Research projects & grants

Building up on internal and external expertise, ACE’s brief is to generate policy-relevant research and knowledge transfer on politics and policy, thus impacting upon thinking, behaviour, practice, and policy in specific user groups. To live up to these expectations, ACE builds upon internal and external expertise, on high-quality partnerships with Universities in Europe and elsewhere. ACE exemplifies the central elements of the University’s Aston 2012 and Aston 2020 strategy documents: to be recognised for excellence in European politics and policy in a way that delivers real solutions for local and global challenges. ACE’s research strategy therefore has the following eight key aims:
  1. To consolidate and grow an interdisciplinary research environment
  2. To maintain and increase the quality and quantity of high-level research in order to enhance performance in REF 2014 and beyond
  3. To support the development of researchers
  4. To increase external research income
  5. To develop a stronger interdisciplinary and international research network based on partnerships with European and international institutions and funding bodies
  6. To increase the number of research students
  7. To encourage research with impact for the local, national and international communities (given ACE’s strategic situation at the interface between academia and the policy world)
  8. To demonstrate our research excellence to the outside world


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. 


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.


Dr Patrycja Rozbicka, a lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University, Birmingham, whose current research focuses on different stakeholders in policy making, music and politics, and regulation of live music industry in the UK.

Dr Adam Behr, a lecturer in Contemporary and Popular Music at Newcastle University. His research covers cultural policy, the politics and sociology of music – particularly popular music – and the music industries.

Dr Craig Hamilton, a research fellow from the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research at Birmingham City University is a co-investigator on the project. His research explores the role of digital, data and internet technologies in the business and cultural environments of popular music.


West Midlands and the (international) business of Creative Culture - A globalised local perspective.
18th September, 16:00-18:00, Zoom.

This panel discussion focuses on the insides from the ongoing initiatives and projects that engage with the creative culture sector (including live music) in the West Midlands against the backdrop of the broader socio-political factors that affect its potential sustainability, and link it to the global context. The panellist will look at the ecology of the creative culture sector, live events and night time economy of West Midlands (with a particular focus on Birmingham) and the interdependencies between various direct and in-direct participants, such us policymakers, performers, venues, and gig-goers and visitors. A vibrant, major region with a distinctive history of producing and consuming arts and popular music, West Midlands’ cultural economy serves as a useful case study for the upheavals surrounding the UK’s exit from the UK and Covid-19 response. With large portion of the population below 25 years old (in particular in Birmingham with 40%), two of the largest indoor venues in England, and due to the Coventry City of Culture in 2021 and hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2022 in Birmingham, the region’s sensitivity to the effects of Brexit and Covid-19 on the ‘cultural tourism’ economy place it at the centre of the local and the global in the creative culture economy.

 We will also encourage participants to look at the Birmingham Music Map, as well as, to answer a series of questions in the Audience and Musicians Surveys. These map and surveys are designed not only to gather information about how we are responding to COVID-19, but also to produce data about more general attitudes and approaches to live music in the region.

 The ongoing initiatives and projects behind this panel discussion involve the combination of labours taken by the Culture Central West Midlands Creative Response Unit (CRU), the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), and Birmingham Live Music Project (BLMP). The CRU focuses on the development and delivery of an action-oriented, sector led response to the Covid-19 in the short, medium and long term. Its purpose is to ensure the visibility, viability and recovery of the cultural sector in the West Midlands. The NTIA is the organization representing nigh time industries and works to increase awareness and understanding of its contribution and benefits. The NTIA seeks to influence the decisions of policymakers and ensure that the night time economy continues to flourish, supporting its regeneration, creating jobs and enhancing the UK’s international reputation. BLMP, while deploying mapping of venues, musical activity, alongside consultations with a range of (private and public) institutional stakeholders, looks at the ‘state of play’ on the ground in Birmingham, the concerns of its musical participants and, by extension, the challenges brought about by changes in the globalized music economy, and national policy for local cultural activity.

 The panel discussion will outline some of the ongoing initiatives and methods they deploy, the concept of ‘music city’ and the preliminary outcomes to make suggestions about how an urban geographical area that is tied into national and international mechanisms can work to sustain its creative culture ecology in the face of uncertainty in the surrounding political terrain.


