This article is part of the IP 2021 series, in which we publish abridged, general-public versions of the academic papers presented in the Euroculture Intensive Programme. This year’s topic was Religion.
By Anna Oliwia Wierzbicka
On ne touche pas aux choses d’Alsace.
“Do not change anything in Alsace.” These words, attributed to the king Louis XIV, may never have been expressed by him, but they can be seen as evidence of the specific attitude of the French crown towards Alsace over the centuries. This attitude has lasted to this day, to the times of the French Fifth Republic. And one of its manifestations is the Concordat of 1801, which regulates the relationship between the state and four religious denominations in Alsace-Moselle (a region that consists of three departments: Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin and Moselle) until this day. It is still in force despite the adoption of the State secularism in France in 1905 by the French Law on the Separation of the Churches and State(Loi du 9 décembre 1905 concernant la séparation des Églises et de l’État), prohibiting any influence of the State on religious matters and vice versa.
Rhys Nugent (2019-2021), from the UK and Ireland, spent his first semester at the Georg-August-University of Göttingen and the second at Universidad de Deusto. He holds a Bachelor degree in Modern Languages and decided to apply for Euroculture to develop his interest in European affairs and culture while taking advantage of the social, professional and personal opportunities that formal education provides. He is currently residing in Bilbao, Spain and working as an intern at the European Citizen Action Service.
Euroculturer Magazine: What were your expectations when you applied/started the Euroculture MA and does it match the reality at the moment?
Rhys Nugent: I had expected that studying in multiple countries would challenge my preconceptions, improve my language skills and enable me to gain better insight into the cultural and social dimensions of Europe. I had also hoped to meet students from around the world, learn about new projects and opportunities and make memories to cherish alongside new friends around Europe. Needless to say that a global pandemic had not been at the forefront of my mind when applying for MA Euroculture but, alas, here we are. Most of my expectations were met during my first two semesters of MA Euroculture. I was able to study in two fascinating countries that lie close to my heart. I managed to improve my German language skills in my first semester while refreshing my Spanish language skills in my second semester. I feel like I have a significantly better understanding of European affairs and politics, partly thanks to my degree and partly thanks to my extracurricular activities, and I have made new friendships which I value greatly from all corners of Europe and beyond. I am particularly grateful for the flexibility that both universities have provided me, whether it was their relaxed approach to class attendance or how generous they were regarding essay deadlines. This might seem an odd point to make but one of my greatest fears in returning to formal education was that my epilepsy might disrupt my studies and hinder me from making my deadlines – fortunately, both universities were incredibly compassionate when I faced issues. In this regard, my expectations have certainly been met.
Richard Blais (2018-2020) spent his first semester in Olomouc and continued his Euroculture studies in Groningen. He applied for the master because he wanted to have the opportunity to travel throughout Europe while learning more about European sciences. Therefore, Euroculture seemed to be the perfect fit for this ambition. During the third semester, Richard went abroad to Edmonton (Canada) to do an internship at the Alliance française. He graduated from Euroculture in August 2020 and is currently working as an intern in Brussels at the European Association for the Storage of Energy.
Euroculturer Magazine: What were your expectations when you applied for the Euroculture MA and did it match the reality? Richard Blais: I was expecting more rigid classes based on my own personal experience in the French university system! I was very pleasantly surprised by the “serious-yet-laidback” atmosphere of this degree which corresponds well to the students—autonomous young travelling adults.
Celia Onsurbe Castellanos (2018-2020) is from Tomelloso, Spain. She started Euroculture in Göttingen and spent the second semester in Strasbourg. She has a background in Translation and Interpreting, holding a bachelor’s degree from the Autonomous University of Madrid (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid). After graduating, she applied for Euroculture because she wanted to do a Master programme in European Studies where she could also live and experience Europe in different countries. During the third semester she went to Mexico for the Research Track (UNAM) and was able to do an internship afterwards at the EU-LAC Foundation in Hamburg, Germany, before starting her 4th semester.
Stanislava Milankov (2019-2021) is from Serbia and before starting Euroculture, she graduated with a Bachelor in Sociology from the University of Novi Sad, Serbia. She applied for Euroculture because she wanted to deepen her knowledge in European affairs and gain professional experience within the EU through the professional track. Stanislava spent her first semester in Göttingen, Germany, and the second one in Udine, Italy. She is currently in Brussels, Belgium, doing an internship at the Assembly of European Regions.
