"Dispatches from Europe" Blog Contest

Are you planning on traveleling to the European Union this summer? Submit a post to be featured on our Across the Pond blog and win prizes!

Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blogs

The third Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class traveled to the Arctic Circle in summer 2014. Check out their blog entries from this summer!

Ringing the Bells at the Banner of Peace

Landscape Architecture Doctoral candidate Caroline Wisler reflects on her travels to Bulgaria.

Zach Grotovsky's Summer 2013: 14 Cities, 15 Weeks, One Long Adventure

University of Illinois graduate student in Germanic Literatures and Languages Zach Grotovsky documents his travels throughout Eastern Europe in the summer of 2013.

Polar Bears

The Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class spotted polar bears in Norway!

Peaceful Opposition in Izmir

MAEUS student Levi Armlovich describes his experiences with the protests in Izmir, Turkey.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Young Translators of European Languages Unite: DGT Goes West

by Anna Holmén
Dr. Elizabeth Lowe, Director of the Center for Translation Studies, addresses high school students and teachers at the Illinois Translation Competition capstone program, held on the campus of the University of Illinois, November 4, 2011.
Sometimes when you open your mailbox in the morning you find something that really cheers you up. That definitely was the case for the Juvenes Translatores team when we got a letter of invitation from the University of Illinois. ‘Request for assistance,’ it said. ‘Speaker from the Directorate-General for Translation [DGT] for the "Illinois Translation Competition" awards luncheon’.
The Illinois High School Translation Competition, to give it its full name, turned out to be a school contest modelled on DGT's Juvenes Translatores translation competition for secondary schools. The University of Illinois has a European Union Center, established in 1998, as well as a Center for Translation Studies, which started up only three years ago. So when they heard of Juvenes Translatores, our American colleagues decided to pick up the ball and run with it.
They say that everything is bigger and better in America, but for this first round of Juvenes Translatores the US version covered only high schools in the State of Illinois, with a maximum entry of 25, and the rules were less strict than ours. The texts they used were the ones written by DGT colleagues for JT 2010 on Erasmus. The teachers were free to organise the test any time in August or September, and it was the teachers too who picked the winners.
Just as in the original EU version, the pupils were free to choose the source language from any of the official EU languages, but the target language was only English. The young winners who were invited to Urbana-Champaign, which is where the University of Illinois is situated, translated from Spanish, French, German, Lithuanian, Bulgarian, Polish and Italian.
I was the lucky one to make the trip across the pond and into the prairies to attend the award ceremony on 4 November 2011. The University of Illinois were generous enough to pay for all my expenses, and what they asked in return was for me to hold a presentation and in general act like a genuine translator from the European Commission.
For the presentation I decided to give the teachers and high-school students some fairly basic facts about the EU and its language regime. I followed it up with a few words about the founding fathers and the Coal and Steel Community, then the first four languages, all the subsequent accessions, and of course Regulation No 1/58 and the daily work of DGT.
I also had some useful exchanges with the staff of the Center for Translation Studies, who are planning to visit DGT with their pupils in May. Dr. Elizabeth Lowe, the director of the Center, is interested in attending a future European Master’s in Translation conference. What is clear is that DGT, as the largest public translation organisation in the world, is seen as a centre of excellence for translation by our friends in the west, as well as in other parts of the world.

Anna Holmén is coordinator of the annual ”Juvenes Translatores” competition, which is designed to reward the best young translators in the European Union. Juvenes Translatores is organized by Unit S.3. Multilingualism and Translation Studies, part of the Directorate-General for Translation for the European Commission.

Note: a version of this article originally appeared in DGT Monthly, the internal magazine of the Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission.


Croatia's Hard-Fought European Moment

by Richelle Bernazzoli

Ne hvala (No thanks).” Photo taken by Maximilian Geise October 15, 2011 at Zagreb’s “Occupy” protest on Ban Josip Jelačić Square

2011 has been a big year for Croatia—the small, Adriatic country that has, in the course of twenty years, transitioned from a constituent socialist republic in the former Yugoslavia to a free market democracy, NATO member, and candidate for the European Union. Along the way, the country was devastated by the wars of Yugoslav succession, which occurred from 1991 to 1995 and were followed by a lengthy and difficult process of reconstruction, reconciliation, and prosecution of crimes committed during the hostilities. On December 9th, 2011, however, the Republic of Croatia took a decisive step in a new direction by signing a treaty to become the 28th member of the European Union in 2013. This was only five days after dramatic parliamentary elections decisively ousted the center-right Croatian Democratic Union, or HDZ (which has been dogged by corruption investigations), in favor of the progressive coalition Kukuriku (“cock-a-doodle-doo”) led by the Social Democratic Party.

But if it sounds like twenty years is a relatively short amount of time for these processes of transition, conflict, recovery, and accession to bring Croatia to the EU’s doorstep, try telling that to someone here. You would likely be informed in no uncertain terms that this moment should actually have arrived several years ago—perhaps in 2004, when Slovenia entered the Union, and surely by 2007, when Romania and Bulgaria officially became members. A common theme that arises in my interviews with Croatian citizens is that of “deserving.” Croatia, many of my interlocutors tell me, “deserves” EU membership after decades of struggle and suffering. In this narrative, the Homeland War (as the Croatian war of the 1990s is commonly called amongst Croats) is the latest in a succession of perils faced by the Croatian nation in defense of European civilization—dating all the way back to when Croatia’s Vojna Krajina or ‘military frontier’ was the buffer between the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires.

But it is not only a rightist or nationalist contingent invoking the idea of Croatia as the ‘ramparts of Western Christianity’ that views recent history in this way. One of the progressive NGOs whom I have engaged in my project—a peace studies center focusing on non-discrimination and non-violence education—recently produced a volume of human security recommendations for the European Union based on Croatia’s war and post-war recovery experience. In other words, the same difficult aspects of Croatia’s history have been spun and deployed in various ways and by various interests in the European integration process.

