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.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Is Democracy on the Wane in Turkey?

Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Is Democracy on the Wane in Turkey?

By Craig Chamberlain, Social Sciences Editor at the Illinois News Bureau

Originally published on the Illinois News Bureau on 4/19/17. Republished here with permission.


Once hailed as a model for Islamic democracy,Turkey plays a key role in both the Syrian refugee crisis and the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State. On April 16, however, Turkish voters appear to have approved sweeping constitutional changes that many opponents and observers see as another big step in a years-long march toward authoritarianism under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. University of Illinois political science professor Avital Livny specializes in the study of Turkish identity politics and is finishing a book on Islamic-based activism in Turkey and the wider Muslim world. She spoke with News Bureau social sciences editor Craig Chamberlain.

What were the key changes approved in the April 16 referendum?

The constitutional changes ranged from more minor administrative tweaks to major changes to the structure of political power in Turkey. The president’s role has been greatly expanded while the prime minister’s has been eliminated – the president will now serve as both head of state and head of government. He will also now have complete authority to appoint and remove cabinet members, as well as the vice president, a new position.

At the same time, he can now maintain an affiliation with a political party, and presidential and parliamentary elections will now take place in tandem, to the likely benefit of the president’s party. And while presidential decrees are now subject to judicial review, the constitutional court has been shrunk from 17 members to 15, with the president having the power to appoint 12 and parliament the remaining three. Meanwhile, the entire system of military courts has been dismantled.

How were these changes justified and what are the fears of opponents?

These changes have largely been justified as a necessary corrective to the 1982 constitution, put into place during Turkey’s last period of military rule. But last year’s failed coup attempt has also loomed large: Erdogan has argued that the fracturing of power under a parliamentary system is inherently destabilizing and that the concentration of power in the president’s hands is a safer bet in terms of security, as well as economic growth.

Opponents of the reform package are concerned about the removal of so many checks on the president’s authority, especially at the expense of the judiciary. With the new constitution in place, Erdogan will likely remain unchecked at the helm of the Turkish state until at least the next presidential election in 2019, if not beyond.

What happens now, especially given that opponents are questioning the legitimacy of the vote?

It is difficult to predict the future, but it seems likely that this will remain a contested issue for some time yet. While President Trump seems to have accepted the vote, a number of international organizations have questioned its validity. Regardless, I expect Erdogan’s government will push ahead with the changes, and opponents will have little recourse but to go forward. Protests will likely continue, probably with renewed fervor. But the imprisonment of members of the Kurdish political movement in Turkey speaks to the risks involved in even peaceful opposition.

How did the Kurds figure into this vote?

The Kurdish vote was always expected to play a large role in the outcome. Whereas Kurdish political leaders had called for the boycott of a referendum in 2010, they were explicit in their support for voting “no” this time around. That said, there were concerns that the Kurdish community, clustered in the southeastern regions of Turkey, could be disenfranchised. An analysis of the preliminary vote tallies would indicate that this may have been the case. Turnout was exceptionally low in many of these areas, and there were fewer "no" votes than would have been expected given past electoral results.

President Erdogan and his AKP party are Islamic in their ideology, in a country that has traditionally kept religion out of politics. Some might see that as a key factor in their moves toward centralized control. But is that the case?

My reading of the situation is that Islam played a negligible role in the most recent campaign. Instead, it would appear to have been a pretty straightforward power grab. There were at least a handful of references to Islam during the campaign, but I have seen little evidence that the centralization of power is aimed at installing a more religiously based political system in Turkey. Sure, Erdogan's government will continue making religiously laden statements or even small policy changes aimed at appeasing the more conservative members of its base, but this is a far cry from shari’a law – even if it may feel like a big shift away from Turkey’s staunchly secularist past.

Many people have viewed Erdogan’s success as evidence of a religious resurgence in Turkey. But you argue in your upcoming book that this trend, surprisingly, has little to do with faith. Can you explain?