  • Patrycja Rozbicka, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University, Birmingham (Aston Centre for Europe). Her main areas of interest and publications include: participation of interest groups and various stakeholders in the national and EU political systems; coalitions and networks studies; and regulation of the live music industry. She is PI on the Project ‘UK Live Music industry in post-2019 area: Globalized local perspective’ funded by Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, led by NESTA, and head of the Birmingham Live Music Project.


Panel discussants:

  • Adam Behr, a Senior Lecturer in Contemporary and Popular Music at Newcastle University. He is a director of the knowledge exchange body Live Music Exchange. His interests include the intersection of music and politics and his research has included work on the cultural value of live music, copyright and musical practice, and cultural policy. As well as academic publications, he writes extensively for the web, for Live Music Exchange, The Conversation and elsewhere.

  • Craig Hamilton, a Research Fellow in the School of Media at Birmingham City University. His research explores contemporary popular music reception practices and the role of digital, data and Internet technologies on the business and cultural environments of music consumption. This research is built around the development of The Harkive Project (, an online, crowd-sourced method of generating data from music consumers about their everyday relationships with music and technology. Craig is also the co-Managing Editor of Riffs: Experimental Research on Popular Music (

  • Michael Kill, CEO of Night Time Industries Association.

  • Erica Love, Director of Culture Central has worked in the regions cultural sector for over 15 years, becoming Director of Culture Central in November 2019. Since Covid, Erica has been leading on the West Midlands Culture Response Unit, supported by people from across the sector. She is a passionate advocate for the impact of arts and culture on society and individuals quality of life, its role as an economic driver.  

Birmingham Live Music in the post-Brexit era, 7th May

Birmingham Live Music_ post-Brexit era - smaller

An event which took place on 7th May 2019 at Aston University - co-organised with Birmingham City University (BCU) - titled ‘UK Live Music Industry in post-Brexit era’. It was a one day event consisting of stakeholders consultations in the morning and an open to the public part in the afternoon. We hosted representatives from music industry, academia, policymakers, media and culture. The main goal of the morning session was to map broad areas of concern related to Brexit and the live music industry in Birmingham. The three talks and panel discussion that followed in the afternoon were open to students, academics, and the general public. The TED style talks focused on the following: The Impact of Brexit on the UK’s live music industry (Patrycja Rozbicka, Aston University), Birmingham, Brexit and the live music scene: the city council’s perspective (Birmingham City Council), Birmingham, Brexit and the live music scene: the industries perspective (Lyle Bignon, Birmingham Music Coalition).


BLMP CoverTitle: Birmingham Live Music and Brexit

Authors: Rozbicka, Patrycja, Hamilton, Craig, Behr, Adam, Correa Vila, Patricia, Davies, Luke John 

This document is the first in a series of reports produced through on-going, collaborative research being undertaken at Aston University, Newcastle University and Birmingham City University. This first report is based on a workshop held at Aston University on 7th May 2019, which gathered together a number of stakeholders from the Birmingham live music sector to discuss and document perceived challenges, threats and opportunities related to the UK government’s approach to Brexit negotiations. 

Click here to download the report.


For any further information please get in touch with Patrycja Rozbicka.

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:

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.

For more information about the project, contact:
Dr Balazs Szent-Ivanyi

Research Team

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.

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.

Churches Arks of Migratory Narratives 700                                                                       Image: Apostle Andreas in Düsseldorf

Churches, Arks of Migratory Narratives: A Comparative Study of the Greek-Orthodox Religioscapes in Germany and Great Britain

Researcher: Dr Georgios E. Trantas – Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow

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 Project Footer

[*] 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: 

  1. 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; 
  2. 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.

Teaching approcah

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 EuroSim

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.

Student testimonials

Clément Harmégnies, MA Europe & the World
As a master’s degree student, Eurosim offered me a unique opportunity to develop practical skills. Through a learning-doing approach, it encompasses theories of negotiation, European policy-making and interpersonal relations within a professional framework. In that perspective, simulation sessions and training were particularly useful in developing oral skills and mastering the decision-making process. During the final session in Brussels, both the experience and knowledge we acquired benefit the negotiations. Nonetheless, we also learn to evolve within a social context, meaning the negotiations are always an ongoing process and, therefore, we must be prepared to face any last-minute change or a possible turn of events. This makes the overall simulation highly dynamic. Eurosim definitely empowered both my personal and academic skills and helped me in building selfconfidence and assertiveness towards approaching others.

