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.

Friday, December 20, 2019

It's my way or the Huawei: The EU's struggle to unify on Chinese telecom rules

by Jordan Evans-Kaplan, MAEUS student

This blog post was written for the course "Dialogue on Europe" during the Fall 2019 semester.

Photo Credit: Jon Worth, via Flickr
License available here.
Few issues of international regulatory cooperation have sparked as much conflict and confrontation as the EU's mixed relationship with Huawei.  When unraveling the news regarding this cooperation, there exist three critical factors for consideration: Europe's difficulty finding a single regulatory voice, the transatlantic implications of greater EU integration with China, and the inherent security risks of state spying.  The combination of these three factors with the current trade environment has produced a "perfect storm" with respect to EU-Chinese relations and 5G infrastructure.

One of the most salient aspects of the Huawei clash has been rooted in Europe's difficulty in unifying on issues of security.  However, if security alone was insufficient to elevate the issue to this level of international concern, technological and regulatory hurdles provided the rest of the legwork.  Once specific example of this form or jumbling is in Germany's recent "security catalog".   This policy has drawn the ire of many EU nations for being a "toothless" provision, as the only requirement being imposed on Huawei is that they agree to a "no-spy clause" without the EU having plans for either enforcement or verification.  Further, given the already strained trade relationship, coupled with a backdrop of trade tensions, it is clear how unification on this multidimensional issue could pose quite difficult for the European Union.

The transatlantic relationship is undoubtedly a key component in the friction between Chinese telecom and the European market due to a host of security and economic concerns.  One such concern is the threat of Huawei inserting a backdoor into their technology, as they were accused of doing with Vodafone Italy.  In lawsuits going back to 2011, Huawei was found to have the means to access the private data of millions of citizens through so-called downstream packet collection via backdoors in critical infrastructure.  Further, recent evidence has come to light showing that routers and fiber optic infrastructure built by Huawei demonstrated serious security vulnerabilities and backdoors which would allow the company to effectively "siphon" data from optical nodes and broadband network gateways, gathering information secretly without risk of detection.  Despite this, the US position seems to have softened with respect to Germany, as they walked back the demand that Germany ban Huawei's 5G plans.  As a result, the current refrain coming from the United States with respect to Huawei can be summed up in the Cold War adage, "Trust but verify."

Security and privacy concerns are not limited to the transatlantic relationship, as the European Union has been hotly debating this issue on the grounds of state spying as well as citizen privacy.  The threat of backdoors leading to Beijing is clearly on the minds of European regulators and politicians.  However, in response to these accusations of clandestine surveillance, Huawei has pushed back on Europe for what they see as being "singled out" by the European Union.  One proposed solution favored by Huawei is common telecom securi
ty standards within the European Union.  While many see this as an attempt to share blame with the entire sector, it speaks to a larger trend within the common market of the Eurozone: a centralization of security-based policies in order to ensure infrastructure cannot ever be compromised by a foreign nation.

Huawei represents one of the most challenging regulatory and security hurdles for an actor such as the European Union due to the complex and multifaceted way through which it interacts with Europe and its people.  As a result, it can be said that the issue of Huawei is largely one of integration and securitization of infrastructure, in which the solution can only be hammered out through a rigorous democratic process that prioritizes not just the security of Europe, but its privacy as well.  Only time will tell how this issue will be regulated and drafted into law, but it is clear that the way forward is in a more closely integrated Europe with consistent policies around the world.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Who is seen as "European" in Europe? And who is "European" enough for the EU?

by Danielle Sekel, graduate student in Musicology and FLAS fellow at the EU Center.

This blog post was written for the course "Dialogue on Europe" during the Fall 2019 semester.

These are questions that continue to be relevant, with comments such as Bulgarian President Roumen Radev's call for Bulgaria to become a "normal European country", and French President Emmanuel Macron referring to Bosnia and Herzegovina as a "ticking time-bomb" in a recent interview with The Economist.  With such statements abounding in the current dialogue, it seems as good a time as any to pay close attention to not only the problems faced by those Balkan and Eastern European countries that already have a place in the EU and those that are struggling to gain entrance, but also the views held by others concerning their current and future status.

With Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia among the current candidate countries, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo as potential candidates, it seems that the European Union is at a crossroads of sorts, with the possibility of a significant change in the makeup of the Union through the inclusion of more Balkan members.  However, despite enlargement pushes from Hungary to expedite Montenegro and Serbia's entrance into the EU, Macron effectively blocked North Macedonia's bid.  Despite widespread backlash concerning this unmistakable setback for Balkan candidate countries, it remains clear that the road to EU entry will be long for the candidate countries, and both longer and rougher for the potential candidates.

ICAR Canned Beef Monument in Sarajevo.
Photo by Danielle Sekel.
Most recently, Bosnia and Herzegovina has come under fire not only through Macron's biting words, but also in their performance concerning the migrant crisis and housing of migrants within the country.  With more and more light being shed on the state of migrant camps, the rest of the world is becoming aware of the ongoing issues faced by refugees living in Vucijak, a camp with no running water that was haphazardly built atop a former landfill amidst mine fields from the most recent war.  European Union officials have repeatedly called for the closure of the Vucijak camp; however, it seems there is nothing put in place in the case that the camp is successfully closed.  Paired with Macron' recently voiced concern of the problem of "returning jihadists" to the country, it remains evident that there are harmful views of Bosnia being circulated still.  In the capital of Sarajevo, whispers of the European Union's assistance in the form of canned beef during the most recent war can be seen--consider for a moment the ironic ICAR Canned Beef Monument dedicated to the international community from the "grateful citizens of Sarajevo."  Now decrepit, the monument still clearly states the complexity of the region's past, but still leaves us to question the future of these European nations.

Following the blocking of both Albania and North Macedonia, one must consider what place Balkan nations with significant Muslim populations have in the future of the European Union.  Is there a future version of the EU that includes a place for countries such as Albania, North Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina?  And if so, does this future version include such countries in more than . amerely marginal manner?  The answer seems unclear given recent ruminations on the current state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the anger felt throughout North Macedonia and Albania regarding recent setbacks, and increasing tensions throughout the region.  It very well may be time to revisit the Bulgarian President's question of what constitutes a "normal" European country and really consider it from a number of standpoints throughout the European Union.

The Tricky Trade Triangle

by Victoria Prince, MAEUS student

This blog post was written for the course "Dialogue on Europe" during the Fall 2019 semester.

Photo modified from the
Public Domain by the EUC.
The European Union, the United States, and China are currently in a very precarious balancing act when it comes to trade relations.  With tariffs being thrown around like footballs on Thanksgiving, each actor needs to decide what their policies are in each relationship and how the other leg of the relationship triangle affects those policies.  The US and China's trade wars is the instigator for the trouble at the table.  With the tensions emanating from here, China and the EU have used this opportunity to season their own trade relationship.

The business between China and the European Union is hard to define, because of the individual nations that make up the EU.  The European Union would like a united front in its dealings with China, especially as it condemns China's human rights violations.  But as countries are willing to forego these reproaches in pursuit of their own economic benefits this family dinner is looking more like a potluck.  Germany is spearheading this ignorance of EU positions by putting trade before human rights with Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to China in September.

This isn't the only time that Merkel has been criticized for Germany's dealings with China.  Germany received a very negative response when it opened its telecom market to China's Hwawei company.  The move was considered to be dangerous as it could allow for Chinese hacking in Germany and beyond.  The United States found this to be in very bad taste and has led to questions of future relations between Berlin and Washington.

The United States isn't only upset with Europe for this foul play, as it recently imposed tariffs on EU goods in response to the Airbus vs. Boeing dispute.  But the EU is taking the higher ground here and pledged to not retaliate with tariffs of their own.  The EU and US relationship has not strengthened with the US's focus on China in trade, which is of benefit to Beijing.

The trade war between the US and China has also negatively impacted the relationship between the EU and China.  As China focuses on the United States it is leaving Europe on the backburner.  Europe needs to reassess its current position.  Food was the centerpiece of a recent trade deal that put China and the EU back on the trade map.  This deal was cooked up in an effort to protect regional food names like Gorgonzola and Roquefort from Europe or Nanjing salted duck and Pu'er Tea from China.  This does instill protections for European and Chinese producers but makes it harder for those from other countries to market similar products internationally, such as the case with American blue cheese producers.