EM: What were your expectations when you applied/started the Euroculture MA and does it match the reality at the moment? Stanislava Milankov: I expected to learn more about Europe from a political, societal and cultural perspective, to find internships which would help my professional development, to gain intercultural experience and meet people from all walks of life and, last but not least, to find new friends. All expectations have been fulfilled for now.
EM: Can you tell us more about your IP paper and the overall topic of the IP 2019/2020 ? How did you manage to find a suitable topic? SM: The overall topic of the IP 2019/2020 was “A sustainable Europe? Society, politics and culture in the Anthropocene”. I wrote a paper as part of the subtheme “democratic sustainability”. Taking into account that there is apparent dichotomy between the European liberal democratic ideals and the actual situation in some member states, like Hungary, and candidate countries, like Serbia, I compared the internal and external perceptions of the EU as an actor that can foster democratic changes.
Elena Subashka (2018-2020) is Bulgarian and studied Euroculture at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, and the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. Before starting the MA, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Hungarian Studies at the Sofia University in Bulgaria. She applied for Euroculture because of its interdisciplinary approach and the opportunity to study in different European countries. Furthermore, she was excited about the possibility to do the professional track and worked as an intern at the European Movement International in Brussels during the third semester. Elena recently graduated from Euroculture and is currently doing a marketing internship in Emmen, the Netherlands.
EM: What were your expectations when you applied/started the Euroculture MA and does it match the reality at the moment? ES: I was very excited to go abroad and to experience studying in different countries. I expected differences in the university systems which turned out to be true. The first semester at University of Groningen was the busiest and the most difficult in relation to studying, preparing for classes, group assignments, etc. To be honest, I did not know what to expect prior to starting the programme, maybe I only wanted to be happy with my choice and to learn a lot of new things. Two years later, as I have just finished Euroculture I can say I don’t regret my choice and it was an amazing experience.
EM: Can you tell us more about your IP paper and the overall topic of the IP 2019/2020? How did you manage to find a suitable topic? ES: The topic of the IP 2019 was “Inequality & Solidarity”. This includes different aspects – social, economic, political inequality and solidarity. My paper was on the topic of gender inequality and more specifically- gender inequality in high management positions in the fashion industry. In my paper I compared two fashion brands, Stella McCartney and the conglomerate LVMH, their attempts at introducing a gender-balanced work environment and how they help women progress in the working hierarchy. Finding a topic was not an easy task. The “Methodology Seminar” during the second semester in Krakow played a big role in helping me choose a suitable topic. We spent a lot of time discussing ideas and the professors really helped me narrow down my topic.
Interview conducted by Hannah Rittmeyer from the “Becoming Bruxellois from Afar” project
This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by a group of Groningen students as part of their Eurocompetence II project. The interviewees all work in Brussels institutions and were asked questions related to the Euroculture’s 2020 IP topic: “A sustainability Europe? Society, politics and culture in the anthropocene”. Here, Hannah Rittmeyer asked Dr. Hardy Ostry of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) about his perspective on democratic sustainability, particularly about whether or not the EU faces has a democratic deficit and if the current crisis is a threat or a chance for democracy in the EU.
Hannah Rittmeyer: Could you please provide us with a short overview of your organization and its work in Brussels?
Hardy Ostry: With more than 200 projects in over 120 countries and its headquarters in Sankt Augustin near Bonn and Berlin, the KAS is a worldwide operating institution. 16 offices in Germany alone maintain various projects. The foundation has been named after the first Federal Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer. His principles are the guidelines for of our work. As a political foundation, we nationally and internationally campaign for freedom and justice through political education. Our main focus lies in on cooperation and development towards the promotion of European unification, the consolidation of democracy and the intensification of transatlantic relations. Furthermore, the foundation offers scholarships, not only to German Citizens and has a prestigious literary award. The European Office, located in Brussels, has a team of 11 people. As a consulting agency, we analyse political action and develop scientific reports. In particular, KAS Brussels is responsible for following and processing events at the European level. Our main work lies in organizing events to different (current) topics, networking, reporting, and serving as a melting point for visitor groups from all over the world. Continue reading “Brussels from afar: Interview with Dr. Hardy Ostry from the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS)”→
Interview conducted by Michelle Wiesner from the “Becoming Bruxellois from Afar” project
This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by a group of Groningen students as part of their Eurocompetence II project. The interviewees all work in Brussels institutions and were asked questions related to the Euroculture’s 2020 IP topic: “A sustainability Europe? Society, politics and culture in the anthropocene”. Here, Michelle Wiesner asked Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Daniel Freund about his personal experience in Brussels and sustainability in politics, especially regarding corruption.
