Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Introducing Ideas on Europe

I’ve been a bit quiet over the last few weeks, largely thanks to the real world getting in the way.

Ideas on EuropeOne of the major projects I’ve been working on, however, is now in a pre-launch beta phase, and so can be officially revealed: Ideas on Europe – a new group blog that I’ve been developing in partnership with UACES, the University Association for Contemporary University Studies.

Describing itself as a place for “informed analysis, comment, dialogue and debate on all things European”, Ideas on Europe is intended as a non-partisan, multi-national, not exclusively political portal for academics working in the field of European Studies – taking in politics, economics, history, sociology, public policy, culture, geography and more – to engage with those of us outside the ivory towers as well as those within.

At the moment we’ve got nearly 40 contributors on board – a number that’s set to rise considerably – ranging from postgrad students to named chairs at high-profile universities. Some of them have begun to make their first forays into blogging, with posts from Jaani Kaerne (from the University of Tartu in Estonia), EUoplocephalus (from the University of Surrey in the UK), and (in German) Vanessa Buth – as well as a few from me – leading the way.

Among even this initial contributor base, there is a broad range of expertise and experience – with blogs dedicated to subjects like welfare, migration, security, energy, north Africa, and education, as well as more generalist contributors. Now that the site is going public, we should start to see a bit more activity from these early adopters.

Many of the areas we aim to end up covering are currently sorely under-represented in the world of Euroblogging – not to mention the relative lack of academic contributors to the various online debates, most of which are currently dominated by a combination of enthusiastic amateurs and professional political types – so I very much hope that those of us who’ve been active in this section of the internet give the site and its contributors our support, encouragement and advice as it starts to get off the ground over the next few months. Not least because the vast majority of our contributors have never blogged before – nor, indeed, taken part in online discussions.

I’ve already answered some questions about Ideas on Europe’s aims and intentions over at Kosmopolito (which now has its own presence on the new site) and also at Blogactiv, but naturally enough, I’m happy to answer any more that anyone may have here.


  1. It’s an interesting idea, but is it the plan that only academics will contribute to it? — Are other people not capable of “informed analysis, comment, dialogue and debate”?

  2. Of course other people are capable of being intelligent and informed – and yes, non-academics are welcome (though there is a small vetting process for contributors in an attempt to maintain standards) – but the initial aim is to encourage academics to take part in the debate, which is something they have been fairly reluctant to do up to this point.

    Academics are constantly attending conferences about the EU and Europe as a whole, writing papers about all aspects of policymaking – and even Euroblogs, as I’ve been interviewed a number of times now by postgrads doing research – and yet us non-academics never get to see the fruits of their research and analysis. Plus, a lot of the time, if we do get to see their findings, they’re written in tediously impenetrable academic jargon.

    So, the point for me is to enable greater access to in-depth research on Europe (ideally broken up into bite-sized chunks), and to break down some of those barriers between academia and the real world. Non-academics can naturally also come up with interesting research and analysis – but most non-academics who are conducting such research are already keen to bring it to a wider public, so are not the first priority to get on board.

  3. Hello!

    What a useful and informative introduction!

    And thank You for mentioning my name in the introduction!

    I just have to say that the University of Tartu is in ESTONIA, not in Finland as seen from the text of the introduction, although Estonia and Finland are neighbouring countries, I have studied in the University of Helsinki, and the universities exchange lecturers.

    I have been UACES member in 2003 (or 2004) and when I read that UACES is starting with a group blog on ideas on Europe, it seemed a good idea to have a kind of academic debate on similar or related issues.

  4. Whoops! Not sure how that happened – geographical cock-up now fixed!

    I’m hoping the site will prove useful for all concerned. From my point of view I’m looking forward to some better-informed discussion, and for those in academia it’s hopefully going to prove a useful place to exchange ideas, make contacts, and engage with the wider world.

    Fingers crossed…

  5. Do we need a load of academics having any more say into the way this project is going ? Will it bring the EU closer to the ordinary Joe or will the gap between intellectuals and rulers grow ever wider ?

  6. Sorry, the above should read :intellectuals, rulers versus the people .

  7. Sorry, Robin, but I’m rather confused. How does a bunch of academics blogging about Europe (note: not just the EU – and also not just politics) give them any “say” into the future of the European Union?

    And where did I say that this had anything to do with bringing the EU closer to the ordinary Joe? It’s designed to bring academics closer to the rest of us. That’s about it.

