hosted by the University of Pittsburgh's European Union Center of Excellence as part of their "Conversations on Europe" videoconference series. The upcoming Scottish referendum on independence from Britain that is schedule for September 2014 and the possibility of a UK referendum on EU membership that could occur as early as 2016 were the centerpieces of discussion. Panelists included the European Union Center's Visiting Faculty Neill Nugent of Manchester Metropolitan Univesity, John Curtice of the University of Strathclyde, and Andrew Strathern and Pamela Stewart, both of the University of Pittsburgh.

This videoconference is part of the "Conversations on Europe" series, which cover these and other related issues, with participants from several venues and input from university and community people. This event was held in collaboration with the American Council on Germany and the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.

A video of the conference can be viewed below or on the University of Pittsburgh's Center for International Studies' YouTube channel:


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Salih Brkic: Bosnian Journalist and Filmmaker

This blog was originally posted on the REEEC blog on March 13, 2014.

Salih Brkic with his translator, Medina Spiodic
Srebrenica is a small city located in eastern Bosnia. In July 1995, the Serbian military of the Republic of Srpska sieged the city. A mass murder of over 8,300 deaths took place that included the torture and slaughtering of young boys, men, elderly, and some women and babies.

On March 5, the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center; European Union Center; Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide and Memory Studies; Center for Global Studies; Programs in Arms, Control, Disarmament, and International Security; and the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures co-sponsored a lecture from Bosnian war crimes investigative journalist Salih Brkic.

Salih Brkic has been in his profession for 45 years. However, he became most intrigued by Srebrenica and that region of Bosnia during the war. He describes Srebrenica as his “wound” and will continue working on seeking justice while he is alive.

Brkic has spent most of his own time investigating war crimes and bringing justice to those that have lost loved ones in the war. As a journalist and filmmaker, he has made over 50 documentaries. In the past two decades, he has created numerous documentaries on the Srebrenica genocide.

Brkic is very unique in what he does. During his talk, he shared two short documentaries . The first was called “Nermin,” which is a Bosnian-Muslim name. In this documentary, Brkic follows Nermin’s wife, the only living member of the family, for years, recording the toughest moments of her life. Brkic shows footage from the war of Nermin calling out to his son repeatedly, telling him to come by his father. Nermin tells his son that he is “safe” with the Serbs, while the Serbs demand Nermin to call for his son in order to capture them both. Nermin calls out to his son so that both of them could be executed together; he is left with no choice but to do as the Serbs comand. In “Nermin,” Brkic conducted several interviews of Nermin’s wife, showing the phases she went through, starting with her finding this footage of her own husband, to the discovery of her family members’ remains, to attending their funeral in Potocari, where the mass grave site and memorial is in Srebrenica.

The second short documentary that Mr. Brkic showed was “Flashlight in the Caves,” which highlight the process of identifying the missing bodies that were often dumped into mass caves. In the majority of the instances, fields  were dug out and dozens of bodies were dumped on top of each other. After the war, locating most of these caves in order to identify the bodies was difficult. Today, many are still looking for their family members’ remains; they cannot properly bury their relatives without the remains.

Mr. Brkic spoke about the Srebrenica massacre in great depth and also discussed his job as a journalist at that time. Salih Brkic rediscovered much evidence which exposed the truth behind the genocide in Srebrenica. In addition, he exposed the events which led to the fall of Srebrenica in early July 1995.

He has dedicated much time to a special organization called “The Mothers of Srebrenica,” which is composed of the women in Srebrenica who lost children, siblings, and husbands in the war. He was with them when they buried their children, when they buried their husbands, and when they watched the court proceedings in the Hague of the major war criminals. He continues to stand with the “Mothers of Srebrenica” and dedicate his time to seeking justice.
Salih Brkic presents a DVD of his short documentaries to Prof. David Cooper as a gift to REEEC

Mr. Brkic’s purpose as a journalist is to achieve justice for all of those that have lost family members in the war. He wants every individual that was murdered in the war to receive a proper burial. In addition, he fights for exposing the war criminals that caused this genocide to happen. His recordings and evidence on the Srebrenica massacre has greatly assisted in working towards justice.