Is a focus on Chinese trade really a good thing for Europe, or is it beneficial to China by separating the EU from the US even more?  The European Union public views Chinese trade practices as a threat and they may have merit.  China's goals may be to not only insert a wedge between Europe and the United States, but to also divide the EU on policies to weaken it even further.

Is There Another Migration Crisis Brewing in the EU?

by Francesca Robinson, MAEUS student.

This blog post was written for the course "Dialogue on Europe" during the Fall 2019 semester.

Photo Credit: US Navy.
Public Domain.
The migration crisis is over!  At least that's what the European Union has declared.  However, the effects of the crisis are still prominent and there is no sustainable solution to ensure that another migration crisis will not occur.  One of the major issues that the EU has faced with migration is burden sharing.  Coastal countries continue to be inundated with migrants and they do not have much help with distributing asylum seekers or processing their applications.  Countries like Greece and Italy continue to be inundated with migrants while others like Hungary refuse fo take in any migrants at all.  The negative reaction to immigration has only further complicated the migrant crisis and the relationships between the EU member states.   A formalized supranational migration policy might not be possible if states want to continue exercising sovereignty, but something has to be done to solve this burden-sharing issue or Europe may be looking at another migration crisis in the near future.

Although there has been an overall decrease in the number of migrants that have entered the European Union since 2015, there has been a recent rise in the number of migrants entering the Mediterranean.  The future does not look hopeful for these migrants.  Thousands of migrants are displaced and are not receiving proper aid or resources.  In fact, nearly 900,000 of asylum seekers in the EU are living in limbo.  The numbers of pending applications for asylum have been mostly unchanged in the past two years.

Photo Credit: European Parliament,
via Flickr.  License found here.
Additionally, the rise of far-right, anti-immigration political parties has also contributed to more applications being rejected.  The rejection rate for asylum requests in Europe has nearly doubled in the past three years.  There was a 37% rejection rate in 2016 that has jumped to 64% in 2019.  There is a growing fear that there may be a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis.   FranceHungarian officials stated that they will not participate in this redistribution effort.  Without cooperation, there cannot be a revision of the current ineffective migration policies that have led to this situation.  If some type of joint policy is not formed, then Mediterranean states will continue to be overwhelmed and asylum applications will continue to build up or get denied.  Therefore, another migrant crisis is entirely possible.
, Germany, Italy and Malta had a formal meeting in September to discuss the redistribution of migrants that arrive from northern Africa.  However,

The migrants that are currently living in limbo do not have protection and may not have access to resources like proper healthcare, education, or employment.  Many migrants are also placed in refugee camps.  These camps are often overcrowded and do not offer enough resources for an adequate standard of living.  For instance, a recent news story about a refugee camp in Greece showed that about 13,000 migrants occupied the camp although it was only designed to house 3000 people.  As a result, Greek authorities decided to transfer 570 migrants out of this overcrowded camp.  Many of these migrants have spoken about the poor conditions of the camp and demanded to be moved.  A report done by the EU's European Court of Auditors has also found that agencies that are supposed to assist Greece and Italy with applications and migrants in overloaded camps have not been able to meet these goals because they do not have adequate support from EU member states.  EU countries must step up or else migrants across the EU will continue to suffer.  These individuals may be unable to receive asylum or integrate if EU member states continue to refuse to support migrants.  At the core of the EU is the commitment to protect human rights.  This
commitment includes helping refugees and displaced persons.  If member states continue to refuse to help migrants, EU legitimacy can even be called into question.  Ultimately, until new migration policies or agreements are developed, the migrant crisis will never really be over.

Iker Garcia's response to Gemma Sala's lecture.

by Iker Garcia Plazaola, PhD Candidate, Spanish Literature.

This blog post was written in response to "Is the European Union driving increasing demands for secession in Scotland and Catalonia?" a guest lecture given at the EUC by Dr. Gemma Sala (Grinnell College, Political Science).

