The Jean Monnet Chair project “BridgE” has the thematic focus and aim to help bridging the gap between the European Union and its citizens by enhancing active debates on the EU.
Despite the efforts of EU and national institutions as well as intermediate institutions and actors, research as well as opinion surveys diagnose a growing gap between what has been termed “EU elites” and EU citizens. The European Union has a legitimacy problem, support rates have been decreasing during the peak of the financial crisis, as the respective Eurobarometer data clearly show, and despite the economic situation improving, votes for populist, extremist, anti-EU and anti-democrat parties and movements are on the rise throughout the EU. At the same time, the Europeanisation of politics and decision making continues to impact and transform the national democratic systems of the member states.
The work programme for the Chair takes stock of this situation. The primary aim is to debate the EU with a) students and b) citizens that are neither engaged in EU-oriented civil-society organisations, nor in political parties, in order to bridge the gap between citizens and the EU.
In order to do so, teaching, citizen focus group discussions, public events, and research activities will be integrated. The results will deliver well-based findings about the sources of contemporary EU-criticism and be disseminated in public discussion events, academic conferences, and via publications directed at academics and EU practitioners in the sense of EU stakeholders, EU officials, and EU and national politicians. The work will help to bridge the gap between EU elites and average citizens.
In all this, a particular focus is set on MA students and young researchers, including them into the research process in teaching research seminars and additionally in offering them training courses in cooperation with Fulda Graduate School in the Social Sciences.
The work plan of the Chair follows three objectives (Teaching and Debating Europe, Networking and Communication, Dissemination) that are carried out in the following work packages:
Work package 1 – Teaching and Debating Europe
- Teaching/research seminars organised around citizen focus group discussions aim at debating Europe with students and citizens. BA, MA and Ph.D. students will be actively integrated into the research activities. They will be guided into carrying out a proper research on citizens opinions on the EU. The focus group discussions will allow for developing a broad understanding on the European Union’s perception and the reasons of citizen support or citizen distrust in and of the EU. All in all, understanding the background reasons of average citizen´s opinions on the EU will allow for a more nuanced assessment of the alleged gap between the EU´s elites and its citizens, and the ways to bridge it.
- In cooperation with the international Graduate School in the Social Sciences at Fulda University of Applied Sciences, Ph.D. training courses will be organised and offered to the participating Ph.D. students.
- A MA course will teach research methods and research design specifically directed at MA students in EU studies and with topics in EU studies. In their third (pre-thesis) semester it prepares them for presenting an exposé for their MA thesis and start working on it well prepared.
Work package 2 – Networking and Communication
BridgE will also become the nucleus for an accessible and inclusive community of discussion on the European Union where issues are debated critically with a wide range of views. It will transfer expert knowledge and research results into public debate and will enhance the level of public deliberation about the EU. The process of exchanging and debating enhances the legitimacy of the EU not only as a polity, but also as a policy-making process by regaining citizen’s trust in their ability to use political discussions to influence the policy-making process, including a wide range of actors.
Networking aims at connecting the Chair, students, other researchers, citizens as well as stakeholders, practitioners and EU and national politicians by several tools and activities:
- The Chair will have a publicly accessible website that presents the aims and rationale of the project, announces news and events, publishes reports on the events and presents the most important research findings. The website will be immediately set up upon beginning of the project.
- A more specific and password protected online platform is the basis for a) uploading the results of the teaching research seminars and the analyses, and also b) for a comment and discussion platform that connects citizens, stakeholders, students and the Chair.
- Citizens, stakeholders, practitioners and EU and national politicians will be invited to regular debating events.
- Panels at international conferences will be organised to further connect the Chair with the international academic community.
Work package 3 – Dissemination
Besides the activities above, the results will be disseminated via the following channels:
- Relaunch of the Europe Certificate programme directed at non-social-science students from all faculties at Fulda University of Applied Sciences under the applicants´ direction.
- A concluding conference serves at discussing the results of the teaching research seminars against the state of the art in the discipline and with practitioners.
- Presentations at the major international conferences in EU Studies and Political Science (IPSA, EISA, ISA, CES, ECPR, UACES) are carried out.
- International academic publications.
- Publications directed at practitioners.