The success of an Islamic-based party in Turkish politics, along with the rise of Islamic-based economics, has been a shock to observers and participants alike. But I have found little evidence that religiosity is on the rise in Turkey, nor do the most-pious people seem to be the main constituents of these Islamic-based groups.

Instead, it seems that references to Islam are less about advancing some sort of an Islamic agenda and more about solving a quintessential collective-action problem: large-scale political and economic activity requires that individuals trust one another enough to be willing to work together. But levels of interpersonal trust in Turkey are remarkably low. By referencing an identity that most voters and consumers have in common, Islamic-based movements are able to tap into the feelings of trust that people naturally have in members of their own identity group, making political and economic cooperation possible.

To reach Avital Livny, call 217-265-6796; email alivny@illinois.edu.
Share/Bookmark

Friday, April 14, 2017

EUC Washington D.C. Trip 2017 - Part Six - Atlantic Council

By Sonam Kotadia

As a part of the professional development of our MAEUS students, the European Union Center offers students the opportunity for a trip to Washington D.C. in the Spring semester. This year's trip happened from March 21 to the 25. This article is Part Six of a series of posts written by different MAEUS students. In this article, Sonam Kotadia discusses the trip to the Atlantic Council. Previous entries in the series can be found here. Entries on previous DC trips can be found here.

Our second meeting of the trip was at the Atlantic Council. A leading think tank in the field of international affairs, the Council was founded in 1961 in the hopes of bolstering transatlantic ties. In the past few decades, it has expanded its focus beyond Europe to include all corners of the globe. Nestled in the heart of DC, just a block away from K Street – the infamous lobbying district – the Council was a short, pleasant walk from the EU Delegation.

We had the pleasure of meeting with two staff members. They first introduced us to the history of the organization and a few of its current projects, most notably the Future Europe Initiative. Understandably of the most interest to us, this relatively new program focuses specifically on European and transatlantic affairs. One of our hosts then gave us her top tips for living and working as a young professional in the capital. A native of Slovakia, she provided insight into how non-US citizens can maneuver through and be successful in DC. She stressed the importance of internships and networking, a theme we would hear echoed over and over throughout the week. Afterwards, our other host gave us a brief rundown of what he believes are the most pressing challenges facing the EU. We had the opportunity to ask questions, which sparked some interesting and insightful discussion. Before we knew it, we ran out of time and had to hurry to our next appointment!

The trip to DC was a fantastic opportunity to learn about what career paths are available with a MA in European Union Studies. It could not have happened at a better time: I have recently begun to question whether I still want to pursue my previous career goals. After hearing the experiences of professionals in a wide range of positions and expertise, I feel more confident that I will find the right path for myself.
Share/Bookmark

EUC Washington D.C. Trip - Part Five - Pew Research Center

By Jessica Mrase

As a part of the professional development of our MAEUS students, the European Union Center offers students the opportunity for a trip to Washington D.C. in the Spring semester. This year's trip happened from March 21 to the 25. This article is Part Five of a series of posts written by different MAEUS students. In this article, Jessica Mrase discusses the trip to Pew Research Center. Previous entries in the series can be found here. Entries on previous DC trips can be found here

This spring break I had the great honor of joining my fellow MAEUS students and Professor Vander Most on a trip to the nation’s capital to explore an array of careers that may appeal to our particular area of study. While in D.C., we had the opportunity to meet with several organizations, including the EU Delegation,  the Department of State, and the Library of Congress, as well as state offices in the Capitol. However, I was most interested in our final visit on our first day of appointments. Our last stop of the day was at the Pew Research Center where Jacob Poushter, Senior Researcher, welcomed us. He introduced the facility as a nonprofit fact tank that does not take a position in any policies. At Pew, experts conduct global public opinion research and focus on transatlantic issues. Mr. Poushter then gave a presentation on how staff members conduct their research and how that research is published.

