Aston Centre for Europe (ACE)
A leading centre for research on European politics and society with real-world engagement at its heart
Reflecting the European strengths of Aston’s research culture including specialisms in individual states, ACE has since its launch in 2009 become a major centre for research in European politics and society and ensured the real-world applicability of that research through practitioner engagement. ACE promotes research on Europe and its constituent states and role in the world, and interfaces with stakeholders (e.g. policy makers, the public) and gives support to ACE’s researchers and students.
Ranked as the highest-placed centre outside London for research on Europe in the UK for Area Studies by REF 2014, in 2016 ACE became a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence. It is at the forefront of research on Europe and its states in the light of dramatic developments across the world: the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, the consequences of Brexit, the migrant crisis, and the rise of populisms in several European states and the challenges to politics and society of the Covid-19 pandemic.
One of ACE’s objectives is to bridge the gap between researchers and users. To that end, ACE has appointed a number of high-profile practitioner fellows who play a key part in generating impact, advance our public engagement agenda through facilitating access to our user groups, and provide external expertise on key research projects.
Honorary research fellows
Aston Centre for Europe’s mission is to generate policy-relevant research and knowledge transfer on politics and policy, thus impacting upon thinking, behaviour, practice and policy in a wide range of beneficiary communities.
To deliver on these commitments, ACE builds upon internal and external expertise, generated through high-quality partnerships with Universities in Europe and elsewhere, and with our diverse network of practitioner fellows. ACE delivers on the principal objectives of Aston’s research strategy: to achieve excellence in the analysis of European politics and policy in a way that delivers sustainable, impactful solutions for local and global challenges.
ACE’s research strategy therefore has the following key aims:
Project: Shifting Territorial Politics after the Pandemic in Germany and Beyond
Award: DAAD Research Grant – promoting German Studies in the UK and Ireland
Project Dates: September 2022 – December 2024
Principal Investigator: Dr Ed Turner
Co-Investigators: Dr. Caroline Gray, Dr. Carolyn Rowe, Dr. Davide Vampa
How – if at all – has the pandemic re-shaped relationships between national and sub-state tiers of government, and the activity of sub-state authorities, in Germany and other European countries? To address this question, the project assembles a major new international consortium, establishing a new international network of scholars and practitioners, with membership in the UK, Germany, Poland (at the Willy-Brandt-Centre for German Studies), and the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, and also involving experts on Spain and Italy. The network will meet (virtually and physically), have joint publication outputs and share expertise and data, both amongst its members, through academic publications and with the wider interested public. It will allow a view of changed territorial politics in Germany to be understood in the context of wider European comparison (specifically with the UK, Spain, Italy and Poland).
Principal Aim of Project
The pandemic has provided challenges for territorial relations between different tiers of government globally. These were clearly seen in Germany, as new modes of intergovernmental cooperation were developed and tested throughout the pandemic. Initially, co-operation between the federal government and the Länder at regular meetings of the conference of Minister Presidents (MPK) with the Chancellor led to agreements to align regulations across the territory. However, over time, variations in the views and political incentives of political leaders, as well as in levels of infection, gave rise to disagreements between politicians at different tiers of government and stalled implementation of measures that had been negotiated nationally.
Management of the pandemic and its effects has led to similar pressure on intergovernmental relations in other countries. Yet although many observers have focused on the different impact of the pandemic across countries, its “territorial” dimension has only been marginally explored, particularly from a truly comparative perspective. Yet the Coronavirus pandemic put “multi-level” governance systems under unprecedented pressure. It has forced public authorities to enforce regional and/or national lockdowns, manage localized clusters of infection, while protecting more demographically vulnerable areas, and coordinate healthcare services across regions (and in some cases across national borders) in order to avoid overcrowding of hospitals and intensive care units. The question of how, in the face of a crisis, decision-making power should be balanced between national and sub-national governments is not a trivial one and has important social, political and economic implications. The crisis sheds light on the strength and vulnerabilities of political systems, including territorial aspects, as well as shaping the way those systems will work in the future.
