Ideas on Europe

Anniversary events

© Daniel Mingook Kim sur Unsplash Anniversary events
© Daniel Mingook Kim sur Unsplash

Every Monday, a member of the international academic association ‘UACES’ will address a current topic linked to their research.

Very pleased, Amelia Hadfield, to welcome you back on “Ideas on Europe”. It’s been already four years since you launched the “Centre for Britain and Europe” at the University of Surrey.

That’s right. And in the meantime, we have been granted a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, which has allowed us to develop our activities further, form strong bonds with civil society, research institutes and universities across the UK and Europe. And we successfully applied for a transnational research project within the framework of the EU’s HORIZON programme.

Tell us more about it.

It’s called REDEMOS, which stands for “Reconfiguring the EU’s Democracy and Support Strategy in the Eastern Neighbourhood”. The project, which is carried out in partnership with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), aims to reshape the EU’s democracy support strategy in six Eastern Neighbourhood countries: Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

It will assess past EU democracy support actions to pinpoint success factors and challenges. Its ultimate goal is to provide a practical policy toolkit for decision-makers, political actors, and civil society organisations in both the EU and the Eastern Neighbourhood. If my memory serves me well, my colleague Theofanis Exadaktylos has already spoken about it on Euradio, a year ago or so, and he will be more than pleased to come back in order to discuss the project’s first results.

These are remarkable achievements in a short time. And a few days ago the Centre offered itself a little anniversary celebration, at the British Academy, right in the heart of London.

Exactly. We held an event that celebrated the completion of the three-year Jean Monnet funding period, and allowed us at the same time to speak about REDEMOS to an audience composed of academics, diplomats and policymakers.

The evening featured two distinguished speakers: Jan Zielonka, Professor Emeritus at the University of Oxford, and Federica Bicchi, Associate Professor at the London School of Economics.

Big names in European studies.

Professor Jan Zielonka pointed out that 9th November was 34 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and set as his subject the very great need to simultaneously support, and critique the need for the promotion of democracy. Set against the current trends of illiberalism and even autocracy, Professor Zielonka suggested that whilst traditional sovereign formats may well have had their day, the creation of a ‘networked European Union’ may illustrate future patterns of integration.

Federica Bicchi closed the event on a different note, underscoring the relevance of the recent development of digitalization on British and European diplomacy. She also recommended the EU to focus on utilising new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, as a tool to assist in policymaking, rather than the fixation on its regulation.

That sounds like a stimulating event – congratulations! But let me get back to the award of a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence. Why are such centres important for European studies?

The added value of Jean Monnet Centres of Excellence lies in their capacity to consolidate and help to institutionalise the full range of work undertaken by a given team, within a specific area of European policy. Depending on their expertise and their target audience, Jean Monnet Centres support the overall ethos of objective, data-based, rigorous appraisals of the role of Europe within a given area. They also play a crucial role in highlighting undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, showcase research, and – acting rather like mini think tanks – conduct research, analysis, and advocacy. In this way, they contribute to shaping public discourse, informing decision-makers, and developing sound public policies.

What I’m personally most passionate about regarding our own Centre for Britain and Europe is the opportunity to operate as a catalyst of ideas on Europe within the public sphere: bridge the gap between academic research and public understanding by disseminating knowledge through reports, publications, and public events.

Many thanks, Amelia Hadfield, for keeping us posted about the remarkable development of your institution. I recall you are Dean International and Head of Department of Politics at the University of Surrey, in the UK.

An interview conducted by Laurence Aubron.