While all of this points to broad support for EU membership across the political spectrum and among various contingents within Croatian society, this does not mean that the entry date is approaching uncontested. The recent elections and “Occupy” movement have brought significant anti-EU demonstration to the fore, as the photograph above demonstrates. The continuing news from Brussels, of course, is not comforting in an economy which has been extremely slow to pull out of the recession and which has posted double-digit unemployment numbers for several years. A number of outspoken critics of European integration assert that entry into the EU will exacerbate Croatia’s economic and financial woes. Yet most of my study participants seem resigned: for Croatia, they say, “nema alternativa (there is no alternative)” to a European future. To join the club may bring trouble—but the consequences would be far worse if we remain out in the cold.

As the January 22 referendum on EU membership approaches, the dialogue in Croatian society is sharpening. Many television channels continue to broadcast pro-EU commercials, and politicians continue to impress upon the public the imperative of a positive referendum. In more nuanced tones, the prominent NGO GONG is calling for Croatian society to view the referendum not as a “necessary evil,” as they claim the political elite has presented it, but rather a crucial opportunity for open and honest dialogue about society’s needs and interests. We will soon hear the public’s verdict on EU membership. Regardless of the result, my colleagues and friends here in Zagreb are sure of one thing: Croatia’s multi-faceted transition will continue well beyond any concrete date of entry into “the club.”

Richelle Bernazzoli is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a 2011- 2012 Fulbright fellow with the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. Her research investigates the links between security, identity, the state, and civil society in Croatia’s Euro-Atlantic integration process. She has previously held Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships for Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian from the European Union Center (EUC) and has worked as a graduate assistant for the EUC as well as for the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Across the Cornfields – Holiday Edition

by Reneé Gordon Holley

As we all prepare for our respective holiday traditions, it is difficult to escape the festive decorations and flickering shop windows. Even in little Champaign-Urbana, our city streets are adorned with wreaths, lights, and trees. For me, however, a new crucial holiday tradition involves traveling to Chicago each December to take in more of the big city treats.
In addition to the fine shopping and dining spaces in Chicago, anyone taking a Christmas trip to the Windy City should pay a special visit to the annual Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza in the Chicago Loop. Since 1996, the market has been attracting thousands of visitors each year. Chicago’s market is an initiative of the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest, and its original visionaries conceptualized the Midwest version of the German tradition based on the Christmas market in Nuremberg, circa 1545. For a quick introduction to the German Christmas traditions, including the Christkind, the Nuremberg market, and others, watch this video, hosted by European Travel Guru Rick Steves:

The Chicago Christkindlmarket includes vendors from Germany, in addition to some from the United States, Ireland, Poland, the Ukraine, and Austria. This is a one stop shop for hand-carved Christmas tree ornaments, traditional crafts from Germany, like votive houses, painted glass, and coo-coo clocks, or recordings of German Christmas music.

Alternatively, the market provides an ideal mid-day and early evening stop for a quick meal and festive drink. In addition to several German bratwurst options, the Christkindlmarket boasts German holiday favorites like spiced nuts, baked apples, pancakes, potato salad, chocolate-covered everything, strudels, traditional German Stollen cake, sauerkraut, hot soups, and potato pancakes.

To warm up, visitors enjoy hot chocolate, spiced cider, and, my personal favorite, Glühwein, German hot spiced wine. This brew features flavors of oranges, cinnamon, and cloves, infiltrating the steaming cup of red wine. Consumers of these hot beverages invest in a bit of Chicago market lore; each year the market features newly-designed mugs, shaped like boots and decorated with scenes from the market, Daley Plaza, and Chicago.

To aid in your own holiday selections, below is a list of other German-inspired Christmas markets in the United States. If you are unable to visit one of these fine establishments this year, try out some Glühwein in your own kitchen with the recipe listed below!
Glühwein – Adapted from allrecipes.com 
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 orange
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle (cheap) red wine
  1. In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer.
  2. Cut the orange in half, and squeeze the juice into the simmering water over a juice strainer. Push the cloves into the outside of the orange peel, and place peel in the simmering water. Continue simmering for 30 minutes, until thick and syrupy.
  3. Pour in the wine, and heat until steaming but not simmering. Remove the clove-studded orange halves. Serve hot in mugs or glasses that have been preheated in warm water (cold glasses may break.)
Makes six 4 oz. servings. I usually buy boxed wine and double or triple the recipe.

Happy Holidays to all our EUC Blog readers!

Reneé Holley is a PhD Candidate in Musicology and an EU Center Graduate Assistant. She is working on a dissertation that addresses the influence of EU cultural policies on contemporary German musical life.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Discourse Surrounding the Final Declaration of the 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference

Semantics played an important role in the Draft Declaration of the 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference. It is evident that this becomes problematic when trying to create discourse or legislation when definitions vary across NGOs. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) present at the Conference collectively focus on a vast array of issues – Eradication of Poverty, Child Mortality, Population, Women’s Education, Sustainability, Nuclear Disarmament, Global Health, etc. – which are in turn influenced by these vast array of issues.

For example, the image below shows that ‘development’ means very different things to many different NGOs.
This is a specific example of where it becomes problematic in having meaningful dialogue or in creating legislation that centers on development.  In fact, according to Aram Ziai of Vienna University, any intervention can be called development as long as it is “a non-political intervention in the name of the common good, is based on expert knowledge, and is located in the global South.” While broad, it is also quite exclusive in that it alienates ‘development’ simply in the global North. Ziai asserts that, “NGOs should be clear about whether they are working for justice and solidarity or for economic growth and industrialization – and avoid the catch-all term ‘development.’” Ziai goes on to further state that, “NGOs should break up the consensus that all ‘development’ organisations are working for the same objective.” This not only applies to the term ‘development,’ but to any other issue NGOs choose to tackle.