Photo Credit: Sasha Popovic,
via Flickr. License available here.
This is a timely moment to write about Catalonia and the European Union.  When I refer to Catalonia I mean, of course, the movement for independence, a major factor of political unrest in Spain as a whole.  Witness the results of Spain's presidential elections held on November 10th, 2019, with new extreme-right party VOX becoming the third-most voted option.  The reason, commentators agree, is the fierce defense of Spain's national unity by this new party, with such unfeasible plans as criminalizing parties that support Catalan independence, or transforming Spain's regional autonomous governments (in effect since 1978) into a centralized state with all competencies depending on Madrid.

About one month ago, after a trial that took months, Spain's Supreme Court issued 9- and 13-year prison terms to nine Catalan figures (politicians and leaders of cultural associations) who played a significant role in the attempt to organize a referendum for Catalonia's independence in October 2017.  The idea behind organizing this referendum, as newspapers have been explaining over the last two years, was that the Catalan Parliament declare the independence of Catalonia from Spain based on the results.  Carles Puigdemont, the then president of the Generalitat (Catalonia's government), today a fugitive of justice or an exile (according to your preference), announced the victory of the "yes" vote (92% of votes cast), made the declaration of Independence and put it immediately in wait for the response of the Spanish government.  The response was an application of Article 155, suspending Catalonia's government---an unprecedented step in Spain's democratic period, 1975-present.  After these events, Catalonia is NOT independent since there was no recognition of Catalonia's independence by any foreign country, or in particular, the European Union.  Moreover, many important Catalan companies moved their headquarters outside Catalonia, a clear sign that they prioritize economic benefits over the political agenda promoted by the independentists.  There were elections to the Catalan Parliament in December 2017, won by the Ciudadanos (an anti-independentist party), but the coalition of the three independentist parties in the Catalan parliament (Partit Democrata, Esquerra Republicana, and the so-called CUP) gave the Presidency of the Catalan Government to the independentist Quim Torra.

Professor Gemma Sala gave an insightful talk "Is the European Union driving increasing demands for secession in Scotland and Catalonia?", in which she defended an interesting thesis, namely (if I understood correctly) that some parties in Catalonia and Scotland have become independentist for electorally tactical reasons, i.e. to get votes from their independentist rivals (which until recently, at least in Catalonia, were a minority option).  I am probably simplifying somewhat Gemma's excellent arguments and analyses, I think her claim works quite plausibly for the party she probably had in mind in the case of Catalonia---the former Convergencia i Unió, today Partit Democrata de Catalunya.  Convergencia i Unió was in power in Catalonia from 1980 to 2002, and always defended a nationalist (non-independentist) position, when around 2010, with Artur Mas as new leader, they turned pro-independence.

As a native of Barcelona living in the U.S. since 2002, I have followed this process in the distance, and sadly things are getting more and more polarized in recent years.  I also teach Catalan at UIUC, and we discuss this topic in class.  One thing American students seem to be unaware of is that independence for Catalonia has been an option for many decades (although, looking further back in history, it is a relatively new political agenda, starting at the end of the 19th century).  What I strive to do is to explain to my students why precisely NOW independence has become so prominent in Catalonia.  In my mind there is a variety of reasons, but perhaps the economic crisis of 2008 has made many people in Spain look for political alternatives to the overall regime, and independence for Catalonia is one option on the table.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Europe and Digitalization: The European Union is About to Enter a New Era

by Viktoria Loidl, MAEUS student

This blog post was written for the course "Dialogue on Europe" during the Fall 2019 semester.

Photo Credit: European Union Center,
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
The time has come: The European Union is about to enter a new era. The digital economy has been on the rise for quite some time and the EU is finally catching up. Some countries are currently thinking about enforcing digital taxes to counter the actions and power of influential American tech companies in Europe. However, not only individual countries such as France are realizing the need for new policies but also the European Commission. In fact, former competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager has been so successful in her hunt after big American tech companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook, that her portfolio has been extended into the new Commission period. In her new position as the Vice President for Digital, Vestager will be bringing Europe up to speed to the demands of the digital era.  The EU is currently lagging digital innovation and trying to catch up to its competitors, China and the United States. Interestingly enough, one of Vestager’s biggest challenges will probably also be her own legacy. While her new role will come will certainly be more challenging as she will be required to work with a wider variety of (oftentimes uncooperative) actors, such as MEPs, national governments or industry groups, she will also have to balance two hats. Being responsible for both, digitalization and competition, she might sometimes have to deal with conflicting objectives. The topic of digitalization and improving Europe’s digital strategy is an EU-internal topic, whereas competition mainly affects powerful companies who enter the European Union.