  8. To Robin,
    This is exactly what I was trying to say in my today’s post – what else could one know in order to bring the EU closer to people.

  9. Nosemonkey,

    What`s the point of it then.?

    Jaanika Erne,

    I dont think the EU, in the way it is structured, can get close to the people. Unless there is more democracy and accountability introduced, which may possibly mean more federalisation. This of course is an anathema to a EUrosceptic like me.

  10. Robin, it helps if you y’know, read what’s been written. Then you’d know what the point is.

    Just for you, to repeat:

    “the point for me is to enable greater access to in-depth research on Europe (ideally broken up into bite-sized chunks), and to break down some of those barriers between academia and the real world”

    Even shorter version: It’s about increasing access to knowledge, simply for the love of learning. There is no other agenda.

    The point for individual contributors will of course be different, depending on their research interests and personal preferences. But that was the initial intention behind the project, and what I approached UACES with to secure their involvement.

  11. So will it be basically EUrophile or EUrosceptic ?
    Will it be be for anyone to access it and will it help us with any problem viz-a-viz the EU, or will it basically conclude that us proles just dont understand the project ?

  12. It’ll be both europhile AND eurosceptic – contributors from both sides will be taking part. It’ll also be neither – because there will be contributors who don’t fit into either camp, and also contributors who will not be discussing the EU at all.

    And yes, anyone can access it (it’s on the web, so no surprises there). As for what EU-related problems it might “help us with”, I have no idea. Depends on the research interests of the contributors, I suppose.

    Some contributors will be looking at the EU. Some of those will be looking at the practicalities of how the EU functions. It’s entirely possible that some of them may come up with suggestions for reform.

    But Ideas on Europe is about Europe, not the EU. As you eurosceptics are so fond of pointing out whenever anyone accuses you of being anti-European, Europe and the EU are not the same thing.

    The EU falls within its remit, and will doubtless be discussed, but it’s just one part of what the site’s about. It’s not even a political site – though politics again falls within its remit.

    So to try to categorise it by such narrow, politically highly-charged terminology is frankly just silly. Especially as it’s only just getting going, so it’s impossible to tell what it’s final character is going to be. I came up with the idea and have helped to get the site off the ground, but I’m not going to dictate to the contributors what their opinions should be, even if I could.

  13. But why about the continent of Europe ?
    it`s not as though all the countries are close or share the same characteristics.
    A study of the Anglosphere would be better for us, surely ?

  14. UACES. The University Association of Contemporary European Studies.

    The clue’s in the name.

    If you want to set up a group blog looking at the Anglosphere, feel free – it could be an interesting exercise to see if there’s anything more than the language and Empire to bind us all together. But it’s not something I’m overly interested in. You may as well ask me why I haven’t set up an academic group blog on neuroscience or cartography.

  15. OK, if you are so committed to Europe, it would be interesting if there is anything more than just sharing the name of the landmass.
    I`m not saying we would be in the Anglosphere, any more than Rome was in the Holy Roman Empire.

  16. Nosemonkey, this project actually sounds a lot more interesting than I thought it was going to.
    I don’t mean to damn with faint praise, just that I’d had experience of UACES and hadn’t been terribly impressed. In part that was because the practitioner element that they mention had seemed to be so far behind the lovely theoretical thinking bit that they all seemed so keen on (whether phile or sceptic or neither). Of course that my be because practitioners tend to be too busy getting on with the job to postulate on the theorietical underpinning of what they are doing.
    Assuming that the criteria’s not to rigorous I look forward to having a go at contributing.
    Good to see my alma mater involved too…

  17. “it could be an interesting exercise to see if there‚Äôs anything more than the language and Empire to bind us all together.”

    Certainly a lot more than binds us to Europe. A shared legal system for a start and far closer cultural ties not least of all because of that shared language which you are so quick to dismiss.

    This has nothing to do with empire and I believe you only include that in an attempt to portray opponents in a derogatory light. Certainly there is far more ‘Empire’ about the EU than about anything the Eurosceptics desire.

    Unlike others I think your new group is a good idea. There should never be criticism of people voluntarily coming together to learn, discuss and share ideas. So more power to it.

    What does concern me is that the fundamental principles of such a group may be based upon a set of false or at least debateable assumptions – such as your oft stated belief that nationhood is a bad thing and that supranational organisations such as the EU are desirable – which direct its views and the course of the debate.