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Projects and Grants

Research projects & grants

Building up on internal and external expertise, ACE’s brief is to generate policy-relevant research and knowledge transfer on politics and policy, thus impacting upon thinking, behaviour, practice, and policy in specific user groups. To live up to these expectations, ACE builds upon internal and external expertise, on high-quality partnerships with Universities in Europe and elsewhere. ACE exemplifies the central elements of the University’s Aston 2012 and Aston 2020 strategy documents: to be recognised for excellence in European politics and policy in a way that delivers real solutions for local and global chall
enges. ACE’s research strategy therefore has the following eight key aims:
  1. To consolidate and grow an interdisciplinary research environment
  2. To maintain and increase the quality and quantity of high-level research in order to enhance performance in REF 2014 and beyond
  3. To support the development of researchers
  4. To increase external research income
  5. To develop a stronger interdisciplinary and international research network based on partnerships with European and international institutions and funding bodies
  6. To increase the number of research students
  7. To encourage research with impact for the local, national and international communities (given ACE’s strategic situation at the interface between academia and the policy world)
  8. To demonstrate our research excellence to the outside world


Projects


Grants:

In addition to the substantial internal investment from the University, attracting external research income is and will remain a major priority for ACE. Major grant successes include:

  • An ESRC grant award (£22,464) on Poland’s influence in the EU (Copsey, 2009-10).
  • A £70,622 ESRC Grant to investigate religious lobbies in the EU (Leustean, 2010-11).
  • £52,000 from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to research the changing nature of Christian Democracy in Germany (Green and Turner, 2010-11).
  • A £77,000 Leverhulme grant for a study on political leadership in the UK (Gaffney, 2012-14).
  • A tender, worth €480,000, to produce research reports and policy advice for the EU’s Committee of the Regions (Copsey and Rowe, 2010-14: see under 2010 for more information).
  • £58,500 from the DAAD for a comparative study of migration policy in the UK and Germany, plus £34,000 from the FCO for a high-level policy seminar (Green, 2012-13).
  • The DAAD awarded ACE a further £48,000 for a project entitled Reframing German Federalism (Rowe and Turner, 2012-13).
  • A Jean Monnet Module entitled 'Crime- Terror Nexus' (30,000€) (Farrand-Carrapico and Wochnik- Obradovic, 2015- 2018).


Earlier research grants and projects  

2013/2014:

Jean Monnet Chair in European Union Politics – Rethinking European Union Politics

In 2013, the Aston Centre for Europe was awarded a prestigious Jean Monnet Chair for a cutting-edge project entitled ‘Rethinking European Integration’. The grant was a natural progression following the funding for Jean Monnet Module on the EU and East Asia that was awarded to Uwe Wunderlich in 2011. The Jean Monnet chair-holder is Nathaniel Copsey, Head of Politics and International Relations and Co-Director of the Aston Centre for Europe. Anne-Claire Marangoni was appointed in October 2013 as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate. Also closely involved with the activities of the Chair is Yanna Ntampoudi, PhD Candidate at Aston University, working on European identity during the Eurozone crisis, using Greece as a case study. The award of the Jean Monnet Chair is one of the most prestigious external kitemarks in the area of EU studies, and comes with ca. €50,000 funding over three years.

The Aston Centre for Europe is one of the UK’s leading practically-focused institutes for the study of contemporary Europe. Within ACE/Politics and International Relations, the Chair delivers three research-led modules that are derived from the research project on ‘Rethinking European Integration’ and are available to students on all Aston University programmes (and indeed interested third parties, by prior arrangement with the Chair). The modules are as follows: (1) at level 1 for undergraduates, LP1016/LP1025 ‘Europe and the Making of the Modern World’, a political history of Europe since 1789; (2) for undergraduate finalists LP3008 ‘Central and East European Politics’; and (3) for post-graduate Masters-level students, ‘Rethinking European Integration’, which includes both a programme of external speakers and a negotiations simulation. The recruitment of Masters-level students is Europe-wide and the majority comes from France and Germany.
Through the Aston Centre for Europe, the Chair is host to a regular series of events, both at Aston and more widely across the EU. In October 2013, the Chair gave a keynote lecture at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia, on ‘Rethinking the European Union’. Dr Ian Robertson, BMW Board Member, and ‘the most influential Briton in the world automotive industry’ gave a lecture on 30 October 2013 on ‘Globalisation: A View from BMW’. In April 2013, the Chair is co-organising a lecture by Professor Anand Menon of Kings College, University of London, on ‘Europe in the World’ at Jawarahal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, in collaboration with Professor Rajendra Jain (Jean Monnet Chair in Delhi), the Journal of Common Market Studies Annual Review. Seminars on European affairs will also be given at the European Union Representation and at the Indian Congress of World Affairs. At Aston University, a number of seminars will be held in the first half of 2014 as part of the ‘Rethinking European Integration’ MA module. In June 2014, the Chair will co-organise together with the Jean Monnet Wider Europe Network an international conference on the External Relations of the European Union at the College of Europe in Natolin (Warsaw), Poland.