Medina Spiodic is a  sophomore in LAS, double majoring in Economics and Communication with a minor in REES.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Larry Neal Prize for Excellence in EU Scholarship Awarded to Professor Carolyn Ban; Honorable Mention to Professors DeBardeleben and Viju

Professor Carolyn Ban
CHAMPAIGN – The European Union Center at the University of Illinois is pleased to announce that Professor Carolyn Ban is the 2013 recipient of the Larry Neal Prize for Excellence in EU Scholarship, for her book Management and Culture in an Enlarged European Commission: From Diversity to Unity?, published by Palgrave Macmillan. Professor Ban’s book was nominated by the European Union Center of Excellence at the University of Pittsburgh. The Larry Neal Prize was initiated by the EU Center at Illinois to recognize excellent research conducted by affiliated faculty of the EU Centers of Excellence located throughout the United States and Canada.

As the book description reads, “Carolyn Ban breaks new ground by analyzing the European Commission from a public management perspective. Based on extensive interviews conducted over six years, it explores how the European Commission faced the challenge of enlargement, how it recruited and socialized thousands of new staff members, and its success in integrating newcomers. It argues that nationality was less important in understanding the newcomers than expected and,
conversely, that gender was more important than expected, as one of the major effects of enlargement was to shift the organization's gender balance. It includes an analysis of language use and language politics as an important part of organizational culture. The work provides a lively and readable picture of life within the Commission. Melding management with sociology, anthropology, and linguistics, contributes to the growing literature on international organizations.”

Dr. Ban is a Professor and former dean of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the former Acting Director of the European Union Center of Excellence/European Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford University.

Professors Joan DeBardeleben and Crina Viju
In addition, Honorable Mention for the 2013 Larry Neal Prize for Excellence in EU Scholarship goes to Professors Joan DeBardeleben and Crina Viju for their coedited book Economic Crisis in Europe: What It Means for the EU and Russia, published by Palgrave Macmillan. This cross-disciplinary book, with contributions from thirteen additional leading experts from Europe and North America, studies the financial-economic crisis that erupted in 2008 and the subsequent sovereign debt crisis in Europe, and examines their economical and political influence. Innovatively, particular attention is given to the former Soviet Union countries that are now member states of the EU, as well as Russia. The volume indicates that such a crisis cannot be confined within conventional economic and political boundaries, and carries regional, national and global impacts. Expanding the scope of research, the authors seek to tackle critical questions such as why certain countries are more severely affected than others and what are the implications for Europe’s future.

Dr. DeBardeleben is Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Institute of European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (EURUS) at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, where she also is the founder and Director of Carleton’s EU Centre of Excellence and holds a Jean Monnet Chair in the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood Relations. Dr. Viju is an Assistant Professor who also works in the EURUS at Carleton University.

As part of their awards, the EU Center has invited Professor Ban and Professor DeBardeleben to give public lectures at the University of Illinois on topics addressed in their prize-winning books. Both lectures will take place in fall 2014.

In honor of Professor Emeritus of Economics Larry Neal, the founding director of the European Union Center at the University of Illinois, the EU Center created the “Larry Neal Prize for Excellence in EU Scholarship” through the generous funds from the European Commission’s European Union Center of Excellence grant. Each year the Center solicits submissions of both books and articles that address current issues faced by the European Union and in transatlatlantic relations. Submissions are encouraged from all disciplinary fields. Visit the University of Illinois EU Center web site for more information about the award submission procedures and a list of previous winners.

The New History of EU Law: Promises and Challenges

On March 20, 2014, Bill Davies, Assistant Professor of Justice, Law & Criminology at American University and a European Union Center Visiting Scholar, gave a lecture entitled "The New History of EU Law: Promises and Challenges."

Dr. Davies is approaching the study of the European Union legal system from a fresh perspective by critically examining the development of the constitutional practice of law in the EU from a historical perspective. Dr. Davies has traveled extensively to uncover the primary documents that will contribute to a fresh and empirically accurate narrative of the emergence of the European constitutional system and to answer the question of how the controversial consolidation of power at the European level has been received in the EU’s member states. Dr Davies recently published a monograph on the German reception of European law. Germany’s relationship with the European Court of Justice has been fraught with challenges and it is Germany’s reactions to the decisions of the court that largely have, and will, determine its future.

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


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