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Teaching Europe amidst crises

November 5, 2017
​Briitta van Staalduinen in EuropeNow

This interview was conducted by Briitta van Staalduinen, PhD Student in Government and CES Graduate Affiliate with Europe experts Vivien Schmidt, CES Local Affiliate, and Cathy Jo Martin. They discussed how teaching Europe has changed for them as Europe has dealt with a series of crises.

EuropeNow What first interested you about studying Europe and/or the European Union (EU)? How was European integration taught to you?

Cathie Jo Martin So, Vivien knows more about the EU than anyone I know. She was chair of the European Union Studies Association, for example. I know something about some European countries. I was chair of the Council for European Studies (CES) and know the national level better than the European level.

Vivien Schmidt But importantly, we both started out from the same place – from comparative politics. I focused on France first, but it became impossible to study France without understanding the EU. By the mid-1990s, it became increasingly clear to me that you cannot understand the national level without understanding the EU in a whole range of areas. So, the question of how European integration was taught to us – neither of us ever had it taught because it was before most people were interested.

Cathie Jo Martin Right. We knew about the European Economic Community but the Treaty of Maastricht happened in 1991 – we were already professors by then. So, the way I really learned about the EU was through the CES and talking to people there about what was going on.

Vivien Schmidt And in the 1990s, the study of European integration was basically focused on, “Who are the drivers of integration?” It was very much intergovernmentalists versus supranationalists in interminable debates that got nowhere. It was only in the early 2000s that the national and the EU are actually connected, with a move from European integration to Europeanization and that’s when I became much more interested. Studying the EU became more about the policy impact and issues of democracy, that is, the impact on the polity. But, then it also depends on what policy area you look at. If you look at the welfare state, that doesn’t come into EU negotiations until much later. In comparative politics many people didn’t actually get to the impact of the EU until the Eurozone crisis. And then all of a sudden, it’s very big.

EuropeNow There are many perspectives on what we can define as a crisis. What would you identify as the most pressing crisis that Europe faces today, either at the EU or at the national level? And how has this changed your teaching?

About the Author

​Briitta van Staalduinen

​Briitta van Staalduinen

Past Graduate Student Affiliate

Briitta van Staalduinen is an assistant professor of economics at Leiden University. She is a comparative political economist interested in understanding how occupational change and immigration shape ethnic and gender inequalities in ... More