In terms of the Conference, semantics were at the center of the Plenary Session of the Final Discussion on the Conference Declaration. For example, a delegate asserted that the term ‘gender and social equity’ is commonly referred to as ‘social and gender equality’ today and this change should be reflected in the Declaration. Another delegate pointed out that a phrase made it sound like “sustainable development should be the ‘only’ form of development.” He stated that this only “shoots us in the foot.” Vagueness was also a problem. For instance, the draft Declaration states, “support the role and important needs” and then a delegate argued that it was too vague because what is an important role and how do we support it? This discussion continued for an hour where delegates debated how specificity, in terms of words and description, can either hurt or help other’s goals. It was also stated that, “within the language is the problem of using a Eurocentric language and does not reflect a ‘united nations.’”

Suggestions for changes in the Draft Declaration were made not only during the hour session, but other roundtables, workshops, and communication via email as well. It is also important to note that work on the Draft Declaration took place a month before the Conference even convened. It is difficult to determine the exact reasons for each change in the Draft Declaration. However, it is evident that most suggestions at the Plenary Session reflected the perceptions of the poor or vague use of language. The Final Declaration can be seen here.  

What are your thoughts on the Final Declaration? Do you think it balances effectively between being specific, yet broad? Do you think it uses Eurocentric language? Do you think it provides meaningful dialogue for the Rio+20 Conference? After seeing the amount of time, scrutiny, discourse, and revision surrounding the construction of the Final Declaration, I believe the NGOs, Youth Sub-Committee, and Department of Information constructed an influential, operative Declaration invaluable to the Rio+20 Conference. Yes, individual words and phrases will continue to be scrutinized in the Declaration; however, it provides an essential and carefully balanced framework from those who understand that “The future does not belong to those who are content with today.”1

Alexandra Lively attended the 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference in Bonn, Germany as a UN Delegate. She is a first-year MA student in European Union Studies and an EU Center FLAS fellow. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Advertising at UIUC, with a double minor in Business and Communications. She graduated with High Honors and as an Edmund J. James Scholar. Her research interests include telecommunications, consumerism and trade within the EU.

1 Quote from Felix Dodds, Chair of the 64th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference, during the Closing Ceremony. 


The Road to Rio: The 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference

The 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference was held in Bonn, Germany September 3-5. This year’s theme was “Sustainable Societies; Responsive Citizens” and revolved around citizen and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) involvement in creating and maintaining various aspects of sustainable societies for the benefit of mankind and the planet. The Conference served as a major NGO preparatory meeting for the Rio+20 Conference.

The Rio+20 Conference (June 4-6, 2012) is an event that marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg.1 Objectives of the Rio+20 Conference are to focus on “a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development.”2 Rio+20 is of particular importance due to the presence of Heads of State and Government that will ultimately lead to the construction of a formal political document.

The 2011 UN Conference resulted in the valuable construction of the Declaration of the 64th Conference. The Final Declaration was a collaboration between NGOs and the UN that aims to provide pertinent information to the preparatory process of Rio+20.

While the Conference addressed important issues related to environmental sustainability, green manufacturing and commerce, transparent governance, grassroots activism, and limiting personal carbon footprints, there was also a major focus on youth participation in recognition of the United Nations International Year of Youth (August 2010 – August 2011).

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated, “Youth should be given a chance to take an active part in the decision-making of local, national and global levels.”  This is exactly what happened at the Conference. Regarded as “moral stakeholders” of sustainable development, youths were primary contributors at the 64th Annual UN Conference.

In addition to attending and participating in the roundtable discussions, workshops, and interactive dialogues, there were various youth activities such as excursions, youth led breakfast sessions, youth centered workshops, networking opportunities, and even a pub crawl. While the commentary from youth was an integral part of the Conference, their role in influencing the Conference Declaration was even more important. The Youth Sub-Committee, compromised of representatives aged 18-24, collaborated tirelessly throughout the three days to ensure that the Declaration empowered youth and provided a useful platform for youth in the Rio+20 agenda.

There is also a TakingItGlobal European Youth Forum where youth, educators, and NGOs in the UK, Italy, France, Norway, and the Netherlands are meeting to form recommendations for the Rio+20 Conference. The forum began on October 4th in Oslo, Norway and continued through October 21st in London, Paris, Milan, and Amsterdam. Youth participation, media, and contributions at the 64th Annual UN Conference can be found here.

In addition to the Conference and Forum, there are numerous preparatory events occurring each month across the globe leading up to Rio+20. Youths have the opportunity to participate, whether through attending events, volunteering, media participation, or submission of their ideas regardless of their affiliation with the United Nations or NGOs.  More information on getting involved with the Rio+20 Conference can be found here. 

Alexandra Lively attended the 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference in Bonn, Germany as a UN Delegate. She is a first-year MA student in European Union Studies and an EU Center FLAS fellow. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Advertising at UIUC, with a double minor in Business and Communications. She graduated with High Honors and as an Edmund J. James Scholar. Her research interests include telecommunications, consumerism and trade within the EU.


Monday, November 14, 2011

International Business Immersion Program Concludes

IBIP, a program co-sponsored by the European Union Center including participation by EUC Director Bryan Endres, concluded its 2011 trip in October. Read the brief news article about the program below or on the Office of International Programs Monthly Newsletter.