Click here for more information and to view the programme for the Jean Monnet module: 'Rethinking European Integration'.  

In 2014, the Chair’s major monograph entitled Rethinking the European Union: the future of the European integration project will be published by the Palgrave imprint of Macmillan. The book opens with the assertion that there is no time like the present to rethink the EU and European integration more broadly. Since the economic and financial crisis first began, there has been a steadily growing stream of comment and criticism about what the European Union should do to address our predicament. This torrent of negative opinions has undermined both the positivist idea of Europe as the most effective means of responding to social, economic and political challenges and the normative ideal of Europe as the world’s most advanced, effective and exciting experiment in international cooperation. What was more absent from this critical debate was a serious discussion of what the choices for Europe are or should be and this book attempts to contribute that aspect of the discussion. In brief, the purpose of this book is to take stock of the idea of Europe and the European integration process by analysing the process under four themes: identity, solidarity, legitimacy and sustainability. Its secondary aim is to look at the effects of the great crisis on European integration are and to rethink what the choices for Europe are in the changed circumstances of the 21st century.

Other outputs from the Chair in 2013–14 include two edited volumes, the Journal of Common Market Studies Annual Review of the European Union in 2012, which includes a keynote State of the Union article from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and the Journal of Common Market Studies Annual Review of the European Union in 2013, which will be published in August 2014, and includes a contribution from André Sapir on the state of the European economy, ten years after the publication of the influential Sapir Report.

The practical focus of research at Aston Centre for Europe is also illustrated by the partnerships with institutional actors. Aston Centre for Europe has been commissioned to draft a policy report examining how the European Union could be reformed. In the light of the on-going economic, financial and monetary challenges faced by the EU, the report aims to rethink European integration and to put forward some policy options for reform of the EU after the crisis. The project builds on a series of policy seminars convened to discuss the traditional pillars of European integration, identity, solidarity, sustainability and legitimacy. They do so by discussing, on a number of reports commissioned from academic experts, different thematic areas such as the CAP, immigration, the single market, environment and defence. In addition to the policy report – the main output from this project – the findings will be disseminated through a 10-point plan, which will be presented domestically to the UK’s cross-party parliamentary group on Europe as well as internationally.


Hold a second high-level UK-German policy seminar on migration – FCO

Prof Simon Green and Dr Christin Hess (ACE) have won £37,500 from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to convene a second high-level UK-German policy seminar on migration. The seminar will take place in Berlin in early 2014, and builds on a highly successful first seminar held in London in March 2013.

Wider Europe 

Wider Europe is an international and inter-disciplinary network of academics and practitioners with an interest in the European Union’s external policy and its impact on the EU’s European neighbourhood. The network aims: 

  • to foster international cooperative studies and analyses of EU external relations policies and political, legal and economic developments in the Wider Europe; 
  • to bring together academics and practitioners working in these areas, to ensure mutually beneficial learning; 
  • to contribute to a better understanding in the public policy field of EU external relations policy and the development of the Wider Europe. 

The network provides a forum for debate on policy-relevant issues by publishing reports and academic papers, and by organizing seminars and conferences. Members of the network also offer informed and independent advice to governments and international organisations engaged in shaping EU relations with its European neighbors.

The Wider Europe Network was established in 2003 with a Jean Monnet grant from the European Commission to the University of Sussex.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's UK-German Enchanced Engagement fund awarded Prof Simon Green £63,000 to convene a high-level workshop and develop research on migration policy in Britian and Germany.

Prof Simon Green and Dr Christin Hess (ACE) convened a successful high-level UK-German policy seminar on migration in London, 7-8 March. The seminar brought together 30 senior politicians, civil servants, academics and diplomats to compare approaches and options in migration policy. It was launched with a dinner at the German Embassy on 7 March for 60 guests, at which the Minister for Immigration, Mark Harper MP, was the keynote speaker.

The DAAD awarded €56,900 to Dr Carolyn Rowe and Dr Ed Turner for a project on Reframing German Federalism.

ACE has been awarded XXXX from the European Commission to hold another two conferences.

