Monday, November 9, 2015

European Union Studies Conference 2015-16

Image from October 30th roundtable preceding the EU Studies Conference
This article was written by Raphaela Berding, a MAEUS student and graduate assistant at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign European Union Center.  Here, she recounts the experience of the 2015-16 EU Studies Conference sponsored by the EU Center. For more information on this event, please visit the conference's webpage.  

It was not easy for Anna Stenport, Director of the European Union Center at the University of Illinois, to open this year's EU Center’s working conference.  However, this was not a bad thing. Pre-discussion exchanges were very engaging among the 33 participants of the conference “Researching and Teaching the EU: Best Practices and Current Trends in EU Scholarship."These participants came together in the Illini Union on Saturday, October 31, to present their research and share their knowledge on topics relevant to the EU.

After saying some introductory words, Anna Stenport gave the floor to the new Associate Director of the EU Center, Maxime Larivé.  Maxime introduced himself and thanked the EUC staff for its support before introducing the first Panel of the conference “Impact and Effectiveness of EU Institutions and Policy Instruments.”  David Cleeton (Economics, Illinois States University), Serpil Kahraman (Economics, Yasar University, Turkey), and Paskal Zhelev (International Economic Relations and Business, University of National and World Economy, Bulgaria) presented their research on economic issues of the EU.  They addressed topics such as the EU impact on regional financial inequality in Turkey's banking system and the results of EU membership for one of the poorest member states of the EU, Bulgaria.

The second panel, “Impact and Effectiveness of EU Policies,” addressed topics regarding labor, environment, and society in the EU.  Juan Ramon Rivera Sanchez (Law, Alicante University, Spain) gave a proposal about Social Clause on TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), Jeanie Bukowski (International Studies, Bradley University) was especially happy to present her research to a group of interested people with her presentation "A New Water Culture on the Iberian Peninsula? Evaluating Epistemic Community Impact on Policy Change.”  The last speaker of the second panel, Elza Ibroschewa (Mass Communications, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville), discussed the portrayal of Bulgarian women in advertising and the impact of EU regulations on it.

Another highlight of this year’s conference was the keynote address by Michael McGowan, former Member of Parliament and British journalist.  His visit to UIUC's campus was organized by the EU Center. In his address, he shared stories about his time as an active politician and achievements of the EU. He highlighted that the EU has managed to cooperate within the Union and outside of it, and the EU Parliament has made a contribution to dealing with the world. Since he was the former President of the Development and Co-operation Committee of the European Parliament, he passionately spoke about the contribution of the EU with regards to the development of the third world.  He also expressed that this was an important endeavor of the EU. Towards the end of his address he tried to answer a question about where the European Union was going. He warned the participants that it was important to move away from the arrogance of the West.  He also stressed that the European Union needs to learn how to cooperate not only with people holding the same views but also with people who have different and opposing views. McGowan sees this as a way forward for the EU. He closed his address by expressing his positive impression of the experiences he has had while being on UIUC campus and at the EU Center. He was impressed by the diversity and research of the people on campus, saying that it was a great method for tackling problems.

McGowan’s keynote address was before the last and third panel, “EU Governance an EU as a Global Actor.”  Aaron Russell Martin (Political Science, Loyola University Chicago) presented a theory discussed in his dissertation,“Party Group Switching in the European Parliament: Developing a Multi-Level Theory.” After Martin, Kolja Raube (Centre for European Studies, KU Leuven, Belgium)  presented “Interparliamentary Cooperation in EU External Action."  Closing that panel, Maxime Larivé presented “Doing Global Research on Perception: The Misunderstood Partner," and this presentation discussed ways to clarify the perception of the European Union in the US and what the EU can learn from the way Americans think about their Atlantic neighbor.

After a short break, the panels and conference were closed by a roundtable discussion on “Strategies for Teaching in the EU” and closing remarks. The EU Center was delighted by the fruitful and interesting talks and presentations at the conference. The EU Center would also like to extend their gratitude to all the participants for their contributions!

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