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European Studies Summer School 2016: what is Brussels talking about this year?

From Thursday, I will again teach a 2-week European Studies intensive course here in Munich, with students from China, South Korea, Jordan, India, Canada and different EU countries.

When I taught the course for the first time in 2014, I was just back from living in Brussels where I had worked for the EU Office of Transparency International, fresh after the European elections and with Jean-Claude Juncker just selected as designated Commission President. At that time, there was no POLITICO Europe around, so I mainly lived on my own experience of EU politics and what EU-focused research could provide.

Last year, I produced a Wordle of all POLITICO Europe Playbook newsletters of July 2015, and as you can see below, Greece was still very high on the agenda (most of you might not even remember…), before August and September became the months in which migration turned out to be the EU mega-topic for the rest of the year. I made my students read the newsletter every day, and it actually generated some interesting discussions at the start of each session.

PoliticoJuly2015

Wordle.net-generated word cloud with the top 200 words from July 2015 POLITCO Europe newsletters, with the final parts (birthdays, thanks, sponsor message etc.) removed.

Ahead of this year’s class, I did the same type of word cloud again, and it turns out that Brexit, the Commission and “President”-ial politics (both Juncker and Trump-Clinton, I guess) have been dominating the July newsletter. Migration has almost disappeared again from the political attention – you find it just below “also”, as if “also migration” might suggest that, after Brexit, it’s just one of many issues again.

Wordle.net-generated word cloud with the top 200 words from July 2015 POLITCO Europe newsletters, with the final parts (birthdays, thanks, sponsor message etc.) removed.

Wordle.net-generated word cloud with the top 200 words from July 2016 POLITCO Europe newsletters, with the final parts (birthdays, thanks, sponsor message etc.) removed.

Still, this year’s schedule of the summer programme, I’ve added one session on theories of European disintegration followed by a session on EU referenda. When I proposed the programme, I did not yet know the results of Brexit, so I’ll also take a look at some of the other referenda that have shaped EU politics (like the ones in France and the Netherlands in 2005).

I also upgraded the session on justice, home affairs and migration to a double session on migration and Schengen to reflect the events of last year and the events still unfolding. And I keep a strong focus on EU lobbying, as this was something students have been very interested in in past years (and it remains a major issue in the Brussels bubble).

What is different this year to the past two years is that my own research focus has moved on to the UN system (as you can see on this blog), so I feel I have much more distance to EU matters and look at them with a much broader angle than I used to do – which I hope is a good thing!

So, as in the past two years, I’m very much looking forward to this course as I’m (re-)learning as least as much in the preparation and execution of the course as (I hope) my students do during the coming two weeks. Thanks to the multi-cutural group, I also have to look at EU politics from a different angle than what I get from my EU bubble social media stream every day, so I may end up learning even more!

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