A further grant of XXXX has been awarded to ACE from the European Commission to host another two conferences.

Network Rationale

The revival of regional integration across the globe since the late 1980s has been remarkable, but it is rare to find sustained comparative work which puts the EU in a context with other global regions, rather than federal states. Partly, this is because scholars of non-European regions have often self-defined as IR/IPE experts at a moment when EU studies has gone through a comparative politics turn, considering the EU and EU studies as something  ‘other’ than their dependent variable. However, it is also because many EU scholars have interpreted the field’s comparative politics turn as a move away from IR. Thus, scholars interested in comparative regionalism including the EU often find themselves on the margins of both communities, lacking iterated access to funding and networking opportunities.

This network aims to help fill this gap by bringing together an interdisciplinary, international group of scholars to debate three core themes, building on the small if growing body of work which has begun this process. We maintain that scholarship on other global regions help us understand what is unique to the EU, and what is a general attribute of contemporary global regions. We also maintain that EU studies and the EU itself can be seen as a laboratory whose experiments with a highly institutionalised form of regional integration generates useful evidence and concepts for scholars of regions like ASEAN or MERCOSUR. The network will expand by gradually involving other researchers, in order to foster collaborative research endeavours.

Themes

The themes to be debated over the lifetime of the network have been selected because they speak to core issues in regional organizations and their role in the global political economy, but are also all under-explored in a comparative context:

  • ‘Awkward’ States in Regional Integration: What drives some states to join regional organizations while frequently appearing ill at ease with their choice? How are these states managed by their partners?
  • Balancing Economic and Political Integration: Beyond the EU, it is common for political integration (of various kinds) to precede economic integration; why and how do different regions strike different balances between the economic and the political? And how sustainable are these different balances in the age of global capital?
  • Interregionalism: How does the EU manage its relations with other regions? And do other regions, such as ASEAN or Mercosur, develop more fruitful interregional relations than the EU?
  • Opposition to Regional Integration: What are the motives behind resistance? How do these differ between different types of actors, between different national context and between different regional contexts? Do particular forms of regional integration generate more resistance?

Contact

We are welcoming potential collaborators. Please get in touch with the network coordinators:

  • Alfred Tovias, Hebrew University: mstovi@mscc.huji.ac.il
  • Bart Gaens, University of Helsinki: bart.gaens@helsinki.fi
  • Clarissa Dri, Bordeaux: clarissa.franzoidri@scpobx.fr
  • David Camroux, Sciences Po-CERI : david.camroux@sciences-po.fr
  • Francis Baert, Ghent and UNU-CRIS, Bruges: fbaert@cris.unu.edu
  • Frank Mattheis, University of Leipzig: mattheis@uni-leipzig.de
  • Fredrik Söderbaum, UNU-CRIS and University of Gothenberg: fredrik.soderbaum@globalstudies.gu.se
  • Mario Telo, ULB: mtelo@ulb.ac.be
  • Mary Farrell, University of Greenwich: m.farrell@gre.ac.uk
  • Mikkael Mattlin, University of Helsinki: mikkael.mattlin@helsinki.fi
  • Nick Robinson, University of Leeds: n.robinson@leeds.ac.uk
  • Stefan Gänzle, University of Agder: stefan.ganzle@uia.no
  • Søren Dosenrode, University of Aalborg: sd@ihis.aau.dk
  • Timothy Shaw, University of the West Indies: timothy.shaw@sta.uwi.edu
  • Wolf Grabendorff, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung: wolf.grabendorff@fes.de
  • Xinning Song, UNU-CRIS: xsong@cris.unu.edu  
  • Xuan Loc, Aston University: doanx@aston.ac.uk

 

Exploring the Kosovan Regulatory Space: the Relationship Between Ethnicity and Regulatory Developments in the Energy Sector

How are regulatory developments shaped by ethnic, political and economic issues? We are interested in interrogating this research question through examining a critical case- energy regulation in Kosovo.

The Kosovan case is critical since a) the energy sector is peculiarly affected by inter-communal issues, apparently more than other network industries within the territory; and b) attitudes towards core regulatory goals (e.g. liberalisation) appear in Kosovo to be strongly correlated with ethnicity, which is not common in other regulatory contexts. Furthermore, developing an operational system for energy regulation in Kosovo is essential not only for domestic economic stability, but also for Kosovan accession to the EU and, importantly, for the longer-term prosperity and stability of Europe as a whole. The Kosovan case would provide rich data which would, more broadly, contribute towards a better understanding of regulatory processes and challenges in contexts including post-conflict contested states where ethnic groups may contest the regulatory space.