The 2011 International Business Immersion Program (IBIP) concluded on October 6, 2011, as the 24 participants, divided into six groups, premiered their final video projects about their research findings on the European food and agribusiness industry. Since 2001, the IBIP experience has allowed students to gain an international perspective and network to build on for future study abroad experiences, internships, and careers. This year's theme was "Firm, Channel, and Industry Dynamics within the European Agri-Food Sector" and featured a visit to Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. The topics of this year's final video projects included sustainable cocoa, free range chicken, canola oil, and a comparison of the European and U.S. recycling industries.

Reflecting on the experience, participant Elizabeth Steger, a Finance in Agribusiness major in ACES set to graduate in spring 2012, says, “After participating in this trip I am very interested in having the opportunity to visit other countries for work, or even live abroad for a period of time for a career. I think this trip gives us a great advantage due to the knowledge and experience we have gained academically, personally, and professionally.” For more information on IBIP, visit the program's website.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Austria-Illinois Change through Exchange Conference

On October 27 and 28, the Austria-Illinois Exchange Program celebrated its 40th year of scholarly exchange between the University of Illinois and colleges and universities in Austria.

The conference's welcome address was delivered by Wolfgang Schlör, Interim Associate Provost for International Affairs; Barbara Sporn, Vice Rector, Research, International Affairs, and External Relations, Vienna University of Economics and Business; and Bruce Murray, Professor, Germanic Languages and Literatures, AIEP Director. View the video below or by clicking here.

Austrian Consul General Thomas Schnöll followed the opening remarks with a lecture entitled, "Transatlantic Relations – Prospects for Advancing Cooperation." Schnöll spoke on the importance of mutual understanding in building the foundation of international cooperation between the US and EU. View the video below or by clicking here.

A panel discussion entitled, "Academic Exchange in the Humanities: Historical Foundations, Current Initiatives, and Transatlantic/Global Perspectives" followed. View the video below or by clicking here.

After a concert and lecture in the evening, the conference recommenced the following morning with a documentary and lecture delivered by noted Austrian author Josef Haslinger entitled "Narrating Integration: One Story at a Time." The lecture is available below or by clicking here. You can also watch the documentary (in German, only!) here: Nachtasyl: Heimat der Heimatlosen.

For more information on the Change through Exchange Conference, view the conference webpage. If you would like to learn more about the Austria-Illinois Exchange Program, visit the AIEP site.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Celebrating Oktoberfest: Across the Cornfields Edition

by Reneé Gordon Holley

Every September, millions of people flock to Munich, Germany, eager to take part in the annual Oktoberfest celebration. Tourists and locals alike overrun the city, spending hours in festival tents, sipping fine brews specially formulated for the occasion, and consuming innumerable pretzels and pork shanks. Among the smells of people, beer, meat and sweets, listeners are treated to traditional folk bands, which blast Bavarian classics and entice children to dance.

For those unfortunate souls who are unable to make the yearly pilgrimage to Bavaria (myself included), you may be able to catch a local party. Communities scattered throughout the United States put on their own, home-grown versions of the “Fest,” complete with Dirndl, Lederhosen, and traditional Bavarian decor.

In Central Illinois, residents have the option of making a culinary pilgrimage to experience the closest thing to German Gemütlichkeit on this side of the Atlantic. Travelers heading north on Illinois 47 encounter corn, soybeans, and the occasional pumpkin patch. But, when an old drive-in theater peaks over the horizon, you have reached a town that serves the best slice of Germany, complete with Oktoberfests, May poles, and enough apple strudel to satisfy any appetite. In Gibson City, you are transported to a Bavarian hunter’s lodge when you eat at Bayernstube.

This experience of European culture “across the pond” is really just a few miles away, across Illinois’ golden sea of corn, bending in waves with the cool harvest breeze.

On Friday, September 30th, the EUC staff paid a visit to Gibson City, complete with jovial German folk tunes, appropriate for the journey. (Those of you with UI library access, check out item number CDISC M1734 B38 – Bavarian Holiday – for a unique German music listening experience, complete with brass, yodeling, and some culturally puzzling moments that might spark larger musicological debates, if you are interested in that sort of thing.) As we approached Gibson City, we caught a glimpse of Twin Groves Wind Farm, one of the largest wind farms this side of the Mississippi. Wind farms are a staple in many regions of Germany, and since seeing my first windmill in my high school German textbook, I associate one with the other.

The EUC staff regrouped at the restaurant in the Dietrich Hall, named after the original owner’s father. Father Dietrich’s hunting legacy was readily apparent; restaurant guests enter the bar, which features walls of many fine examples of taxidermy. Before entering the beer hall, I was tempted to select one of the hundreds of steins adorning the main dining room to serve as my beverage glass for the evening.

Bayernstube maintains an Oktoberfest menu, including pretzels, traditional Munich “Weisswurst,” Rouladen, and a special Camembert and dark beer cheese spread. The regular menu boasts eight varieties of schnitzel (breaded, pan-fried pork or veal filets); red cabbage and sauerkraut so tasty that the pickiest eater might need convincing that they are indeed consuming cabbage; and potatoes that are served in salad, pancake, mashed, and sautéed forms. Each meal is accompanied by a basket of Bauernbrot, or farmer’s bread, plus Bayernstube’s homemade smoked sausage spread. Be warned; one slice is not enough. After selecting your entrée and drink from the list of German beers on tap, remember to save room for dessert. At the end of the meal, Dirndl-adorning waitresses display dessert trays at each table and feature an assortment of cakes, inviting guests to select a slice.

For as authentically German as we perceived our experience to be, we were glad to have a resident expert with us to provide a running commentary on the finer qualities of the meal. EUC Visiting Scholar Gregor van der Beek, along with his son, gave rave reviews of the food and atmosphere. Dr. van der Beek commented that Bayernstube embodied the style and feel of a restaurant that his grandparents would choose if they were to take the family out for a nice meal. After spending almost three months in Illinois, our German guests enjoyed the Bauernbrot and entrées, which reminded them of home, and Bavaria of course!