Lena Girard, International Relations
Eurosim is the most challenging module I have taken during my university degree, both undergraduate and postgraduate studies combined. As an international student, it helped me improve my confidence debating in English through exercising public speaking aptitudes. It also made me discover more about the European Union, and helped me confirm my professional project. The negotiation and communication skills we developed over the past semester are a considerable value for our professional as well as personal future life. Having the chance to go to the final simulation in the United States of America is an amazing opportunity. We had the chance to prepare the simulation in a relatively small group of ten students. It gave everybody the possibility to get involved during the negotiations. We all managed to find our place within this class, so the larger group we take, the more complete our overall experience will be.

Charles Brewer, Politics and International Relations
Eurosim presents an opportunity to learn by doing, an opportunity which is by no means prevalent in other Politics or International 
Relations modules. The unique nature of the module and the ability to put learning into practice with other students at an organised 
event is ground breaking. Eurosim provides students with skills that can't be easily learnt through conventional methods of university 
lecturing such as active listening, diplomacy and thinking on your feet in pressurised situations. Moreover, it is a chance to develop 
skills which have genuine tangible benefits not just in future jobs but also in day to day life. The more students who are able to 
attend this learning experience the better.

Daniel J Devane, Politics and International Relations
Eurosim provided me with a range of opportunities to learn about and interact with other cultures. It provided a helpful insight into how the European Union works and into the process of negotiation. The module also helped to build one’s confidence and public speaking abilities, and has proved to be a helpful experience on my CV, with multiple potential employers asking questions about the experience. Eurosim was my favourite module of my entire degree, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone!

Janina Lang, MA Global Governance and International Relations (now working as a research fellow and PhD candidate, Otto-Friedrich Universität Bamberg)
In the winter term 2016/2017 I participated in the Aston EuroSim Module, which was not only a great experience but also helped me immensely with my aim of entering the academic work life. Without a doubt, I have learned a lot about the European Union, the corresponding institutions, and the respective internal decision-making processes. While this knowledge was essential for my second Master’s degree, the other soft skills, such as public speaking, negotiation methods, and the proper use of body language in discussions, helped me obtain a PhD position which started only three days after the Aston graduation. I had taken classes with my current supervisor and as she liked my way of presenting arguments and how I engaged in discussions, she offered me a fully funded position as doctoral fellow at the University of Bamberg. I am confident, that my experiences form EuroSim contributed greatly to this offer, as beforehand I was rather uncomfortable speaking English in front of a big crowd and certainly did not know how to properly conduct academic/ professional discussions in a foreign language. Therefore, I highly recommend the module to any new student and I am more than happy to have participated myself.

Mathilde Blanchard, MA Europe & the World (now working as External Relations Officer at Engie, Paris)
Firstly, as EuroSim consists in simulating European negotiations, it allows us to better understand the decision-making process within the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament. Since a lot of our policies are impacted today by the decisions taken at the European level, employers are looking for students familiar with this institutional framework.

Secondly, it helps us to develop lobbying and advocacy capacities. We had different exercises such as writing a position and strategy paper at home as well as delivering a small speech at the beginning of the simulation. In some interviews, employers asked me about my capacity to deliver a clear and strong message on various topics. Without EuroSim, I would not have been able to get the attention of the employer and get the position.

Thirdly, the final simulation is a competition between different American and European universities. Such an experience is extremely valued on a CV, especially when applying for international jobs requiring the ability to deal with a multicultural environment. Next January, I will start an internship at ENGIE headquarters in La Défense, in Paris, within the advocacy section. I know I have been well prepared for it thanks to EuroSim.

Caiden Heaphy, MA International Relations and Global Governance (now a Doctoral Candidate, Department for International and European Politics, Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg, Germany)
What began as an extracurricular activity alongside my master’s program quickly became one of the most helpful as well as one of my most appreciated experiences during my time at Aston. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to negotiate specific policy issues, like energy security, which were actively evolving in real-time across European institutions. During our weekly module, we developed practical skills including reading legal texts, writing briefing papers, public speaking, and of course, negotiating policy details from a myriad of ideological and institutional perspectives. These skills continue to enable me to think more comprehensively about foreign policy and decision-making in my doctoral research. In fact, I believe that access to programs like EuroSim can be beneficial for students at any level of education, regardless of whether their studies are directly related to political science, because the skills and knowledge that are gained are not specific to any particular career or field of research, and they enable us to be more conscientious citizens in general.