The US and China have been dominating the digital world over the past few decades. As part of its new strategy from 2020-2024, the European Commission is intending to improve its competitiveness to be able to keep up with its most challenging competitors. China’s immense economic growth has been causing anxiety in Europe for a while. Add digitalization to the mix and it becomes even more problematic. Digitalization is omnipresent and growing as well as changing rapidly. Despite the EU’s largest economies’ efforts to keep up with the changes, it has been rather unsuccessful so far. Many EU officials call for a “comprehensive approach” to be able to tackle the great array of challenges that come with the digital economy. Most would agree that changes are necessary to further support Europe’s aim to become more competitive. However, it is crucial to notice that simply creating or changing EU internal policies might not be enough. Competition and digitalization is deeply entangled with external tools such as the EU’s trade competence and the exercise of its power abroad.

The EU has become a noticeable power in regulating the digital world, however, its been lagging in its own digital innovation. Exercising its power and forcing influential tech companies to follow its regulations has been a relatively easy task for the European Union. The main market of companies such as Facebook, is outside the United States, most often in Europe itself. Therefore, the EU has been able to enforce quite smoothly by offering access to its market in exchange for the acceptance of its regulations. The EU evolved to be a global policy maker, yet somehow failed to keep up its own innovation. The US and China’s innovation is far superior Europe’s innovation. While some claim that this might be problematic moving forward, others, such as Margrethe Vestager, are convinced that the EU is following a [European] value-based innovation approach.

In conclusion, the digital world is changing rapidly. The EU has finally jumped onto the train and decided to tackle this problematic area by creating a digital strategy as part of the new Commission’s agenda. So far, the EU has been following a regulatory approach and it has yet to be determined if it will continue this route or might become more innovative as well. 


A Crisis of Public Health after the Notre-Dame Fire

by Kiana Marr, MAEUS student

This blog post was written for the course "Dialogue on Europe" during the Fall 2019 semester.

Photo Credit:
user LeLaisserPasser A38,
via Creative Commons
License found here.
On April 15, 2019, the Notre-Dame Cathedral located in the heart of Paris went up in flames. The outpouring of support came not only in social media posts, but also through monetary funds from various nations, individuals, and organizations.  After April, most of the world moved on to other world crises and away from the 14th-century cathedral; France, however, did not.  Cleanup efforts and reconstruction will continue for the foreseeable future, while Emmanuel Macron hopes to complete the project in the next five years.  While the city, nation and the world has focused on rebuilding a symbol of France, a greater concern is perhaps the public health crisis resulting from the literal fallout of the fire.
Yet, the support has been surrounding the site itself fails to encapsulate all the problems the fire produced in France, such as the toxic dust that has fallen around Paris.  The public's concern revolves around the air and water being contaminated with tons of lead, which was transferred from the cathedral and into the general Parisian environment.

The fire on the roof and spire dispersed lead dust to the surrounding areas.  The New York Times has highlighted the five-month delayed response by French officials in disclosing the possible health effects the fire has caused to the public.  A month after the fire, the first test was conducted finding that at least eighteen preschools, day care centers, and primary schools were affected by the falling dust.  Around the Notre Dame cathedral lead dust deposits were more than 1000 times higher than national safety guidelines.  Within this small neighborhood of Paris, 6000 children under the age of six live and play.  Some French officials state that these tests may underscore a deeper issue within Paris by exposing historical lack of testing.  Because many of the locations in the area have not recently been tested, the high results may also be an indicator that pre-fire lead levels may have also been above safe levels.