Birmingham Live Music (BLMP) research programme examines the impact of shifts in the globalized music economy and national level changes on localised cultural, social and economic actors from the perspective of Birmingham. Its aims are to inform the public, policy-makers, and the different stakeholders involved of these effects, along with best practices and possible solutions to the different challenges faced by the globalised live music industry on a local scale.
The programme aims at a detailed mapping of the live music ecosystem in Birmingham, deploying elements of the established ‘live music census’ methodologies (replicable surveys of audiences, musicians, venues and promoters, interview and observational data, stakeholder consultation) to produce tailored qualitative and quantitative data and recommendations in the Birmingham and West Midlands context, and contribute to the broader picture of the UK’s place in the global live music economy.
Established in 2002, the British International Studies Association (BISA) Working Group on South East Europe (the post-communist Balkans, Greece, Turkey and Cyprus) aims to become a space for debate and research on issues related to the security, political, economic, justice and social transformation and reconstruction of the region. The Western Balkan dimension of the group particularly engages with external state-building processes following the conflicts in the 1990s as well as issues related to the Europeanization, economic cooperation, soft security challenges and the place of the region in Europe's energy politics. The aim of this working group is to strengthen the network of scholars working on the abovementioned issues and to initiate a dialogue with policy-makers and practitioners interested in South East Europe. Future activities of the working group include joint panels at international conferences, specialized workshops and joint publications.
If you would like to become a member of the working group, or if you have any suggestions for the group, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Comments and Suggestions
If you have any comments or suggestions for the group, please contact Gemma.Collantes-Celador@city.ac.uk
Dr Danny Fitzpatrick has been awarded £4500 of Strategic Priority Funding by Research England to undertake a research project with the West Midlands Young Combined Authority. The project will co-produce a 2020 Youth Manifesto for the West Midlands, to coincide with the mayoral elections in May.
The research project, funded by the International Visegrad Fund, focuses on investigating the interests of the V4 countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) in shaping the future of EU-UK relations. It analyses the economic, political and perceptional factors driving these interests, and aims to provide academically sound evidence for V4 governments in conducting the exit negotiations, as well as formulating relations with the UK post-Brexit.
The project is led by the Aston Centre for Europe, and includes the following partners:Institute of World Economy, Corvinus University Budapest Department of Political Science, Comenius University Bratislava Institute of International Relations, Prague War Studies University, Warsaw
Matúš Mišík – Comenius University
Matúš Mišík, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. His main area of expertise is energy security within the EU. He also studies the role of perceptions within the EU decision-making mechanism. He is the author of Energy policy in the Enlarged European Union (IIR Prague, 2013, in Slovak) and Decision-making process in the European Union after the Eastern Enlargement (Comenius University Bratislava, 2016). He has published articles in Energy, Energy Policy, Geopolitics, Czechoslovak Psychology, Journal of Popular Culture, Comparative European Politics, Asia Europe Journal and Slovak Sociological Review.
András Tétényi – Corvinus University Budapest
Dr. András Tétényi is an assistant professor of economics at the Institute of World Economy of the Corvinus University of Budapest. He is Programme Managing Director for the International Economy and Business (IEB) Masters Programme and academic coordinator for the International Masters in Economy State and Society (IMESS) double degree programme between the University College London, and among others, the Corvinus University of Budapest. His research interest are in the field of official development assistance policies of the Visegrad countries and asylum policies of Hungary. He has published on the topic in the Journal of International Development.
This project is funded by the International Visegrad Fund, project no. 21640265.
The project began in May 2017, and ran for a year up to the end of April 2018. The policy report from the project was presented in workshops in Prague (13 March 2018), Bratislava (23 March 2018), Warsaw (13 April 2018) and Budapest (27 April 2018).
Read the full report here.