As of its most recent annual report (Spring 2016), Mr. Poushter reviewed some of the highlights from the center’s European Public Opinion Survey. In the survey, several current topics were touched upon. Mr. Poushter discussed the presence of refugees and other minorities in Europe and the importance of language in national identity. He then continued to address the statistics based on survey results concerning Brexit and the recent U.S. presidential campaigns. As this report was published before the triggering of Article 50 and the U.S. election results and inauguration, Mr. Poushter is looking forward to further research exploring how Europeans will feel come this spring and the next.

The Pew Research Center’s website contains salient topics on all areas of the globe and are fascinating for anyone who may be interested in further research. The website also includes interactive tools where visitors are encouraged to participate in online polls. Under the “Careers” link on the website, Pew has listed internships for anyone considering learning about working for a fact tank. Pew is a fantastic resource for MAEUS students in the process of writing their theses or for anyone who is curious about statistics on current EU sentiments.

The full article detailing Mr. Poushter’s 2016 research can be found at pewglobal.org under “Europeans Face the World Divided.”
Share/Bookmark

Thursday, April 13, 2017

EUC Washington D.C. Trip 2017 - Part Four - Library of Congress


By Rafael Rodriguez

As a part of the professional development of our MAEUS students, the European Union Center offers students the opportunity for a trip to Washington D.C. in the Spring semester. This year's trip happened from March 21 to the 25. This article is Part Four of a series of posts written by different MAEUS students. In this article, Rafael Rodriguez discusses the trip to the Library of Congress. Previous entries in the series can be found here. Entries on previous DC trips can be found here.

As described in my statement of purpose to attend the trip, it is important to take full advantage of all the opportunities to create networks and establish new points of reference whether for academic or professional purposes. The trip to Washington D.C. opened a new opportunity for the students of the European Union Center to connect even better with each other and the faculty participating in the trip. Beyond that, we all had the chance to connect with very interesting people with professional paths that serve as an example for our future professional paths.

On the third day of our visit and as the last meeting of the day, we visited the Law Library of Congress. We were received by Dr. Jenny W. Gesley, Foreign Law Specialist; Luis Acosta, Chief of the Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Division; and Dante Figueroa, also Foreign Law Specialist. After the proper introductions, Mr. Acosta took some time to kindly present the way in which the website has been shaped to provide easy access for the public to the files in the library. As the largest law library in the world with a collection of about 5 million items, they told us about the type of relevant requests that they sometimes receive from different nation states, that, due to internal conflicts, have their files destroyed. The presentation was a systematic orientation on how to properly use the search engine of the website and even to request research assistance on US, foreign, international, and comparative law.

We found it very interesting that the services provided by the library go beyond a simple book keeping process. The Law Library of Congress offers, as mentioned, research assistance, but also in-classroom and virtual orientations, courses, and information sessions regarding legal research. They also provide constant connection with their public through email newsletters, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, the bulletin of their Global Legal Monitor, the development of a mobile application, and programs and events organized annually to strengthen the understanding of global legal issues. One of those technological aspects that I found very relevant for today’s society, is their blog titled “In Custodia Legis”, in which several articles are posted regarding global legal matters, congress developments, and legal history with different international perspectives.

To conclude our visit to the library, Mr. Clifton Brown, an employee at the library for more than 30 years, gave us a tour of the basement of the library where most of the archives are. We could look at books more than 2 centuries old, and we saw the incredible level of organization that the library has gone through to keep records and easy access to the files. In summary, this was one of the most interesting meetings since we got to understand better the relevance of the Library of the Congress and some of the specifics of why it is currently the biggest law library in the world.

For more information on the different services offered by the library: www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/law_library_congress/llc_services_for_aba.authcheckdam.pdf
Share/Bookmark

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

EUC Washington D.C. Trip 2017 - Part Three - State Department

By Katherine Brown

As a part of the professional development of our MAEUS students, the European Union Center offers students the opportunity for a trip to Washington D.C. in the Spring semester. This year's trip happened from March 21 to the 25. This article is Part Three of a series of posts written by different MAEUS students. In this article, Katherine Brown discusses the trip to the State Department.  Previous entries in the series can be found here. Entries on previous DC trips can be found here.