Although Oktoberfest has nearly drawn to a close for this year, plan on partaking in next year’s festivities, or perhaps make the pilgrimage to Bayernstube for a family meal or a get-together with friends. Bis dann!

Stay tuned for the next “Across the Cornfields” edition of “Across the Pond” – Chicago’s Christkindlmarket!

Reneé Holley is a PhD Candidate in Musicology and an EU Center Graduate Assistant. She is working on a dissertation that addresses the influence of EU cultural policies on contemporary German musical life.

Newcastle University Conference Explores Options for a Sustainable Countryside

The Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability and the Newcastle University Law School hosted a conference to address emerging challenges to rural areas, including responding to climate change, food security, renewable energy, and changes to crop and livestock production systems.  EU Center Director A. Bryan Endres served as the opening speaker, presenting a talk on sustainable bioenergy and legal approaches to ecological protection.  Specifically, the presentation discussed the intersection of biotechnology, invasive species and state regulatory regimes within the context of novel plants grown for conversion into bioenergy.

Two other plenary speakers, László Máthé from World Wildlife Int’l, and Patrick Begg from The National Trust (UK), explored, respectively, issues of renewable energy and sustainable rural enterprises.  Separate break-out sessions focused on issues related to climate change, biotechnology and energy strategies.  In the conference’s closing session, conference organizer and Dean of Newcastle Law School, Professor Chris Rodgers, summarized many of the legal/policy issues stakeholders must confront in shaping the future of the UK countryside.  One key component of a sustainable countryside is the need to view rural landscapes from a multi-functional perspective in which food and energy production sustains economically viable communities, while protecting biodiversity and other ecosystems services, including preserving recreational opportunities for the general public—a challenging endeavor that benefits from conferences such as this, which brings together multiple stakeholders from diverse disciplines.


New Course on the Changing Arctic

A new study abroad course entitled "Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic" is now available for University of Illinois students. The six-week course, supported in part by the EUC's European Union Center of Excellence grant, will take students of any discipline first to KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden for a five-week introduction to the political, social, historical, and cultural issues of climate change, and then north to the Arctic Circle for ten days of research alongside Swedish classmates.

Concerns over the environmental impact of melting sea ice, contrasted with "possibilities for extracting oil and gas reserves there, as well as new shipping routes," have made the Arctic Circle central in the political agendas of states in the region, reads the program description. The course's aim, then, "is to give a thorough orientation about long-term changes in the Arctic region," from ancient times to the politically- and environmentally-motivated present, "focusing on the way in which actors from the Nordic countries have interacted in their Arctic environments in a long-term, historical perspective." To that end, students will learn about these issues while experiencing firsthand the differences between the southern power center of Stockholm and the northern environment in the Arctic Circle.

The course will be taught by Dag Avango, Professor of the History of Technology at KTH; Bruce Fouke, Professor of Geology at UIUC; and Mark Safstrom, Lecturer in Germanic Languages and Literature at UIUC.

The six-credit class will take place this summer, from June 11–July 25, 2012. Interested students should visit the course's description page and information page for more information. Questions and requests for an informational flier mat be sent to Mark Safstrom at safstrom@illinois.edu. The deadline for applications is February 12, 2012.

Friday, October 14, 2011

40 Years of Exchange with Austria

This year, the Austria-Illinois Exchange Program, one of the University of Illinois' oldest study abroad programs, is celebrating its 40th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, AIEP is holding the Change through Exchange conference, which is co-sponsored by the European Union Center.

The two-day conference will include discussions, films and lectures by speakers like Thomas Schnöll, Consul General of Austria and Josef Haslinger, Austrian author and professor at the University of Leipzig. The event marks the enduring interest in, and importance of, scholastic exchange between the University of Illinois and Europe. In addition to its longstanding support for AIEP, the European Union Center has consistently supported exchange activities between Illinois, Austria, and European nations in general. We congratulate AIEP on its terrific success, and we look forward to supporting it and programs like it for many years to come.

For more information, view the conference page or see the October 20, 2011 issue of "Inside Illinois"

Monday, August 29, 2011

Renewable energy the focus of study abroad tour in Greece

Five University of Illinois students, funded in part by the European Union Center under a U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant, visited Greece this spring to learn about renewable energy. They explored the difference in EU and US approaches to environmental sustainability, and experienced the Greek economic crisis along the way. See below for the full press release.

URBANA - Five students from the University of Illinois spent a month in Greece this spring, studying renewable energy alongside students from the Agricultural University of Athens (AUA) and the University of Thessaly in Volos. Amy Girlich, Alex Heidtke, Grace Nelson, Rachael Ramsey, and Sarah Shimizu were part of a team-based collaboration that allowed students from both countries to experience the process of identifying and solving real-world engineering problems.

This is the third year Stephen Zahos, a lecturer and Senior Design Capstone Coordinator in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE), has coordinated and led students in the “Cradle of Democracy” study and cultural tour.

“The students learned about various technologies in renewable energy systems such as biofuels, photovoltaics, wind energy, and solar energy, through field trips to installations, and via lectures and demonstrations at both AUA and Thessaly,” said Zahos. “This year we added a hands-on aspect to the trip. Students collected data at a university farm, using instruments that measured soil conductivity and other parameters. Then they used sophisticated software programs to produce three-dimensional plot plans of the ground that they covered.”

“The practical use of that in renewable energy was to maximize the growth of energy crops that are planted specifically for energy use,” Zahos continued. “In Greece’s case, it’s principally sunflower seeds, and other non-food crops, for biodiesel production.”
Because this trip occurred earlier in the year than the previous trips, the students in Greece were still in school and the U of I students were able to work closely with their counterparts.