Various candidates running for mayor have highlighted the concerns of lead pollution within Paris.  David Belliard (EELV) calls for real-time mapping of air pollution with his concept of "Airparif", allowing the city to act faster, with better transparency for the citizens of France and the European Union.  According to the World Health Organization, 40 million people within the 115 largest cities of the EU are being exposed to air quality below guidelines.  Health authorities in France do not require testing on children who may have been exposed---only sites in the surrounding neighborhoods have been tested.  While these tests have resulted in the closing of certain facilities for decontamination procedures, the health risks for the residents and the workers have not been fully considered. 
While the world community continues to support the French with rebuilding efforts---Chinese experts have pledged to aid with the reconstruction due to their experience restoring fire-damaged historical buildings, and the World Monuments Fund has listed the site on a list of prominent at-risk sites in desperate need of financial support---the most important concern may actually be the long-term health effects of the people that call the Parisian neighborhood surrounding Notre Dame home.


Eastern Germany Elections: Right Wing Nationalism and the Fragility of German Politics

by Allison Wheeler, MAEUS Student

This blog post was written for the course "Dialogue on Europe" during the Fall 2019 semester.

Photo Credit: Mohamed Yahya, via Flickr.
License available here.
2019 has been a suspenseful year for elections in Europe. The European Parliament elections, held in May, were watched and researched carefully within each Member State, to predict how potential changing majorities and elected MEPs would set the course of the EU for the next 5 years. The resurgence and vigor of right-wing nationalism, particularly in central and eastern European states in recent years, such as Poland and Hungary, has become a headlining concern for the EU itself, but also EU Member States with political factions that have become fragile in the wake of recent crises that have hit the EU. 

By December of 2015, early numbers showed that over 900,000 asylum seekers war-torn countriessuch as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq were within European borders. Amongst the most open of the states that accepted refugees was Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel shocked many by opening the German borders to what ended up actually being over 1 million refugees within her state alone. The aftermath of this crisis within the EU, though not entirely to blame, has stirred up strong nationalist rhetoric that has begun to shift the course of elections across the continent. 

On Sunday, September 1st, two eastern German states, Saxony and Brandenburg, held parliamentary elections. The German right-wing, anti-immigration party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) was poised to make significant gains, potentially toppling the majorities of Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). The EP elections in May already gave indication of German support (11% of Germans to be exact) for theAfD and strongholds for the party in the east meant that this election could prove to be significant for it and its supporters.

And in fact, it was significant. While the votes that came in for the AfD did not cause major upsets of the majority parties, it raised eyebrows for sure. The party is definitely in the ring to spar and this election has proved it. In Brandenburg,the AfD improved 11.3% since the last election and received 23.5% of overallvotes, coming in “second” under the SPD, that held 26.2% of votes (and lost 5.7% from the last election). In Saxony, the AfD increased their voter turnout by nearly 18% and received 27.5% of votes, while still best by the CDU, which clutched 32.1% of voters despite decreasing 7.3% from 2014.

Though just a state-level parliamentary election, the results are telling of the larger political trends encroaching upon Europe. The right-wing nationalist, anti-immigration rhetoric has sounded in the ears of EU citizens and they are using their voices and voting power to insight change within their democratic governments, causing fragility and fracturing of majority parties like the CDU. It is safe to say that the political climate in Europe at the moment is a hotbed that we should continue paying attention to. The Brexit battle is far from over, democratic backsliding in the eastern EU states cannot be ignored, and soon the results of parliamentary elections like this in Germany may lead to similar results in upcoming national elections, shifting the political climate across Europe ever further to the right. Suddenly (or maybe not-so suddenly), the importance of the preservation of national identity has broken through as a leading issue in a continent whose supranational leaders are trying trying to ever-integrate, causing great frictions for the EU and its member-states.


Monday, December 9, 2019

An American's Experience with Catalan Independence

by Francesca Robinson, MAEUS student

This blog post was written in response to "Is the European Union driving increasing demands for secession in Scotland and Catalonia?" a guest lecture given at the EUC by Dr. Gemma Sala (Grinnell College, Political Science).