Objectives:

  • To combine analytical perspectives drawn from studies of regulation with those from studies of ethnic conflict, to provide a more comprehensive theoretical framework for analyzing regulatory space
  • To apply this novel theoretical framework to the context and content of regulatory developments in the Kosovan energy sector
  • To generate a detailed understanding of the relationship between factors traditionally highlighted in studies of regulation (such as independence from economic interests) and those highlighted by studies of ethnic conflict (such as executive independence), when explaining regulatory developments
  • To explore the comparative potential of the Kosovan regulatory space.

We aim to achieve these objectives by, first, mapping out the key elements of regulatory space within the chosen critical case study, and considering how these interact: who are the most influential actors, and how does the regulatory agency interact with them? To what extent does Kosovo’s contested statehood challenge regulatory processes (including those focused on promoting energy security)? Secondly, we will attempt to identify the strategies used by different actors to influence the regulatory process and their impact. Thirdly, we will try to ascertain to what degree these influences can be understood within an economic framework, as opposed to within the framework of studies of ethnic conflict.

If you are interested in this research topic or would like further information, please contact us as follows:

  • Dr Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik j.obradovic-wochnik@aston.ac.uk 
  • Dr Anneliese Dodds  a.dodds@aston.ac.uk
  • Dr Ahmed Badran  a.badran@aston.ac.uk

Jean Monnet Module

A Jean Monnet Module by Dr. Jens-Uwe Wunderlich 

Funded with support from the European Commission (Grant Number 2011-3259).

All content reflects the views only of the authors and presenters, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

The module is an advanced level course comparing the EU with East Asian visions of regionalism and analysing the political, economic and social relations between the EU, its member-states with East Asia (here defined as the ASEAN 10 plus Japan, North and South Korea, China and Taiwan). It is an interdisciplinary module and students will be exposed to the wide and diverse perspectives on international and interregional relations. The module draws from history, area studies, international relations, sociology, business and economics and comparative regionalism. It also calls upon the participation of a variety of external experts.

Plenary Lectures

Interactive Guest Lectures

DAAD - German Academic Exchange Service

Professor Simon Green and Dr Ed Turner have won a grant from the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) to investigate the nature of contemporary Christian Democracy with the example of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU).  
In an increasingly secular country, and in a world where economies are increasingly interdependent, it is an timely question whether Christian Democrats continue to pursue a distinctive policy agenda in such areas as family policy, economic policy or European policy, or whether they have become a slightly more centrist version of mainstream conservative parties.

The project will engage with both politicians and academics and details of our academic and dissemination events, as well as draft outputs, will be made available on this page.

The project runs from 1 May 2010 until 31 December 2011.

Dr Nat Copsey and Dr Carolyn Rowe have won a tender worth €480,000, to produce research reports and policy advice for the Committee of Regions. Enhancing the COR's role in EU decision-making, the Aston Centre for Europe has provided the Committee with a rapid response capability, allowing broader consultation of local and regional players and harnessing technical expertise. The most recent publications include: 

Copsey, N., Connolly, R., and Marangoni, A-C. (forthcoming) The Efficient Use of Funds under the IPA-II Regulation, Brussels: Committee of the Regions. 

Copsey, N. and Marangoni, A-C. (forthcoming) Local and Regional Authorities for a Successful Eastern Partnership Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. and Rowe, C. (2013) A Roadmap to Reform in Public Administration, Fiscal Decentralisation and Territorial Cooperation, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. and Rowe, C. (2012) The EU funds available for local and regional authorities from the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries – information guide, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. & Rowe, C. (2012) Developing Technical and Vocational Training – local authorities’ roles, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. & Rowe, C. (2012) Fostering Sustainable Tourism – local authorities’ roles, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. & Rowe, C. (2012) Contribution of local and Regional Authorities to the Development of the Eastern Partnership: Framework and Opportunities, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. & Rowe, C. (2012) The EU funds available for local and regional authorities from the Eastern Partnership countries, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. & Rowe, C. (2012) How to use EU Pre-Accession Funds: Guide for the Sub-National Authorities from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Copsey, N. & Rowe, C. (2012) How to use EU Pre-Accession Funds: Guide for the Sub-National Authorities from the Serbian Subnational Authorities, Brussels: Committee of the Regions.

Aston Centre for Europe has secured another grant of XXXX from the European Comission to host and organise two more conferences.