“Spyros Fountas is an assistant professor at Thessaly, and he set up the program there,” said Zahos. “This wasn’t a typical experience for the students in Greece. They don’t get a lot of hands-on experience – they mostly attend lectures. But Spyros earned his Ph.D. at Purdue, so he was familiar with the American style of teaching and instruction. His students seemed to enjoy the alternative method as well.”

Zahos noted that the installation and application of renewable systems in Greece is guided by European Union directives, which sets goals for each of the member countries. Currently Greece uses approximately 9 percent renewable energy sources, but the goal is 20 percent by the year 2020. “It’s going to be difficult to reach,” said Zahos, “but progress is being made, as evidenced by several installations that popped up since 2010.”

Amy Girlich, a junior in civil and environmental engineering, said the experience was an excellent opportunity to learn more about her intended career path. “I’m looking to focus on environmental engineering and this was a great way to obtain some hands-on experience and learn about biodiesel and sustainability,” she said. “It was interesting to note that Europe and the United States view environmental concerns differently. Almost every house in Greece has a small solar panel on its roof. Many buildings have no air conditioning but instead are built using marble on the inside to keep the air cool. In the United States as a whole, we don’t think as much about what impact we have on the environment.”

“So often, students in a university setting, especially engineers, are spoken to only in terms of the technology – this is what it is, this is how it works,” Zahos said. “But the political, societal, and economic components are the 800-pound gorillas in the room.”
That’s why Zahos was pleased when students were able to attend a lecture by two U.S. Embassy personnel almost immediately on their arrival. “They gave a great talk on sustainability and spoke about all the components of renewable energy, acceptance, sustainability and operation,” he said. ”That provided the students with grounding and a framework for them to be thinking about.”

Zahos said another educational – albeit unintended – aspect of the trip was observing the current economic upheaval in Greece. “We happened to be there at the time their legislature was debating whether to accept the austerity measures required by the EU for a loan bailout,” he said. “I encouraged the students to pay attention and to think about some of the conditions that exist there, and compare and contrast them to what we’re possibly facing here in the States. It’s not good that it’s happening, but I knew the students could learn from the experience.”

The students lived together in an apartment in a typical Athens neighborhood, surrounded by markets, shops, restaurants and ordinary citizens. “They got plenty of exercise walking,” said Zahos, “and we made good use of the city’s well-developed public transportation system.”

Of course, a trip to the beautiful country of Greece has to include seeing the sites, and Zahos said the balance of work and play was about equal. “After travel time, we probably spent 12 days in classes and 12 days sightseeing.”

Sightseeing included a four-day bus trip to learn about the history of Greece, traversing the Samaria Gorge on the Island of Crete, and a one-day, three-island cruise near Athens. Katerina Kassimati, a young woman from Patras who had studied with the department of ABE the previous year, went on the cruise with the visiting students, and then welcomed them to her family’s summer home near Athens. The students spent a day touring the area and enjoyed a home-cooked meal prepared by the Kassimati family.

The five students took it on themselves to plan another excursion, a trip to Santorini for a weekend, which was “amazing,” said Grace Nelson, another junior in civil and environmental engineering. “There were so many memorable experiences in Greece, it’s hard to pick just one. We saw the ruins all over Greece, we saw black sand and red sand beaches, the sunset at Oia, and we met some awesome people at our hostel. This study abroad experience in Greece couldn’t have been better,” Nelson concluded. “I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”

The students were even able to connect with Illinois alumni while in the country. The first meeting of the University of Illinois Club of Greece, started by a recent graduate, George Lokkas, who received his master’s in finance at Illinois, was held on the roof garden of the Athens Gate Hotel in full view of the Acropolis and Parthenon at night. Approximately 25 UIUC and UIC graduates, now living in Greece and other parts of Europe, attended the event. Zahos is proud charter member number 25.

Support for the program was provided in part by the Illinois European Union Center under a U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant, the Transatlantic Bioenergy Network, the Illinois College of ACES, the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and the Illinois International Programs in Engineering office.


Monday, August 22, 2011

EU Center Students Named Fulbright Recipients

Two students affiliated with the European Union Center are among fourteen current students or recent alumni at the University of Illinois who have been offered fully funded opportunities to research, study, or teach English in other nations through the US Student Fulbright program.

Richelle Bernazzoli, of Portage, Pa., a doctoral candidate in geography, EU Center Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellow in academic year 2009-10 and summer 2009, and EU Center graduate assistant in summer 2011, will study the Euro-Atlantic integration process in Croatia. Bernazzoli has served with the U.S. Army National Guard in Kosovo, and she plans to volunteer with disabled veterans in Croatia while carrying out her dissertation research. She plans an academic career focused on the European Union and NATO.

Jerry Vassalla, of Downers Grove, Ill., has been awarded a Fulbright English teaching assistantship to Germany. Since completing his bachelor’s degree from Illinois in 2010, Vassalla has been pursuing a master’s in European Union studies through the EU Center at Illinois. He received FLAS Fellowships from the EUC in academic year 2010-11 and summers 2010 and 2011. Vassalla would like to work as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. government.

Read more about the University of Illinois Fulbright student grantees in the full news article here.


U of I, KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm Form Alliance

A new partnership between the University of Illinois and Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology, called INSPIRE, was agreed upon yesterday. INSPIRE is funded in part by European Union Center grants, and EUC-affiliated faculty are at the forefront of the initiative. See the full press release from the University of Illinois New Bureau below for details.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The chief executive officers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have agreed upon a long-term strategic alliance designed to benefit students and faculty members at both institutions. The agreement on academic and research cooperation seeks to serve and engage the civic communities and economic interests of Sweden and the state of Illinois.

KTH and the University of Illinois are among the world’s pre-eminent public research universities. Faculty members and administrators from the two institutions have identified a broad range of common research areas and educational activities, as well as public engagement and corporate relations efforts.