Balázs Szent-Iványi – Aston Centre for Europe
Dr Balázs Szent-Iványi is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University, Birmingham, UK, and also holds an Associate Professor position at Corvinus University Budapest, Hungary. Previously, he was a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow at the University of Leeds. His research focuses on the foreign aid and foreign direct investment policies of the Central and Eastern European countries, and has published on these topics in journals like the Journal of Common Market Studies, Europe-Asia Studies, the Journal of International Development, and Comparative European Politics . His latest book, an edited volume entitled Foreign Direct Investment in Central and Eastern Europe. Post-crisis Perspectives, has been published with Palgrave in 2017.
Vít Beneš – Institute of International Relations
Vít Beneš, Ph.D. is a researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and the editor in chief of the magazine International Relations (Mezinárodní vztahy ). He defended his PhD thesis at the Faculty of International Relations, University of Economics, Prague. He is the author of numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals (such as the Journal of Common Market Studies and Cooperation and Conflict , among others) and chapters in monographs on the topics of research methodology, international relations theory, EU enlargement and the European dimension of Czech foreign policy.
Tadeusz Chabiera - War Studies University
Tadeusz Chabiera, Ph.D., is a lecturer at the War Studies University, and a member of the Euro-Atlantic Association. He is an expert in the field of Polish foreign policy, security strategy and European Union affairs.
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme
Grant Agreement number: 789827
Acronym: GO Religioscapes — H2020-MSCA-IF-2017
This research project deals with the Greek and Greek-Cypriot migrant communities in Germany and Britain, particularly with reference to their religiocultural symbolic constellations found in the public sphere, which illustrate the particularities of their establishment and integration in the receiving country. As regards the Greek Gastarbeiter, they identified their communities with their parishes, as the church often functioned as head of community and a mediator between them and the state. The bulk of the Greek-Cypriot Commonwealth migrants on the other hand, found the Greek-Orthodox Archdiocese already established as well, and as they expanded and dispersed across the British Isles, so did the parishes, which, in both cases, have served as arks of culture and identity. In that respect, one observes the phenomenon of interwoven migrant and church narratives; in the lapse of time, community and church, being closely knit, jointly constructed their migrant narratives of de- and reterritorialisation, cultural adaptation and hybridisation, essentially their own distinct sense of being and belonging. The particularities of this constantly under construction identity are manifest in the architecture, hagiographical/iconographical themes, aesthetics and concepts of their churches, which, albeit within canonical specifications, deviate from the normative typology as it is graphically attested by the occurrences of the phenomenon thereof. It is typical, however, of the Byzantine hagiographic tradition to include and demonstrate the socio-political conditions of its time and place; and, those visual manifestations are part of a sociocultural reality as such, given that they possess a contextual dimension with reference to their symbolic content, their thematic endorsement and the appropriation of extra-ecclesiastical identity elements, but they are also an act and a medium of communication in their own right. It is therefore feasible to decode their aforementioned content and articulate the narrative that they convey.
The primary research data will be accessible as soon as the field research is completed, in line with the European Commission ‘Horizon 2020 Open Research Data Pilot and Data Management Plan’, the European Union ‘General Data Protection Regulation’, and the Aston University ‘School of Languages and Social Sciences’ Research Ethics guidelines.
[*] Georgios E. Trantas and Eleni D. Tseligka, ‘Where the Byzantinesque meets the Urbanesque: Architectural and Hagiographic Elements of Greek Orthodox Urban Reterritorialization in Germany’, Zeitschrift für Balkanologie, (52 (2), (2016), p.254
Lecturing Team: Dr Patrycja Rozbicka, Luke John Davies
The Aston EuroSim Module has two main aims:
Provide students with negotiation and rhetorical skills, as well as in-depth knowledge of the functioning of European Union (EU) institutions. It does so through the usage of negotiation simulations, based on the development of a unique community of learning (this module mixes final year undergraduate students and MA students) and a professionalising ‘learning by doing’ approach; Select and train students to take part in the largest and longest running EU negotiation simulation in the world, which is also called EuroSim. The latter has gathered annually, for the past 30 years, 250 students from 22 universities in Europe and in the US. As the only UK participant team in this highly competitive event, Aston University selects the 10 best students in the module to represent the country by providing them with its best expertise in negotiation, diplomacy and European affairs. As a result, students undergo a transformative experience enabling them to improve their self-esteem, social abilities and professional skills.