Marion Greziller, Double MA Europe and the World (now a Doctoral Researcher at the University of Manchester)
EUROSIM is a well-rounded module, which is now very useful in my PhD, particularly in conferences. It taught me to do effective and concise research and build a solid argument in a short timeframe. Through the module, I also gained confidence in my public speaking skills and my ability to defend an argument.

ContactDr Patrycja Rozbicka

Dr Nat Copsey and Dr Carolyn Rowe have won a tender worth €480,000, to produce research reports and policy advice for theCommittee 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 Questions

1.How 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?

2.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?

3.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?


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:

a)‘Religion and Migration in the Eastern Orthodox World’ in Belgrade (June 2018).

b)‘Religion, Migration and Social Change in the Eastern Orthodox World' in Kiev (September 2018). 

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.

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 Team

For more information about the project, contact: Patrycja Rozbicka

Follow #IR_Aesthetics and @IR_Aesthetics

Staff members responsible for the module:
Dr Helena Farrand- Carrapico (PIR- LSS)
Dr Jelena Wochnik- Obradovic (PIR- LSS) 

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.


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.


Dr Denisa Kostovicova, Department of Government, LSE,

Dr Gemma Collantes-Celador, Department of International Politics, City University London,

Communications officer

Dr Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik, Politics and International Relations, Aston University,  


If you would like to become a member of the working group, or if you have any suggestions for the group, please contact:

Comments and Suggestions

If you have any comments or suggestions for the group, please contact
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:
  • An ESRC grant award (£22,464) on Poland’s influence in the EU (Copsey, 2009-10).
  • A £70,622 ESRC Grant to investigate religious lobbies in the EU (Leustean, 2010-11).
  • £52,000 from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to research the changing nature of Christian Democracy in Germany (Green and Turner, 2010-11).
  • A £77,000 Leverhulme grant for a study on political leadership in the UK (Gaffney, 2012-14).
  • A tender, worth €480,000, to produce research reports and policy advice for the EU’s Committee of the Regions (Copsey and Rowe, 2010-14: see under 2010 for more information).
  • £58,500 from the DAAD for a comparative study of migration policy in the UK and Germany, plus £34,000 from the FCO for a high-level policy seminar (Green, 2012-13).
  • The DAAD awarded ACE a further £48,000 for a project entitled Reframing German Federalism (Rowe and Turner, 2012-13).
  • A Jean Monnet Module entitled 'Crime- Terror Nexus' (30,000€) (Farrand-Carrapico and Wochnik- Obradovic, 2015- 2018).

Previous Projects

Project funded by German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) (87,079.80 euros), 2018-2021

Dr Ed Turner & Dr Davide Vampa, Principal Investigators

Abstract: The aim of this project is to provide an analysis of the SPD’s failure, located within the framework provided by Kitschelt (1994 and 1999). The study is therefore at the nexus of German Studies and comparative Political Science: it deploys a framework designed for comparative purposes rigorously to evaluate a single case, while drawing on international comparisons where this is appropriate. Kitschelt’s framework – written in the early 1990s but having proved prescient – points to three key “dilemmas” faced by social democratic parties – structural challenges which they need to resolve and overcome. The first is a “political economic dilemma”, whereby social democratic parties feel compelled, in times of global competition, to adopt centrist economic policies to promote competitiveness, but those policies will cost the parties support amongst previous core voters. The second is an “electoral dilemma”, where the parties face stark trade-offs retaining the support both of traditional, and sometimes socially conservative, core voters, and a growing cohort of middle-class voters, many of whom are employed in the public sector, who are a potential constituency for both social democrats and other left-wing parties. A shift to the left may gain them votes, squeezing the support of left-wing competitors, but it has the potential to cost them the opportunity of entering government as part of a coalition. The third is a “party organisational” dilemma, according to which parties face trade-offs between organisational openness (promoting innovation but also leading to a certain volatility) and retaining traditional organisational structures, which help capture the traditional core vote but are rather immobile (that is, render them unable to adapt their appeal to changing circumstances). The study will evaluate the choices taken by the SPD in relation to these dilemmas, evaluating both the extent to which Kitschelt’s framework remains useful in analysing a contemporary social democratic party, and also seeking to shed light on the reasons for the SPD’s decline. Our aim is not to provide any sort of “blueprint” for the SPD’s renewal, but the answers to these questions will be of interest to scholars and practitioners alike in the field of party politics, in Germany and beyond.