On the last day of our trip to DC, we had the opportunity to visit the State Department! As a student with a focus on international relations, this was the highlight of my trip! The State Department staff did not let us down. Along with our original contact for the trip, five other staff members sat in on our meeting and allowed us to ask questions. These staff members originated from both the Civil and Foreign Service, and focused on various issues such as Brexit, trade, public opinion and the Balkans. It was very impressive and definitely an honor to be in the same room with people who have spent so much time in the State Department serving our nation's foreign interests.

It was hopeful to hear the Foreign Service will still be a career path for students like me to take, and they encouraged us to take the test.  “It’s a lifestyle choice,” they said. They shared their own experiences in the Foreign Service, including their times spent living in Rwanda, Bosnia and Russia. They also advised us on several internships and fellowships available to graduate students. As a student looking to go into public service, I am convinced the Foreign Service is definitely something I would like to look into. I really enjoyed hearing from the Foreign Service officer who specializes in the Balkans, as it is a region I am very interested in. It was exciting to hear about the challenges and benefits that come with working on policies for that region.

The group that we met with was incredibly diverse, professional, and optimistic. It was quite different from how I imagined the State Department would be. All of the MAEUS students had the opportunity  to ask any question they want, and they assured us that the Foreign Service route is definitely a pathway into government that is still active, interesting, and secure. It was an honor, and I am so glad they were incredibly candid with us. It was an experience I will not forget.

The trip to DC was definitely exciting. I saw parts of DC I had never seen in my prior trips and met many experts willing to discuss their experiences.  I learned about fellowships and internships available to me and heard about what it is like to work in different sectors and to live in DC and abroad. I am much more confident in the career path I would like to take. I have plenty of career and networking advice that I need in order to be successful in applying to jobs available in DC and internationally.
Share/Bookmark

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

EUC Washington DC Trip 2017: Part Two- Lewis-Burke Associates

By Victoria Bauer

As a part of the professional development of our MAEUS students, the European Union Center offers students the opportunity for a trip to Washington D.C. in the Spring semester. This year's trip happened from March 21 to the 25. This article is Part Two of a series of posts written by different MAEUS students. In this article, MAEUS student Victoria Bauer discusses the trip to Lewis-Burke Associates lobbying firm. Previous entries in the 2017 series can be found here. Entries about past DC Trips can be found here.  

For the week of March 21st, myself and a few of my fellow MAEUS students were in Washington DC to explore and interact with a few key people in different agencies both in the private and public sector. In our packed schedule, we met with the Lewis-Burke Associates, a lobbying firm, on our third day of the trip.

Of the meetings we had on our trip, this was one of my favorites. In case one is not familiar, lobbyists are people who influence legislators in the federal government to help their clients. Mainly Lewis-Burke works with tier 1 universities (UIUC is one of them) and other research institutions. Of those research institutions, the majority are for science, and I bonded with Lauren and Ben (whom we met) on how I grew up near one of their clients, FermiLab.

During the meeting, we asked Lauren and Ben about personal career advice, the difference of working in Washington in the private sector rather than the public sector and the impact of lobbyists in higher education. Before this trip, I never realized how important lobbyists and research were to higher education and other scientific research institutions.

What really stood out to me was that Lewis Burke Associates consider themselves advocates for their clients when asking the government to obtain funding for projects and programs. They are a firm that must research and know about the organization they are advocating for to the government so that the organization can obtain federal funding.  Thanks to them, universities like ours are able research and produce wonderful results we can share with the world.

Overall, this meeting was productive, and I enjoyed it not only because of what lobbyists can do for universities like ours, but because it gave me a sense that research is important, even the research I conduct as a MAEUS student.
Share/Bookmark

Monday, April 10, 2017

EUC Washington D.C. Trip 2017: Part One- EU Delegation to the U.S.

By Marshall Janevicius

As a part of the professional development of our MAEUS students, the European Union Center offers students the opportunity for a trip to Washington D.C. in the Spring semester. This year's trip happened from March 21 to the 25. This article is Part One of a series of posts written by different MAEUS students. In this article, Marshall Janevicius writes about the trip to the EU Delegation to the United States. 