Michelle Wiesner: Could you please give us a short introduction about your work at the European Parliament, for example in which Committees you are working in?
Daniel Freund: The two committees I focus on are the Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) and the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO). In the CONT committee, I fight corruption and fraud of EU money. In February, we went on a fact-finding mission to Prague, as Prime Minister Babis is suspected of having altered regulations on agricultural subsidies for his private profit. Corruption and fraud are deeply linked with the rule of law. Cronyism reinforces misappropriation of public money and autocratic structures might even be strengthened through EU money. Therefore, I advocate for a rule of law mechanism that conditions subsidies to democratic values.
As part of the AFCO committee, I was involved in the assessment of the new commissioners’ integrity. In the end, we were able to prevent three candidates, which had severe conflicts of interest. In the long run; however, I fight for the creation of an independent EU ethics body whose purpose would be ensure the integrity of the EU institutions. Another topic that I continue to push in the AFCO committee is the improvement of the lobby register tool in order to make decision making more transparent. I am also in the TRAN committee where our goal is to make transport more sustainable. My favourite project is the expansion of the European night train grid.
Interview conducted by Michelle Wiesner from the “Becoming Bruxellois from Afar” project
This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by a group of Groningen students as part of their Eurocompetence II project. The interviewees all work in Brussels institutions and were asked questions related to the Euroculture’s 2020 IP topic: “A sustainability Europe? Society, politics and culture in the anthropocene”. Here, Michelle Wiesner asked Lucille Griffon of EuroMed Rights about her perspective on sustainability, particularly about gender justice, a vital factor in progressing towards a more sustainable society.
MW:Could you please give us a short introduction about EuroMed Rights and its work in Brussels?
Lucille Griffon: EuroMed Rights is a network of around 80 human rights NGOs, located in 30 countries of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. We have 3 offices: one in Copenhagen, the headquarters, one in Brussels and another one in Tunis. We work with country programs: Israel/Palestine and the Palestinians, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey and another Mashrek country, and regional programs: women’s rights and gender justice, migration, economic and social rights, shrinking space. The country programs, migration and shrinking space are in Brussels. The work they do there is mostly related to advocacy towards EU institutions.
Interview conducted by Nadira-Begim Nadyrbekova from the “Becoming Bruxellois from Afar” project
This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by a group of Groningen students as part of their Eurocompetence II project. The interviewees all work in Brussels institutions and were asked questions related to the Euroculture’s 2020 IP topic: “A sustainability Europe? Society, politics and culture in the anthropocene”. Here, Nadira-Begim Nadyrbekova asked Miss Hagar Ligtvoet, working at the Permanent Representation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the European Union to give her perspective on ecological sustainability in the EU and in the Netherlands and the effects of the corona crisis on sustainability in Europe in the future.
Nadira-Begim Nadyrbekova: Could you please briefly tell us about the Permanent Representation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the European Union? What is your position and responsibility within?
Hagar Ligtvoet: The Permanent Representation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the European Union represents and promotes the Dutch interests in the European Union (EU). All ministries are represented at our office in Brussels. I am head of the unit that deals with all issues related to infrastructure, climate and the environment. There are six of us in the unit and we deal with many things, such as the circular economy, air quality, water, land transport, aviation, maritime issues, and more. If there is new legislation on such issues in the EU, we negotiate on behalf of the Netherlands and represent the Netherlands in meetings with other Member States, the European Commission or the European Parliament. We do so based on instructions we receive from The Hague, where the Dutch position is decided in consultation with parliament. Our job is to try to make sure that the Netherlands can be happy with the final outcome of the legislation.