Research Fellowship funded by the Leverhulme Trust, £49,497

Dr Virginie Grzelczyk, Principal Investigator

Abstract: This project focuses on ‘conflict toys’ which are defined here as manufactured toys that represent a historical or current conflict. The research has three objectives:

(1) understand what meanings are given to ‘conflict toys’ by users;

(2) understand what motivates ‘conflict toy’ producers to produce such items;

(3) understand regulations about ‘conflict toys’ dissemination, their ethics and legality. What are the driving forces behind the production of ‘conflict toys’?
Hence, in an increasingly more violent world, who is accountable for their proliferation? Can, and should they be channelled, challenged and regulated?

Funded by the University of Warwick Strategic Award, £20,000

Dr Virginie Grzelczyk, Co-Investigator, with Dr Stephanie Panichelli Batalla (Principal Investigator, Associate Professor, University of Warwick)

Abstract: This project investigates how the concepts of aid and dignity underpin a distinctive approach to sustainable development in parts of the Global South, and explores how aid can turn into an agent of empowerment for recipient countries. Through an innovative and inter-disciplinary approach, we analyse the relationships between donor and recipient nations in South-South cooperation (SSC), amongst ODA countries, focusing particularly on the existing solidarity programmes between Cuba, the DPRK and the African continent. The two key objectives of this project are a pilot study in Tanzania, and the development of an international network with interdisciplinary scholars. This will provide a strong platform for a major grant application that would apply the same research question and methodology to a broader geographical region within the African continent.

Funded by British Institute at Ankara (BIAA) (£4,000), April 2018-March 2019 (renewable with additional funding for 2 more years)

Abstract: Anglo-Turkish relations have entered a new phase following the Brexit referendum and the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. Distancing themselves from Europe, both countries have approached each other to increase their cooperation in security and trade. The literature on bilateral relations has focused on the history of AngloTurkish ties from a descriptive framework. Given contemporary developments, there is a need to analyse relations from a more present-day point of view and with an explanatory agenda. The proposed project aims to fill this gap in the literature. Its main objective is to examine the historical and contemporary perceptions of the Turkish elites on bilateral relations from 1973 to today by conducting archival research and interviews in Turkey. The results of this field research will explain the main the drivers of bilateral relations, contribute to the wider discipline of international relations and have impact on formulating foreign policies in the UK.


Awarded under the Sustainable Development Programme, the Global Challenges Research Fund (£175,219), 2018-2020

Dr Lucian Leustean, Principal Investigator

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship (183,454 euros)

Dr Lucian Leustean, Supervisor of Dr Georgios Trantas

Humanities and Social Sciences Tackling the UK's International Challenges Grant (£34,100), January-December 2018

Dr Lucian Leustean, Principal investigator



1 December 2016 - 30 November 2018

Dr Andrew Glencross

Description: AwarEU - European Awareness is a project financed within the Call Social Inclusion through Education, Training and Youth of the Key Action 3 Initiatives for Policy Innovation of Erasmus Plus. At the basis of the project, the success of the European Awareness Days developed by CesUE as an innovative training and information event for citizens, based on the musical recital "Europe: what a Passion!" which tells the story of he European Integration as a tormented love story.

url link:

Jean Monnet Chair in European Union Politics – Rethinking European Union Politics

In 2013, the Aston Centre for Europe was awarded a prestigious Jean Monnet Chair for a cutting-edge project entitled ‘Rethinking European Integration’. The grant was a natural progression following the funding for Jean Monnet Module on the EU and East Asia that was awarded to Uwe Wunderlich in 2011. The Jean Monnet chair-holder is Nathaniel Copsey, Head of Politics and International Relations and Co-Director of the Aston Centre for Europe. Anne-Claire Marangoni was appointed in October 2013 as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate. Also closely involved with the activities of the Chair is Yanna Ntampoudi, PhD Candidate at Aston University, working on European identity during the Eurozone crisis, using Greece as a case study. The award of the Jean Monnet Chair is one of the most prestigious external kitemarks in the area of EU studies, and comes with ca. €50,000 funding over three years.