Photo credit: Francesca Robinson
In the fall of 2017 I studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain.  After recently attending a talk given by Professor Gemma Sala of Grinnell College on the mobilization of secessionist movements in Europe, I reflected on my own experiences in Catalonia.  During this time the Catalan independence movement escalated and there were protests all over the city.  There were several days when my classes were cancelled because of protests blocking the university.  I was fascinated by these demonstrations and wanted to understand why they were happening.

Photo Credit: Philipp Reichmuth,
via Wikimedia Commons
License available here.
In Barcelona, I took classes only in Spanish, learned some Catalan, and lived with a host mother who made traditional Spanish food.  I felt connected to this new culture and was empathetic towards those who wanted independence.  The police brutality that Catalans endured and the arrests of members of the Catalan government made me very angry.  But I also have wondered if it was right to feel this way.  Is it fair or just for Catalonia to have independence?  I still do not know the answer.  However, I do know that it is wrong that the Madrid government has refused to negotiate with
Catalonia and has condoned the usage of violence against Catalan citizens.  If Madrid does not want Catalonia to push for separation, then the Madrid officials need to hear what Catalonia has to say.

Millions of Catalonians participated in the 2017 independence referendum.  The Madrid government even sent in additional law enforcement to accompany Catalan police forces.  These officers raided voting centers and used weapons like batons and rubber bullets against Catalonian demonstrators.  I was in disbelief as I watched the local news and saw the unnecessary brutality.  After this day, I could see why Catalan citizens would want to separate from a hurtful government.  Nonetheless, not everyone in Catalonia wants independence.  Although many people told me that they did wish for independence, other said they simply wanted to exercise their right to vote in a referendum that could affect the future of their region.

Photo credit: Liz Castro, via Flickr.
License available here.
While I understand the pro-independence argument and the pride that Catalans have in their culture, I can also understand the opposition to independence.  As Catalonia is one of the wealthiest Spanish regions, it has always expressed a high degree of cultural autonomy.  From an outside perspective, there seems to be a bigger question of why Catalonians would want to leave.  The region would not have the support of the EU and would suffer economically and politically.  However, there is a reason that millions of people participated in a referendum that was deemed illegal.  People want a chance to exercise their democracy and feel as if their voices are heard in the Spanish government.  Although the referendum that took place in October 2017 was not legally democratic, maybe a Catalan referendum of some sort is the right idea.  If the Spanish government does not come to some sort of understanding with Catalonia soon, the violence will only persist, and Catalonia will continue to diverge from the rest of Spain.


Monday, April 29, 2019

EU Regulation of 3D Printing - Push the Print Button but Do Not Push The Boundaries

By Evisa Kambellari

Three Dimensional Printing is a process by which digital files are turned into physical objects by laying down successive layers of additive manufacturing material such as plastic, metal, carbon fibers, nylon, or liquids. 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, turns a digital blueprint created on a computer or with a 3D scanner into an object. There is a broad spectrum of  3D printing applications, including, but not limited to medicine, aircraft and automobile industries, custom art and design, clothing, soft food industry, education and research.

A recent European Parliament’s resolution on three-dimensional printing highlights that the market for 3D printers constitutes a sector which is experiencing rapid growth and application of this technology offers new opportunities for business development and innovation. However, it also opens new legal and ethical challenges in the fields of intellectual property rights and civil liability, image rights and the right to privacy.

The EU resolution on 3D printing also notes that 3D-printing technology may raise security and especially cyber-security concerns, particularly with regard to the manufacturing of weapons, explosives and drugs and any other hazardous objects, and that particular care should be taken with regard to production of that kind.

A photo of a 3D printer in action. It shows a purple rectangular object being printed inside of a glass box, on top of a glass plate.
A 3D printer in action. Photo by the author.
Intellectual property. A 3D scanner creates a three-dimensional design by scanning an object and automatically converting its measurements into a digital format, generally known as a CAD file. The digital reproduction of a copyright protected object constitutes unauthorized copy of the product, and therefore, is subject to the existing EU legislation governing enforcement of intellectual property rights. Under Directive 2004/48/EC on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, the IP enforcement measures need to be applied only in the case of acts carried out on a commercial scale for the purpose of gaining benefits. In addition, the EU Directive 98/71/EC provides that reproduction of a design is legal if it is done for private and non-commercial use, e.g. for research or teaching. Thus, domestic 3D printing of various copyright protected items done solely for private use seems to not be targeted by the provisions of the EU intellectual property legislation. However, it is worth mentioning that domestic reproduction of IP protected items might adversely affect original designers since, in purely economic terms, it means losing a potential buyer.

