EU students set for key role in shaping the future of Europe

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Series Details Vol.7, No.39, 25.10.01, p15
Publication Date 25/10/2001
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Date: 25/10/01

By Simon Coss

THERE HAS probably never been a better time to consider taking an EU studies course.

With the European Union currently going through some of the most profound changes in its 57-year history, students interested in EU integration have a unique opportunity to play a key role in shaping the debate over Europe's future.

European Commission President Romano Prodi and his colleague Viviane Reding, who heads the institution's directorate-general for education and culture, have both recognised the vital contribution the academic world can make to the EU reform process.

In a recent open letter to the hundreds of professors running courses backed by the Union's Jean Monnet programme - which promotes European integration studies - the two summed up their joint views in no uncertain terms. "We are convinced that the privileged place that you occupy within the academic world will enable you to help us to identify the principal guidelines for the future of Europe and the European Union," they said.

The Commission stresses that it is keen to sound out the views of universities and further education establishments. In 2004, EU leaders are set to get together for a major summit during which they will have to agree on a whole range of issues that will determine how the Union develops over the coming decades. Key among these issues will be questions of institutional reform.

Experts say these matters must be resolved if the Union is to keep working after it expands to take in up to 13 new member countries - Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Malta and Turkey.

These technical issues include major matters such as the size of the European Commission, the number of Union laws that can be adopted by qualified majority votes and the relationship between national legislatures and the European Parliament. But Union leaders also need to tackle the equally important, if less tangible, problem of bringing the EU institutions closer to the Union's citizens.

For despite spending millions of euros every year on public relations and information exercises, 'Brussels' is still perceived by many European citizens as being remote, bureaucratic and ultimately having little real connection with everyday life.

However, the Commission genuinely hopes and believes that the academic world is able to offer innovative solutions to both the technical and political problems which the Union faces. What all of this means in practice is that those students now embarking on European Union studies courses over the coming year will very quickly find themselves playing an active role in a lively and heated debate over the future of nearly 30 countries. To put it another way, European studies is certainly no spectator sport and anyone considering studying

Union integration should be prepared to dive into the thick of the action from the very first day.

  • Next March, European Voice will be organising an academic fair in Brussels, at which students will be able to find out exactly what kinds of European studies courses are on offer.

Article forms part of a supplement on European studies.

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