Contact: Dr Patrycja Rozbicka
The teaching approach at the basis of EuroSim: EuroSim distances itself from traditional teaching and learning methods and proposes a ‘learning by doing’ approach based on negotiation simulations. Instead of simply reading about negotiation skills, students develop and implement them in a specific negotiation scenario. This ‘learning by doing’ approach is based on the growing academic literature about the effectiveness of simulations in conveying complex knowledge thanks to its problem- based perspective. The same skills are still provided, but the role-playing element leads to the emergence of a new community of learning: the learning environment is entirely based on real life situations and documents, which promotes a more professionalising environment, as well as greater student involvement. The simulations are also recorded on video to allow students to learn from reviewing their performance. The learning strategy is complemented by high levels of student engagement through social media. The lecturers encouraged students to establish a Facebook page, as well as a Twitter account, which are used as part of communication and negotiation strategies.
Why fund the Aston EuroSim Module at a time when the UK’s relation with the EU is changing? Following the triggering of Art. 50, which officially kick-starts the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the UK has embarked on a complex and possibly long negotiation process to establish the basis for its future relation with the EU. Given the EU’s weight as a trade block and its geographical proximity, it is likely that the UK Government and UK- based companies will want to maintain an important level of exchanges with it. In order to do so, the UK will need a very large number of EU trained negotiators, working in the context of the civil service and of companies, who will be able to shape the new relation and ensure that national economic, political, cultural and social interests are safeguarded.
Aston University hopes to take its team for every upcoming EuroSim simulation. Till date, we are the only British team participating in the event and hope to shine during upcoming conferences which will gather students from over 22 universities across Europe and the United States.
Every year, 220 students takes part in the European negotiation simulation, which has been running for 32 years. At Aston, we are very excited to be part of this incredibly enriching experience. We were given a chance to first participate in 2016 simulation, when 9 of our students went to Antwerp to negotiate EU regulation on Asylum Seekers. Since then, every subsequent Aston EuroSim cohort has come back with awards and international recognition.
Given Aston University’s strong support for widening participation in Higher Education, we are striving to ensure our best students can take part in opportunities such as EuroSim. An important part of this effort is related to attracting the necessary funding to cover the travel and accommodation of students taking part in the international simulation.
We want Aston University students to go again and we need your help to make it happen! If you want to help, please visit our JustGiving page to make a donation.
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.
Principal Investigator: Dr Lucian Leustean, Aston University
British Academy Grant, 1 January – 31 December 2018
This project examines the relationship between forced migration, religious diplomacy and human security in Eastern Europe and Russia, as reflected in the post-1992 breakup of Yugoslavia, the post-2011 Syrian crisis and the 2014 Russian takeover of Crimea. It focuses on four areas: 1) the circulation of ideas on human security between religious and secular courts, monastic settlements, pilgrimage sites and educational establishments; 2) religious strategies in relation to violence, tolerance, transitory environments and resettlement; 3) religious support, protection and mechanisms towards displaced populations, and 4) religious channels of diplomatic engagement advancing human security. The project collects the first dataset on ‘Eastern Orthodoxy and Human Security’ and organises two workshops held by an interdisciplinary Network on ‘Religion, Diplomacy and Human Security in the Eastern Orthodox World’ which brings together academics and policy makers. It provides education materials to diplomats and policy makers on how to engage with religious actors in Bulgaria, Greece, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.
Principal Aim of Project
The project offers an understanding of the role of religious communities in fostering violence, survival, tolerance and resettlement, religious support, formal and informal types of diplomacy towards forced displaced populations.
Research QuestionsHow do Orthodox actors (national churches, religious institutions, national and internationally-affiliated organizations) and state bodies engage with human security in Bulgaria, Greece, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine? What are the mechanisms of Orthodox support towards forced displacement communities in these countries? How does forced migration impact upon religious practices, values and political structures? How do Orthodox actors engage in diplomatic relations with both religious and secular bodies? How does Orthodox diplomacy impact upon state relations in Eastern Europe and Russia and, most importantly, between Eastern and Western Europe?