U. of I. Interim Vice President and Chancellor Bob Easter and Peter Gudmundson, the president of KTH, envision a sustained partnership with substantial benefits for the two universities.

“Our emerging strategic partnership with KTH is a key component of our broader international engagement,” Easter said. “We’re also looking forward to leveraging KTH’s existing relationships and shared research initiatives with Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet to broaden this alliance. This will create a consortium of outstanding institutions with considerable strengths over a wide range of academic disciplines.”

“This long-term cooperation with the renowned University of Illinois is an important cornerstone of KTH’s continuing international development,” Gudmundson said. “At the same time, the Stockholm region is one of the most technologically innovative in the world, and our extensive research and education network can help strengthen the U. of I.’s programs.”

The cooperation with KTH and engagement in Sweden compose the flagship project of the new Illinois Strategic International Partnerships initiative. The initiative seeks to develop a network of sustained, multidisciplinary linkages with peer institutions around the world to benefit the core missions of research, education, public service and economic development among all partners.

More information about the initiative and INSPIRE – the Illinois-Sweden Program for Educational and Research Exchange – may be found at http://ilint.illinois.edu/partnerships/ISIP.html and http://inspire.illinois.edu.

Also see: Nordic Exposure

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Death of Europe Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

It is quite fashionable to bash Europe right now. In the ongoing debate about the American budget crisis, my congressman (Paul Ryan) continues to warn about America becoming more and more “socialist” like Europe. How he continues to get away with this baffles me. The debt crisis of the “PIGS” (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) is said to be proof that the European model is not sustainable. The implication is supposed to be that Europe must become more like America. Given America’s own fiscal difficulties, this is almost humorous.

Recently, the financial crisis in Europe was averted as the “big boys(girls)” (France, Germany) gave assurances that Greece could not be allowed to default. The Norwegian tragedy and the death of Amy Winehouse stole the headlines from the bankers. Also, immigration returned to the discussion as it was first assumed that the shootings in Norway must have been done by an immigrant (probably a Muslim).

A crap newspaper in the Murdoch Empire bites the dust. Meanwhile, (in my opinion), at least three newspapers in London alone (Independent, Times, and Guardian) are still all superior to any American paper. The media in England may largely be losing money, but there are serious discussions going on in the public sphere as they try to survive.

In Heathrow, far more burqas were seen than normal. It was interesting to watch how the English border agents dealt with it. A female agent would handle the viewing. She would ask, “May I see your face?” The female would then quickly lift the material so the agent could identify her. It was all very humane. Newspapers explained that the burqa ban in France has led to an increase of tourism for families to take their excursions in Britain.

The point for me is that the death of Europe has been greatly exaggerated. The euro has survived this current crisis. The EU staggers along as federations often do. The tension between nationalism and internationalism endures. The United States urges the EU to spend more on defense, but the EU resists. Expansion slows down as the EU has to attend to current members’ woes before taking on more. None of this is surprising. There is a reason people continue to immigrate to Europe and the United States. There are bumps in the road for both, but the future is still bright. Paul Ryan needs to remember that there are many roads to peace and prosperity. The United States does not have a monopoly on the good life.

Chris Bryant
Trevor, Wisconsin

Chris Bryant is a social studies teacher at Lake Forest High School (Lale Forest, Illinois). He has participated in numerous curriculum development activities of the EU Center. Chris was in Cambridge for a Gilder Lehrman Institute on the Cold War. He also traveled to London to see the play, "Yes Prime Minister!" Chris has been going to England for over twenty years visiting friends in Penrith, Cumbria (Lake District). His favorite museums are the Imperial War Museum and the Churchill Museum.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nordic Exposure

EU Center-affiliated faculty member Anna Stenport and many others at UI are developing the Illinois-Sweden Program for Educational Research Exchange (INSPIRE) partnership with KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and additional collaborators in Sweden. The partnership emerged in part with EUC support and hosting of a delegation from the Swedish embassy, including the Swedish ambassador, for EU Day 2009.

This article originally appeared in College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) News, University of Illinois, May 2011, and was authored by Dave Evensen.

After a long winter you may shudder to hear this, but much learning remains to be done in the lands of ice and snow. Thanks to a budding partnership at the University of Illinois, however, that task is getting more exciting, and it leads through Sweden.

Researchers and educators across campus are expecting valuable opportunities to rise from a trans-Atlantic collaboration with KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm that has roots in the College of LAS. The partnership, which has been forming rapidly during the past several months, will allow Illinois to share expertise with a part of the world where studies in energy, humanities, information and communications, materials, medicine and biotechnology, and transportation are highly advanced.

The partnership, named Illinois-Sweden Program for Educational Research Exchanged (INSPIRE), could also provide Illinois researchers and students with a new access point to the Arctic Circle, making for chilly but beneficial study-abroad and research possibilities.

“Even with the University of Illinois’s comprehensive educational and academic programs, there is relatively little taught at Illinois and relatively little research pursued that pertains to northern-most Europe,” says Anna Stenport, professor of Scandinavian studies and one of the chief organizers of INSPIRE.

“One of the motivators for me has been to increase knowledge of and exposure to the Nordic region for the University of Illinois student population and also its faculty researchers,” she adds. Stenport, a native of Sweden, has worked closely with Harry Dankowicz, professor of mechanical science and engineering, and who also hails from Sweden, to pull the partnership together.

The partnership began somewhat fortuitously in 2009 when a delegation from the Swedish embassy, including the Swedish ambassador, visited the U of I campus. Later, when KTH made known that they wanted to partner with institutions in the United States, a Swedish embassy staff member, who had visited campus during the 2009 visit, suggested Illinois.

