CEU Vienna campus - photo by Alexander Chitsazan

Spotlight on CIVICA’s focus area "Europe Revisited"


Associate Professor of International Relations Xymena Kurowska from Central European University (CEU) and fellow researchers unpack CIVICA's thematic group "Europe Revisited," which tackles topics such as multilevel governance of migration, constitutional resilience, EU and the world, green values and green economy, and interdisciplinary approaches in research.

Divided into four thematic groups, CIVICA’s Work Package 6 (WP6) focuses on joint research activities. With key topics for our time, the themes—Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century; Societies in Transition and Crises of Earth; Europe Revisited; and Data-Driven Technologies for the Social Sciences—will be implemented by a design team consisting of scholars from across the alliance.

In continuing our series illuminating  each focus area, we spoke with Associate Professor of International Relations, Xymena Kurowska, from Central European University (CEU), who leads the Europe Revisited theme.

“We have lawyers, economists, political scientists and people who work in the humanities in this group, and we’ve had a lot of discussions about the contradictions and ambivalences that the European Union (EU) is facing these days,” comments Kurowska. She explains further that, “Each of the topics we've formulated contains an awareness of such critical tensions and, since the scholars involved are working with interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches, we address the topics from different angles.”

The Europe Revisited theme is currently working with five organising topics regarding the EU: multilevel governance of migration, constitutional resilience, EU and the world, green values and green economy as well as interdisciplinary approaches in EU-focused social science and humanities research. Kurowska notes that aspects of migration, as well as environmental and constitutional topics in particular, offer transversal lines of engagement across thematic groups – particularly with Democracy in the 21st Century, and Societies in Transition and Crises of Earth. To that end, another aim is to reflect methodological and substantive diversity in research across partners, and not to conduct work in siloes.  

The first area of focus, multilevel governance of migration, entails research interests which concern the multitude of societal, political, and economic challenges connected to the migratory flows within the EU and to the EU, and how forms of governance across all levels of EU societies may respond to these challenges. “We are particularly interested in the tension between transnational solidarity and polarisation - the ambition to be inclusive and then on the other hand to polarise on the question of difference in the EU, and how racialisation has affected these developments,” comments Kurowska. As a dimensional topic, the group welcomes questions dealing with issues of migration as well as individual researchers and research centres that are interested in the area.

The second topic, which is considered a flagship area for the group, is constitutional resilience in the EU. “The very concept of resilience gives a fresh angle to this topic. Resilience is both a popular term these days and one that can be criticised, but basically we are interested in the question of how the EU bounces back from all the shocks that it has been exposed to in the last period, particularly institutionally,” notes Kurowska. In addition to institutions, the scope concerns legal order and disorder in the contemporary EU and how the constitutional structure responds to current challenges of the EU’s complex (dis-)integration process. The politics of the rule of law as well as the role of courts in EU integration also inform this research area. 

On the next topic, EU and the world, Kurowska says, “We are interested in looking into the tension between global economic, digital and geopolitical aspirations and the striving toward strategic autonomy, which is part of EU foreign policy today, but also doing so under the conditions of interdependency, renewed global rivalry and the impact of globalisation and de-globalisation.”

The topic includes questions of decoupling of global value chains, local EU economies, the impact of digitalisation on European societies and the EU’s leadership in the global regulation of the internet. The interest lies in surfacing ways for the EU to become a more effective version of the governing body, rather than repeating old mistakes. Kurowska adds, “It's a question of the EU's ambitions and constraints structurally and economically, and also how it engages in terms of ideological legacies.”

The fourth key area for the Europe Revisited theme - green values and green economy in the EU - is concerned with the relationship between environmental values and economic transformation in EU societies. Group member and Professor of Economics at Bocconi University, Gianmarco Ottaviano, comments on the EU’s movement to a green economy: “There will be a transition and an adjustment to new types of jobs and regulations, and at the same time, some traditional jobs and occupations may be lost to the green transition. Therefore we are looking at the market consequences of the green transition and how to best handle the possible cost of adjustment.” Additionally, the intersection between the green transformation and the restructuring of social policies and social space is part of this topic.

The final focus is a methodologically-oriented topic – interdisciplinary approaches in EU-focused social science and humanities research – which, according to Kurowska, aims to develop a sustainable, creative and rigorous methodology. The group will be working with senior researchers across partner institutions, and also hopes to foster exchanges among doctoral researchers. “It's a true example of how this type of interdisciplinary research can be initiated and hopefully taken forward,” she notes.

Speaking more broadly to the potential of CIVICA’s structure, Ottaviano comments, “It is clearly the nature of the CIVICA network to come up with proposals that will address key issues in particular about the EU from the perspective of social sciences, and together as a team with various specialisations. I think the competitive advantage of a network like this is to leverage such collaboration.” Moving such collaborative work forward, the Europe Revisited group is currently starting “snowball seminars” in which a group of researchers share thinking that can evolve collectively.

“Work Package 6 is not just about research projects, but also designing a framework for having workshops and conferences related to Europe across CIVICA,” Ottaviano comments, highlighting that CIVICA is also coordinating the creation of common syllabi and jointly-taught courses integrating the various institutions as a way to align competencies of students and faculty, and provide exposure to the institutional environments that characterise different countries. “The backdrop of the European Union has changed a lot so it's good timing for the CIVICA initiative to address issues and come up with ideas that will bring forward the entire project of the EU.” 

Written by Julie Potter (CEU)

Photo credit: Alexander Chitsazan