Privacy rights. Additive manufacturing techniques are widely used in medicine to scan the human body and use the digital model of the body parts to create prosthetics and implants. Moreover, 3D scanners are capable of capturing body shapes, skin colors and textures, and are used in the digital models in the 3D printing of miniature figurines or creation of adult toys.  However, if personal data obtained by 3D technologies is used without a person’s consent, or for commercial benefits, the user may face liability under the torts of misappropriation of name or likeness, or disclosure of personal information. This is especially true in the case of reproducing the image of a person to make money from the commercial use of that person’s identity. The EU resolution on 3D printing notes that use of 3D scanning of people and printing of digital files can affect image rights and the right to privacy.

Security. Three-dimensional printing technologies may be exploited by criminals for creating homemade weapons or making components to be used for reactivating firearms. Controlling of acquisition and possession of 3D-printed guns is very problematic because they cannot be traced due to lack of serial numbers. The EU main legislative framework on firearms consists of Regulation 258/2012 establishing export authorization, and import and transit measures for firearms and Directive 91/477/EEC on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons (as amended by  Directive 2017/853). Under the Directive, the manufacturing of firearms, as well as acts acquisition or possession of firearms, are controlled activities carried out under the supervision of national enforcement authorities. Therefore, the manufacturing of 3D guns without government approval is already banned by the Directive because it bans all types of uncontrolled manufacturing, regardless of method. In regards to the application of regulations on export/import of firearms to 3D-printed gun-related activities, it makes sense to consider them as subject to the related control lists. So, if a firearm produced using a 3D-printing technology meets the characteristics of a certain controlled category under the Common Military List of the European Union, it could be subject of the firearms’ export/import lists.

One of the most controversial issues regarding 3D printing technology is the online distribution or selling of the digital files of 3D guns blueprints. Such digital files can fall under the definition of “technical data,” for the production of a controlled weapon, as regulated by the EU Common Military List. According to this list, “technical data” may consist of: blueprints, plans, diagrams, models, formulae, tables, engineering designs and specifications, manuals and instructions written or recorded on other media or devices such as disk, tape, read only memories. In this regard, distribution of 3D gun blueprints via the Internet may constitute illegal export/import of military technical data, and as such, is banned by the related export legislation. However, the EU Common Military list applies only to the export/import of technical data used for production of firearms, but not to the mere possession of such data. Therefore, there are still issues that remain unaddressed in the EU legislation in relation to access and possession of 3D-printed gun technology.

Existing EU legislation recognizes the implications that 3D printing technologies can have on copyright and patent law, privacy law and safety regulations. However, legislation that specifically regulates use of 3D printing in the respective areas is missing. The idea of describing allowed uses of 3D technologies by specific regulation seems not to be the most appropriate course of action due to the negative impact it can have on innovation. Such a concern is mentioned even in the most recent piece of EU legislation in the area of copyright law. Thus, the newly proposed Directive on “Copyright in the Digital Single Market” emphasizes that “relevant legislation needs to be future-proof so as not to restrict technological development.” More efficient results can be reached by a public-private partnership to control the online sharing of 3D printing files. Even though the government cannot completely prohibit the sharing due to its interference with one’s freedom of speech, nothing prohibits social networking companies to prohibit such a sharing as a violation of their platform policies.


European Parliament resolution of 3 July 2018 on three-dimensional printing, a challenge in the fields of intellectual property rights and civil liability.

Directive 98/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of of 13 October 1998
on the legal protection of designs.

Directive 2004/48/EC  of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the enforcement of intellectual property rights.

Directive (EU) No. 2015/2436 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2015 to approximate the laws of the Member States relating to trade marks.

Briefing of EU Legislation in Progress on Control of the acquisition and possession of weapons, June 2017.


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