ESRC Small Research Grant: £70,622
Principal Investigator: Dr Lucian Leustean
1 January 2010 – 30 June 2011

Terminology:

Religious lobbies? Lobbying for religion? Is ‘lobbying’ the right term to use in relation to religion? Reaching a consensus on the terminology concerning the role of churches in the European Union and their dialogue with European institutions is a contested issue. Most religious communities in contact with European institutions dissociate themselves from the process of traditional lobbying practiced by other groups, preferring instead to consider themselves in a different category. It is a key task of this project to analyse whether the activity of religious communities can be labelled as traditional lobbying in the European Union and to find the most appropriate term.

This project investigates the activities of religious communities in Brussels in the wider context of interest representation. There is an extensive literature on interest representation in the construction of the European Union and this project contextualises the dialogue of religious communities with European institutions within existing academic scholarship.

Project Abstract:

Political controversies on the ‘Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe’ and disputes over religious symbols in the public sphere show that religion has become more visible in the corridors of European institutions. Religious communities are part of the EU bureaucratic system, and their presence in Brussels has increased dramatically in the last decade. Sixty-seven groups have now officially entered into dialogue with the European Commission and many of them have opened offices in Brussels.

This project investigates the mechanisms and prospects of religious representation at EU decision-making level. Through a comparative analysis of religious communities in Brussels, the project addresses the following questions:

  1. How do (trans)national religious communities approach European institutions?
  2. What are the rationale and the mechanisms of religious interest representation?
  3. How are religious values transposed into political strategies?
  4. And, how has the construction of the European Union been influenced by religious communities?

The project challenges the predominant perception that religious communities have had little impact on the process of European integration. It investigates the role of religious communities in the construction of the European Union by focusing on relations between religious policy practitioners and EU technocrats from the Second World War until today.

It draws on qualitative and quantitative data; interviews with religious policy practitioners and EU technocrats; unpublished archival material; official declarations of religious and EU bodies; national legislation on religion; codes of conduct; and the European Values Survey and the European Social Survey.

Conference:

The project will support a conference on ‘Does God Matter? Representing Religion in the European Union and the United States’ which will bring together academics and religious policy practitioners from both sides of the Atlantic. The conference has two aims:

  1. Firstly, it will investigate the ways in which various religious communities perceive the idea of a United Europe (from historical, sociological, political science and juridical perspectives).
  2. Secondly, it will examine the ways in which religious communities present their positions and influence political strategies in the European Union and the United States. 

A call for papers will be distributed soon and further details will be available on this website.

Contact: 

Dr Lucian Leustean welcomes enquires on this project by email at l.leustean@aston.ac.uk or by post.

ESRC Details:

This project is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the UK’s leading research and training agency in social sciences. ESRC Small Research Grant (RES-000-22-3821): £70,622 (Indexed Total Costs).

European Commission Grant

Aston Centre for Europe (ACE) has been awarded two sets of grants to the value of approximately €35 000 by the European Commission. The grants will be used to run four conferences over the next twelve months on the EU's policy agenda. 

Soft Power, Hard Choices: Where next for the EU's Neighbourhood Policy?


The first of these, entitled 'Soft Power, Hard Choices: Where next for the EU's Neighbourhood Policy?' will focus on the the EU's relations with its eastern neighbours. 

It will be held at the 
Aston Business School, in association with the Wider Europe Network and Media Contracta.

Others will follow in 2010 on green growth, the European Parliament elections of 2009 and the 20th anniversary of democratic change in Eastern Europe. 
Dr Nathaniel Copsey is the grant holder.

A project by Dr Nathaniel Copsey.

Poland is the largest of the Member States that joined the European Union in the enlargements of 2004 and 2007. With half the total population and economic weight of the accession countries, in some respects the eastern enlargement of the EU was a ‘Polish enlargement’. The expansion of the Union from a predominantly west European club of 15 Member States to a pan-European Union of 27 diverse Member States was expected to have a major impact on the governance, politics, policies and overall agenda of the EU – a core aim of CEELBAS is to investigate these changes. As the largest of the new Member States, much of the pressure for change was expected to come from Poland.

In consequence, the time is ripe for an in-depth consideration of the European aspect of Poland’s foreign policy, with a particular emphasis on Poland’s impact on the making of EU policy towards its eastern neighbours – identified as a major priority on the Polish government’s EU agenda.

Nathaniel Copsey's ESRC grant has been awarded for research focusing on the capacity of Member States to exercise power and influence in the EU by uploading their national policy preferences to the EU agenda. This project looks at the case of Poland and its eastern policy.

Funded by an Economic & Social Research Council grant of £22,464 (2007)