The programme of each workshop will be designed by taking into account local expertise and by bringing together academics, civil society, mass media and governmental organisations.‘Religion and Migration in the Eastern Orthodox World’ in Belgrade (June 2018). ‘Religion, Migration and Social Change in the Eastern Orthodox World' in Kiev (September 2018).
1.Dataset on ‘Eastern Orthodoxy and Human Security’
During the first six months (1 January-31 May 2018) it will collect qualitative and quantitative data in Belgrade and Kiev. The interviews will be conducted in the capitals of these countries with official representatives of Orthodox churches and state bodies in charge of religious affairs. The areas of investigation are as follows 1) ideas related to human security among religious and secular courts, monastic settlements, pilgrimage sites and educational establishments; 2) violence, tolerance, transitory environments and resettlement; 3) support, protection and mechanisms towards displaced populations, and 4) diplomatic engagement advancing transnational alliances on security.
2.Academic and Public Policy Network on ‘Religion, Diplomacy and Human Security in the Eastern Orthodox World’
The Network will officially start on 1 January 2018. In the second part of the project (1 June-31 December 2018), the Network will assess in detail national case studies on the four themes of investigation and ensure dissemination and policy engagement in the region by organising two workshops:
The #IR_Aesthetics, funded by the Aston Centre for Europe, is a field research project investigating the stories of migration and the refugee crisis in Serbia, Macedonia, and Greece from inter-disciplinary perspective. It focuses on (1) political expression in marginalised communities through use of graffiti and music, (2) use of technology and social networks, (3) investigates everyday geographies of the refugee crisis, and (4) migration and trauma, and children in IR.
Research TeamAmanda Beattie (ethics and IR, lived experience of child migrants) Gemma Bird (visual aesthetics and narratives) Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik (space, political geography, informal settlements, refugee crisis)
For more information about the project, contact: Patrycja Rozbicka
Staff members responsible for the module:
Dr Helena Farrand- Carrapico
Dr Jelena Wochnik- Obradovic
The Jean Monnet Module awarded to Aston University in 2015 develops new teaching and policy engagement activities on the EU’s approaches to corruption and to the crime-terror nexus. Although Justice and Home Affairs is the fastest growing policy field the EU has known in recent years, there has been little emphasis on pedagogical activities that explore the European Union’s understanding of, as well as responses to, the intersection between corruption, organised crime and terrorism. The module is composed of taught lectures and seminars; academic and practitioner guest lectures; two study trips; innovative assignments including a mission negotiation, a briefing paper and an optional co- authored policy paper; social media presence; and the release of a free, public lecture series - the Aston Jean Monnet Lecture Series. The module has academic added value due to its unique content – the crime-terror nexus is an emerging debate in EU studies – and approach. First, the crime-terror nexus is not yet a major focus of postgraduate taught modules; however, the current global context and EU’s concern with issues such as maritime piracy, terrorism, cyber crime and their increasing intersections, gives urgency to the need to academically reflect on this phenomenon. The module is also unique in its delivery and assessment, the focus of which is practical implementation of academic and policy debates. Students will take part in a ‘Mission Negotiation’ and write a briefing paper, instead of a traditional essay. Their learning will be supported by integrated study trips, funded by the module. Equally important, the students will have the opportunity to co- author a real policy paper, under the supervision of the academic coordinators, to be submitted to a think tank or EU institution.
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:
The work of ACE has been supported by multiple income streams, with individual projects receiving funding from, among others:
ACE focuses on research collaboration, and regularly partners with a range of different organisations to deliver policy-focused events. These include:
ACE researchers regularly provide briefings to government ministers, shadow cabinet ministers and UK and overseas government officials. We have provided advice to the UK Government, EU institutions, EU Member State governments, and a US Congressional Committee, as well as to the private sector. ACE staff also engage regularly with the national and international media.