The Aston Centre for Europe is one of the UK’s leading practically-focused institutes for the study of contemporary Europe. Within ACE/Politics and International Relations, the Chair delivers three research-led modules that are derived from the research project on ‘Rethinking European Integration’ and are available to students on all Aston University programmes (and indeed interested third parties, by prior arrangement with the Chair). The modules are as follows: (1) at level 1 for undergraduates, LP1016/LP1025 ‘Europe and the Making of the Modern World’, a political history of Europe since 1789; (2) for undergraduate finalists LP3008 ‘Central and East European Politics’; and (3) for post-graduate Masters-level students, ‘Rethinking European Integration’, which includes both a programme of external speakers and a negotiations simulation. The recruitment of Masters-level students is Europe-wide and the majority comes from France and Germany.

Through the Aston Centre for Europe, the Chair is host to a regular series of events, both at Aston and more widely across the EU. In October 2013, the Chair gave a keynote lecture at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia, on ‘Rethinking the European Union’. Dr Ian Robertson, BMW Board Member, and ‘the most influential Briton in the world automotive industry’ gave a lecture on 30 October 2013 on ‘Globalisation: A View from BMW’. In April 2013, the Chair is co-organising a lecture by Professor Anand Menon of Kings College, University of London, on ‘Europe in the World’ at Jawarahal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, in collaboration with Professor Rajendra Jain (Jean Monnet Chair in Delhi), the Journal of Common Market Studies Annual Review. Seminars on European affairs will also be given at the European Union Representation and at the Indian Congress of World Affairs. At Aston University, a number of seminars will be held in the first half of 2014 as part of the ‘Rethinking European Integration’ MA module. In June 2014, the Chair will co-organise together with the Jean Monnet Wider Europe Network an international conference on the External Relations of the European Union at the College of Europe in Natolin (Warsaw), Poland.

Click here for more information and to view the programme for the Jean Monnet module: 'Rethinking European Integration'. 

In 2014, the Chair’s major monograph entitled Rethinking the European Union: the future of the European integration project will be published by the Palgrave imprint of Macmillan. The book opens with the assertion that there is no time like the present to rethink the EU and European integration more broadly. Since the economic and financial crisis first began, there has been a steadily growing stream of comment and criticism about what the European Union should do to address our predicament. This torrent of negative opinions has undermined both the positivist idea of Europe as the most effective means of responding to social, economic and political challenges and the normative ideal of Europe as the world’s most advanced, effective and exciting experiment in international cooperation. What was more absent from this critical debate was a serious discussion of what the choices for Europe are or should be and this book attempts to contribute that aspect of the discussion. In brief, the purpose of this book is to take stock of the idea of Europe and the European integration process by analysing the process under four themes: identity, solidarity, legitimacy and sustainability. Its secondary aim is to look at the effects of the great crisis on European integration are and to rethink what the choices for Europe are in the changed circumstances of the 21st century.

Other outputs from the Chair in 2013–14 include two edited volumes, the Journal of Common Market Studies Annual Review of the European Union in 2012, which includes a keynote State of the Union article from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and the Journal of Common Market Studies Annual Review of the European Union in 2013, which will be published in August 2014, and includes a contribution from André Sapir on the state of the European economy, ten years after the publication of the influential Sapir Report.

The practical focus of research at Aston Centre for Europe is also illustrated by the partnerships with institutional actors. Aston Centre for Europe has been commissioned to draft a policy report examining how the European Union could be reformed. In the light of the on-going economic, financial and monetary challenges faced by the EU, the report aims to rethink European integration and to put forward some policy options for reform of the EU after the crisis. The project builds on a series of policy seminars convened to discuss the traditional pillars of European integration, identity, solidarity, sustainability and legitimacy. They do so by discussing, on a number of reports commissioned from academic experts, different thematic areas such as the CAP, immigration, the single market, environment and defence. In addition to the policy report – the main output from this project – the findings will be disseminated through a 10-point plan, which will be presented domestically to the UK’s cross-party parliamentary group on Europe as well as internationally.

