“Europe: from nation states to the state of nations”
The main aim of our research is to study various aspects of European integration, in particular, with the emphasis on the normative integration of Europe, public policies of Europe, and Europe’s external relations. We also examine the key issues of European integration in a historical setting, to analyse the separated Europe of the past and historical evolutions in different issue areas. Thus, we will study both current integration of Europe and their historical background.
The research programme is an interdisciplinary one. The faculty and the associate faculty of the Centre are doing research in historical, political, economic and legal aspects of European integration. Although similar research in different academic disciplines has been done in the West since a long time ago, an interdisciplinary approach to this question is rare in China. As an interdisciplinary research centre, the Centre is particularly suitable to organize this type of research. Moreover, the Centre will make sure the achievements of the research activities shall be incorporated into the relevant teaching programmes of the Centre as mentioned earlier.
The general theme of our research is carried out by the following four specific parts of research (from historical evolution of Europe to current European integration): the rise and development of modern states and capitalism in Europe, European constitution and the normative integration of Europe, comparative public policy in Europe, and European external relations. These four parts of research are inter-connected. Research on the rise and development of modern states and capitalism in Europe provides a foundation for understanding how the current European integration comes about, and the next three parts of research are all about important aspects of European integration. Research on European constitution and the normative integration of Europe is built on the understanding of European historical evolution and focuses on the construction of European identity for current integration; identity construction and conflict are also important for us to understand the making of public policy in Europe, which is the next part of research. How to coordinate different political, economic and social interests in the process of policy making is a central theme in this part of research. Finally, research on European external relations completes the quest for European integration by studying the impact of external links on the construction and conflict of European identity.
Research activities include fieldwork, archive research, regular group discussions, seminars and talks, writing working papers, journal articles and monographs, and organizing an international conference (see the action plan). The following is a more detailed description on the components of the research activities:
1. Rise and development of modern states and capitalism in Europe and their implications for European integration
This part of research aims to provide a comprehensive study on European modernization process and its implications on European integration. Scholars from different academic backgrounds will study historical, political, economic and legal aspects of the process and its implications. The key research questions we will ask in this part of research are: how and why did Europe make the great transformation? How did international and domestic political system evolve? What are the main causes of capitalist development? How did the idea of Europe change and evolve? How was modern legal system built? Although our research focus is Europe’s past, we want this part of research to speak to the present situation. First, we want to know the historical background of European integration, i.e. how did Europe become what it is today? Obviously this will help people in China understand European integration better. Second, the current stage of political, economic and social development in China bears certain resemblances to the early transformation of Europe. A detailed study of the rise of Europe can help China understand and deal with its current problems better.
2. European constitution and the normative integration of Europe
The process of European integration not only involves the three pillars as generally described, but also involved normative integration of European citizens. Most important of those is the development of European identity, instead of, or in addition of the national identity as developed in the modern period. The draft of the “EU Constitution”, as it has been so called, may prove to be an important step for the formation of European identity among European citizens. “EU Constitution” may function as what Habmas called “symbol of the identity” for European integration.
The research is both normative and empirical. First, it will analyze history of ideas of European integration in the last century, and trace the development of the notion of common European identity. Secondly, it will cooperate with European scholars to conduct certain empirical research on the reception of EU constitution among European people through both normative and empirical studies. It will provide comprehensive analysis on the issue of normative integration in the process of European integration.
3. Comparative public policy in Europe
Public policy and the mechanism of its making are under a great transformation in the process of European integration. Understanding this transformation will help us to have a better sense of European policy direction. This project aims to study various public policies in Europe, including industrial policy, employment policy, environmental policy, social policy and etc. We are interested in policy-making processes, and the origins and changes of those policies. This policy research and comparison will proceed with the following two dimensions. First, we divide policies into three categories, i.e. social policies, economic policies and environmental policies. Study of those policies is mainly concerned with politics and political economy of income distribution and welfare, industrial adjustment, and environmental policy and law making. Second, our policy research is comparative in nature. The comparison includes both across-country comparison and across-region one. The former refers to comparison between EU member states, while the latter suggests comparison between Europe, North America and East Asia.
4. European external relations
European external relations both shape and are shaped by European integration, so research in this area can help us to undercover the external links of Europe and their impact on European integration, and more importantly the role of the EU in the contemporary world order. A careful study of EU external relations will also contribute to a better mutual understanding between EU and China, where misunderstanding still exists. The research questions include: what elements (both internal and external elements) affect the shaping of the EU external policies? What are the central elements in the shaping and contents of the EU external policies of the EU? Who made them and how they were made? Who are the most important actors? What are the competences and relations between EU and Member States in this area, etc. Broader questions may also include: the role of the EU in maintaining world peace and security, the identity of the national authority in the area of peace and security.