Once the connection occurred, the idea grew, with collaboration amongst the Colleges of LAS, Engineering, Fine and Applied Arts, Media, and the Graduate College, along with the Chancellor’s office, International Programs and Studies, European Union Center, and Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. In December 2010, KTH sent a delegation for a symposium at Illinois, and another symposium is scheduled this month in Stockholm to organize the effort.

Organizers hope the partnership will grow to include other educational institutions across northern Europe. Bruce Fouke, professor of geology and microbiology, recently received a research fellowship from Lund University in Lund, Sweden, and he believes INSPIRE is a “perfect” model for what he and other researchers are trying to achieve in Scandinavia.

“Sweden is traditionally a powerhouse in the natural sciences and they’ve just made some recent nationwide commitments to get seriously involved with space exploration,” Fouke says.
Through the partnership, Fouke, Stenport, Dankowicz, and others have been planning an Arctic field course that involves studying everything from microbial life to environmental change to the cultures of indigenous communities.

“We had this instant catalysis of interest due to major initiatives both in the U.S. and Sweden that were naturals to work together,” Fouke says. “And I think this is going to lay many years of very dynamic initiatives—both research and teaching—between our campus and Sweden.”

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Illini in Belgium

A delegation of students and faculty from the University of Illinois traveled to Belgium in May 2011 as part of the International Business Immersion Program (IBIP), which featured a course and study tour focusing on European agricultural production and business. The IBIP Europe Immersion Program 2011 was organized by Professor Andrea Martens and Meredith Blumthal, and sponsored by the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences and the College of Business, and co-sponsored by the European Union Center (EUC) and the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER).

Pictured above: IBIP Europe Immersion Program 2011 students are joined at a Friends and Alumni Reception, including Baron Piet van Waeyenberge (front row, center), a 1961 alumnus of the University of Illinois Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics (ACE); Maurice House, Minister Counselor for Agriculture of the US Mission to the EU and ACE alumnus from the 1980s; and Professor Emeritus Joseph V. Leunis, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and ACE alumnus from the 1960s. Also pictured are IBIP Director Andrea Martens (front row, far left); EUC Director Bryan Endres (back row, second from right), and CIBER Associate Director Lynnea Johnson (middle row, third from right). 

Below, IBIP students and organizers in the grand square in Brussels.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Connecting Students from Illinois and Turkey

The European Union Center at the University of Illinois is exploring future collaborations and potential student exchanges with Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey.

Pictured: EUC Director Bryan Endres (third from right) and Jerry Vassalla, EUC student in the Master of Arts in EU Studies (far left), had two days of meetings with students and faculty of the Master of Arts Program in European Studies and the Department of Political Science and International Relations on the Boğaziçi University campus.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Making Music, not Malice, Together: the European Union Capital of Culture in Essen, Germany

by Renée Gordon Holley

Amid fears of terrorist attacks and increasingly public xenophobia in Germany, tensions have grown as this founding member of the European Union and world economic leader has increasingly taken on burdens in the current financial crisis, aiding in the bail-out of Greece and now Ireland. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s declaration that multiculturalism has utterly failed in this ethnically diverse nation reflects growing concerns throughout Europe regarding uniting people from various cultures. In contrast to these dark political clouds, my field research in Germany during summer 2010 took place among celebrations, accompanied by World Cup vuvuzelas, cheering soccer fans, German flags everywhere, and news reports that Germany’s ethnically diverse team was an exemplary model of how the country had finally learned to work together with its many minorities.

Although the 2010 World Cup was an entertaining backdrop for the two and a half months I spent in Northern Westphalia last summer, the main object of my pre-dissertation research was the musical events of the EU’s Capital of Culture program. The EU’s recent participation in cultural policy has produced programs and agendas that simultaneously strive to preserve the cultural diversity of its members while highlighting common cultural threads throughout Europe. The EU’s main effort in this regard and most widely recognized program is the European Capital of Culture. Every year, several member states are selected to host an elaborate year-long series of cultural events. Cities in these countries compete for this honor in a similar style to that of Olympic cities. Along with Pécs, Hungary and Istanbul, Turkey, Essen, Germany and the entire Ruhr Region generated a rich program incorporating every aspect of culture.

As a musicologist, I am interested in the musical life of other nations and in learning about how assorted musical styles and performers contribute to the discourses of music, politics, and culture. My association with the EU Center and coursework specifically on the policies and structure of the European Union led me to consider how this institution adds to and amends the musical cultures found in its member states, especially Germany. An appropriate combination of music and EU policies made the Capital of Culture a dynamic stage where challenges regarding an aging population, cultural diversity, economic downturn, and industrial re-imagination were acted out by area orchestras, teenage pop singers, church organists, ravers, and sound sculptors.

Touted as one of the top highlights of Essen’s program, the !SING – Day of Song brought together hundreds of choirs from Europe and beyond. The four-day event featured over sixty-six individual choral performances and sing-alongs. On June 5, as over 50,000 amateur and professional singers gathered at the Veltins Soccer Arena in Gelsenkirchen, international star Bobby McFerrin and the Bochum Symphony orchestra accompanied us as young and old joined in singing Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” and the Beatles’ “Let it Be.” Germany has a long history of choral singing, where amateurs sang together with hopes to strengthen a sense of German identity and political consciousness in its members and the nation as a whole. The !SING events and many of the other concerts and performances held in Essen this summer worked to unite the community and reach out to its neighbors. This demonstration of music’s role in shaping and influencing Germany’s and the EU’s citizens shows how they might move forward in the years to come, isolating and tackling political, social, and economic struggles through music.

Renée Holley is a doctoral student in musicology at the University of Illinois and an EU Center FLAS Fellow. Her pre-dissertation research was supported by a DAAD German Studies Research Grant. Next school year she plans on completing dissertation research in Bonn, Germany, analyzing music’s relationship to regional, national, and EU cultural policy agendas.