On March 22, 2017, a group of six MA students and Professor Neil Vander Most toured the EU Delegation to the United States in Washington, DC. We were fortunate enough to meet with Martin Caudron (Senior Communications Officers) and Marc Jay (First Secretary); we also met briefly with David O’Sullivan (Ambassador) who attended the EU Center’s EU Day in March 2017.

The EU Delegation to the United States opened in 1954 and now has around one hundred staff members working in the United States. The EU has 140 delegations around the world making it the fifth most internationally represented institution in terms of delegations. The EU-US relationship has grown over the years, along with the number and breadth of the EU Delegation’s missions. The EU Delegation takes part in all official dialogues between the EU and US. Some of the other duties of the delegation include EU-US summits (usually two per year), energy forums, cyber security working groups, official visits, and compiling grants and service contracts.

The EU Delegation works in tandem with many other agencies and delegations in Washington, DC. They have many contracts with local think tanks, like the European Institute think tank. The delegation has also been working closer with individual EU member state delegations in recent years. By working closely with member states, delegations for the EU and member states both can increase their bargaining power during negotiations.

Another responsibility of the delegation is to continually reinforce the importance and relevance of the EU to the US. There are many barriers and difficulties in promoting EU-US relations at times due to the lack of knowledge that people have of both institutions. Caudron explained that it is sometimes difficult to initiate this dialogue about their relationship, but once the dialogue begins, it is often quite easy to find and share similarities between the two.

The meeting with the EU Delegation was very beneficial for our group. It was a unique opportunity to have candid conversations with high-ranking individuals while also receiving a glimpse into the ever-changing environment of the delegation.
Share/Bookmark

Friday, April 7, 2017

EU Day 2017 - "State of the European Union Address" with Ambassador of the EU to the US, David O'Sullivan

By Bethany Glock

On March 15, 2017 the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the European Union Center had the pleasure of hosting David O’Sullivan, the Ambassador of the EU to the US. Before the ambassador’s address to a large crowd of students, faculty, and visitors to the University, he met with graduate students in EU Studies (MA in EU Studies) and the EU Center’s FLAS Fellows. During the meeting, he addressed a variety of topics, including the refugee crisis in Europe and how the 2016 US elections and Donald Trump’s presidency have altered the traditional ways of transatlantic relations. Because the meeting was off the record (“No tweeting!”), I will not go into detail on what the ambassador said. However, I will say that this was the most fascinating part of the day. Not only did we get to hear the ambassador answer our own questions, but we had a candid and frank discussion on a wide range of issues.

After forty-five minutes with the ambassador, we ended our private meeting to prepare for his main address. In that speech, he gave his views on the state of the EU today, seventy years after the Marshall Plan’s establishment. In short, today’s EU would have been almost unimaginable back then. However, though the EU has made great strides in promoting peace and unity in Europe, the EU has been deeply affected by the economic crisis, which exposed problems in the EU’s financial system, as well as the refugee crisis and Brexit. Nevertheless, the EU has overcome many challenges in the past and has adapted to each one, and the EU will continue to do the same in the future.

The day wrapped up with a reception for Ambassador O’Sullivan, several other dignitaries in attendance, faculty, staff, and students associated with the EU Center. All of these guests were mixed together at the tables. The conversation at my table ranged from my thesis, to what living in Washington, D.C. is like, to different styles of religious music. It was tremendously enjoyable to hear everyone share what they study and what brought them to EU Day.

EU Day is one of my favorite events of the year. The private meeting with Ambassador O’Sullivan was a great opportunity because we got to hear him answer our questions at length. His main address put the EU’s most pressing issues today into the context of where the EU has come from and where it hopes to go. The reception was a wonderful opportunity to both share what I am learning and hear about fields completely different from mine. The day was full of good food, good people, and perhaps the best opportunity of the year to hear about everything the European Union and the EU Center have to offer.
Share/Bookmark