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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Unintended Impact of Sanctions in Russia

By Katherine Brown

When Russia invaded Crimea and sent unmarked soldiers into Ukraine in February 2014, the European Union was swift in condemning the actions and utilized sanctions against Russia almost immediately. Sanctions will only be lifted if the Minsk II Agreement’s requirements are implemented – which does not even include anything regarding Crimea’s status. Sanctions are like a penalty; a country is punished for behavior that goes against international norms. The norm Russia broke was the norm of sovereignty, and that did not sit well with the European Union (especially countries who share borders with Russia). For the European Union, who lacks its own official military and thus lacks the ability to respond to hard power with hard power, economic sanctions are the tool of choice. However, if the goal of sanctions is to push Russia to either respect the norm of sovereignty and withdraw troops, or in general to coerce Russia to stop doing what it’s doing, can these sanctions be considered helpful?

Sanctions have been added since 2014, and as we enter 2018, the effects of these sanctions should be examined. The Russian economy has tanked, with some calling Russia’s economic growth, “lethargic.”  While economic problems were expected, something else has come up that was not one of the intended consequences – a tanking birth rate. Sure, if people feel the economic pinch in Russia they are less likely to want to have children if the quality of life they can provide decreases or if feeding another child simply becomes more expensive. However, a 15% decrease in the birth rate is concerning, especially if this trend continues. Dr. Mark Lawrence Schrad, an associate professor of political science at Villanova University said, “it is somewhat ironic that the long-term consequence of sanctions might be to push Russia over a demographic cliff,” instead of an economic cliff.

If we look at the goal of EU sanctions, to encourage Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, these sanctions that have lasted almost a full four years are not successful. If the goal was to encourage the Russian people to view Putin as a war-instigator or an autocrat, these sanctions are absolute disaster for European perceptions. The Russian people do not blame Vladimir Putin for the sanctions, they blame Europe. Russia didn’t ask for sanctions, and European sanctions are created by European politicians – or so that logic goes. Vladimir Putin’s popularity has increased over this time period, indicating the spin he puts on these sanctions is working and working well. 60% of Russians have a negative view of the European Union (70% viewed the US negatively as well) and that poll was from 2015,  and 70% of Russians believe they should continue its present politics in spite of sanctions. With the new data on Russian demographics coming out, one has to wonder how Putin will spin this and what those consequences are. If Putin, as I believe, spins the data to suggest the EU and US sanctions are attempts to wipe-out Russia (and Russian people), Ukraine could be the least of the EU’s problems. The European Union must keep in mind the way Russians are viewing these sanctions, especially as they seek to continue sanctions through 2018. The perception problem is a threat to EU security.


1 Srinivas Mazumdaru, “Western Sanctions and Languid Russian Economy,” DW, February 2, 2017
2 Mark Lawrence Schrad, “Western Sanctions are Shrinking Russia’s Population,” Foreign Policy, October 19, 2017
3 Jill Dougherty, “Russia’s Middle Class: We don’t blame Putin,” December 10, 2015 CNN


Katherine Brown is a graduate student at the European Union Center and Chair of the Illinois Student Government Subcommittee on Graduate & Professional Student Affairs.


Monday, October 23, 2017

Proposed EU Copyright Reform Sparks Protests

By Cassia Smith

On September 6, 2017, a coalition of 15 organizations representing European academia, libraries, and research and digital rights communities delivered an open letter to the European Union’s Legal Affairs Committee. In that letter, this coalition, led by SPARC Europe, protested potentially harmful provisions in the current draft of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. These organizations called for significant amendments be made to the directive, and called for like-minded organizations to add their names to the signatory list by October 1. The amended letter will be delivered to the Legal Affairs Committee sometime this month.

In particular, the letter is concerned with Articles 11 and 13 of the draft directive, which these organizations fear could significantly impact Open Access and Open Science in the EU. According to the letter, Article 11 proposes that “links to news stories and the use of titles, headlines, and fragments of information… become subject to licensing,” and that these requirements be extended to academic publishing as well. This proposed requirement could have a significant impact not only on the public’s ability to access and evaluate the news, but also on researchers’ ability to share research.

Article 13 proposes significant restrictions on public-access repositories of scientific publications and research data, which would significantly increase the administrative and technical burden on the organizations that host and support these repositories. The letter also calls for smaller revisions to a number of other directive articles to promote best practices and ensure access to various resources from educational institutions.

These issues are a concern for many communities within education and research. The Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) organization is a signatory on the letter, and is encouraging concerned librarians from EU countries to request a meeting with their MEPs to express opposition to the proposed copyright changes. Libraries often help administer the repositories that are affected by the Article 13 restrictions, and the proposed changes in Article 11 could impact already-expensive academic journal subscriptions. These restrictions are also in conflict with libraries’ stated mission of improving access to knowledge, learning, and research. The final draft of this proposal could have an effect not only on scientists’ ability to share and conduct research, but also on libraries’ historic role as gateways to scholarship and knowledge.

You can read the full letter with all of its recommended revisions on the SPARC Europe website. The proposed Directive itself can be downloaded from the European Commission’s website.

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