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Pitt joined Europa University Viadrina in leading a global research and education network on EU foreign policy

A large yellow sculpture outside Posvar Hall

Russia’s war against Ukraine threatens global stability and has fueled critique of the European Union’s commitment to liberal and humanitarian values within member states and beyond. As a response to this challenge, the University of Pittsburgh’s European Studies Center (ESC) and the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (REEES) will launch a partnership with the Europa University Viadrina and 18 higher education institutions in 17 countries across five continents to better understand EU foreign policy, resilience and the EU’s future role in global governance.

ValEUs, the Research and Education Network on Contestations to EU Foreign Policy, received a Jean Monnet Network grant for 1.2 million euros from the highly competitive Erasmus+ Program of the European Commission. Officially launching in January 2024, ValEUs activities will build collective research capacity, develop innovative teaching collaborations and engage in impactful societal policy debate, resulting in policy recommendations for EU and non-EU stakeholders while promoting universities as globally invested, democratic actors and committed partners to endangered countries, such as Ukraine.

“ValEUs grows out of fruitful collaborations within the University Center for International Studies between REEES and ESC but also with our partner in Pitt's global networks, the Europa University Viadrina,” Director of the European Studies Center Randall Halle said. “The ability to bring the extensive network together and earn the grant indicates our leadership in rethinking area studies. Pitt is an important global convener and REEES and ESC together will be the center of information dissemination for the ValEUs network.”

The network’s 53 scholars will enrich the larger field of European Studies and EU foreign policy by integrating scholarly lines of inquiry on EU skepticism, the EU in world affairs and post-colonial critiques of Europe and the EU. This new interdisciplinary framework will engage interconnected research problems previously siloed in disciplinary areas. It will also build on sustained dialogue with policymakers and civil society actors in international and intra-European contexts. By bridging non-European and European perspectives across multiple sectors such as academia, public affairs and civil society, ValEUs scholars hope to have a significant policy impact on issues of democracy, migration and global inequality.

“We are at a crossroads,” said Nancy Condee, director of Pitt’s Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. “Since the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, it is more vital than ever for leading global institutions to develop a research and educational network that will both strengthen existing values and offer a meaningful critique connecting academic debates to policy recommendations for both EU and non-EU stakeholders. We welcome this exchange of views with our partners.”

Pitt students will benefit from ValEUs’ student-facing opportunities, which will invite participation from all partnering institutions in Model EU simulations, conferences and summer schools hosted in Istanbul, Turkey; Roskilde, Denmark; and Guadalajara, Mexico. There are plans to launch a massive open online course on network topics to convey research insights to undergraduate students and host graduate-level democratic exchange labs on EU values and foreign policy. Most importantly, the network will support displaced students by offering online or hybrid co-teaching seminars in cooperation with Kharkiv National University and Ukrainian Global University. Motivated initially as a response to the war in Ukraine, and then in Artsakh, Gaza, the Sahel and Libya, the network underscores the urgency of prioritizing human rights and values-based policy.

“Russia’s war against Ukraine reminds us of the fragility of human security even as it often overshadows global engagement with a range of humanitarian crises happening concurrently but outside of Europe,” REEES Associate Director Zsuzsánna Magdó said. “Displaced and at-risk students most need to connect to a global community of peers and lend their voices to a genuine engagement with the European project and the future of global governance precisely when their communities face the most uncertainty.”