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The Aston Centre for Europe: rethinking European integration

At no time since the immediate post-Second World War period has there been more discussion about what the choices for Europe are or should be.

At the heart of all the research undertaken in the Aston Centre for Europe lies the notion of rethinking European integration from the bottom up, without being afraid to challenge long-ingrained theories or to ask difficult questions.

The idea of Europe and the ideal of Europe

There is no time like the present to rethink Europe. Since the economic and financial crisis began, there has been a steadily growing stream of comment and criticism about what the European Union should do to address our present predicament. This has been increasingly coupled with criticism not only about the way the European Union has responded or not responded to the crisis, but also about the whole nature of European construction that has touched on both what could be called the idea of Europe and the ideal of Europe. At no time since the immediate post-Second World War period has there been more discussion about what the choices for Europe are or should be.

The crisis of confidence also stems from the material problems that the great crisis of
capitalism has brought to European prosperity - two separate but equally threatening
phenomena. The first and the more prosaic of the two is our ageing society, for which
European states are still not fully prepared - even though the consequences of a change in
the balance between the economically active and the retired have been known about since
at least the mid-1970s. The second crisis is existential in nature and far less predictable
both in its timing and its effects and comes from the potentially ruinous effects of climate
change. These will alter radically our perceptions about what kind of lifestyle is desirable or even possible for humankind. Thus Europe itself and the wider context of Europe’s place in the world are changing at a rapidly increasing pace.

The Aston Centre for Europe aims to assess what these conundrums mean for European
integration and Europe’s place in a globalised world. In particular, four mainstream
challenges for Europe are:

  • Identity - focusses on the question as to what extent Europeans feel connected to
    one another through their shared membership of a political community

  • Solidarity - which in part is the degree to which Europeans support the pooling of
    resources in a common pot for redistribution within their political Union, a question of
    crucial importance during the recent agonies of the Eurozone

  • Legitimacy - the extent to which Europeans feel that the community institutions have the necessary democratically given right to govern them

  • Sustainability - Europe’s role as a beacon for low carbon living and the development of new, greener technologies.

At the heart of all the research undertaken in the Aston Centre for Europe lies the notion
of rethinking European integration from the bottom up, without being afraid to challenge
long-ingrained theories or to ask difficult questions. The Centre’s research, by its nature, has a practical application and an excellent track record in this area, providing advice to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, HM Treasury, European institutions, international aid donors and private enterprise. The Aston Centre for Europe is a bridge-building organisation that is always looking for new partners and opportunities, and offers considerable expertise on France, Germany, Poland, the Balkans, Russia and Eastern Europe.

For more information visit the Aston Centre for Europe webpages or download issue 2 of Aston Advances.

Aston Centre for Europe gif

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