Prof Simon Green and Dr Christin Hess (ACE) have won £37,500 from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to convene a second high-level UK-German policy seminar on migration. The seminar will take place in Berlin in early 2014, and builds on a highly successful first seminar held in London in March 2013.

Wider Europe 

Wider Europe is an international and inter-disciplinary network of academics and practitioners with an interest in the European Union’s external policy and its impact on the EU’s European neighbourhood. The network aims: 

  • to foster international cooperative studies and analyses of EU external relations policies and political, legal and economic developments in the Wider Europe; 
  • to bring together academics and practitioners working in these areas, to ensure mutually beneficial learning; 
  • to contribute to a better understanding in the public policy field of EU external relations policy and the development of the Wider Europe. 

The network provides a forum for debate on policy-relevant issues by publishing reports and academic papers, and by organizing seminars and conferences. Members of the network also offer informed and independent advice to governments and international organisations engaged in shaping EU relations with its European neighbors.

The Wider Europe Network was established in 2003 with a Jean Monnet grant from the European Commission to the University of Sussex.


The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's UK-German Enchanced Engagement fund awarded Prof Simon Green £63,000 to convene a high-level workshop and develop research on migration policy in Britian and Germany.

Prof Simon Green and Dr Christin Hess (ACE) convened a successful high-level UK-German policy seminar on migration in London, 7-8 March. The seminar brought together 30 senior politicians, civil servants, academics and diplomats to compare approaches and options in migration policy. It was launched with a dinner at the German Embassy on 7 March for 60 guests, at which the Minister for Immigration, Mark Harper MP, was the keynote speaker.

The DAAD awarded €56,900 to Dr Carolyn Rowe and Dr Ed Turner for a project on Reframing German Federalism.

ACE has been awarded XXXX from the European Commission to hold another two conferences.

A further grant of XXXX has been awarded to ACE from the European Commission to host another two conferences.

Network Rationale

The revival of regional integration across the globe since the late 1980s has been remarkable, but it is rare to find sustained comparative work which puts the EU in a context with other global regions, rather than federal states. Partly, this is because scholars of non-European regions have often self-defined as IR/IPE experts at a moment when EU studies has gone through a comparative politics turn, considering the EU and EU studies as something  ‘other’ than their dependent variable. However, it is also because many EU scholars have interpreted the field’s comparative politics turn as a move away from IR. Thus, scholars interested in comparative regionalism including the EU often find themselves on the margins of both communities, lacking iterated access to funding and networking opportunities.

This network aims to help fill this gap by bringing together an interdisciplinary, international group of scholars to debate three core themes, building on the small if growing body of work which has begun this process. We maintain that scholarship on other global regions help us understand what is unique to the EU, and what is a general attribute of contemporary global regions. We also maintain that EU studies and the EU itself can be seen as a laboratory whose experiments with a highly institutionalised form of regional integration generates useful evidence and concepts for scholars of regions like ASEAN or MERCOSUR. The network will expand by gradually involving other researchers, in order to foster collaborative research endeavours.


The themes to be debated over the lifetime of the network have been selected because they speak to core issues in regional organizations and their role in the global political economy, but are also all under-explored in a comparative context:

  • ‘Awkward’ States in Regional Integration: What drives some states to join regional organizations while frequently appearing ill at ease with their choice? How are these states managed by their partners?
  • Balancing Economic and Political Integration: Beyond the EU, it is common for political integration (of various kinds) to precede economic integration; why and how do different regions strike different balances between the economic and the political? And how sustainable are these different balances in the age of global capital?
  • Interregionalism: How does the EU manage its relations with other regions? And do other regions, such as ASEAN or Mercosur, develop more fruitful interregional relations than the EU?
  • Opposition to Regional Integration: What are the motives behind resistance? How do these differ between different types of actors, between different national context and between different regional contexts? Do particular forms of regional integration generate more resistance?


We are welcoming potential collaborators. Please get in touch with the network coordinators:

  • Alfred Tovias, Hebrew University:
  • Bart Gaens, University of Helsinki:
  • Clarissa Dri, Bordeaux:
  • David Camroux, Sciences Po-CERI :
  • Francis Baert, Ghent and UNU-CRIS, Bruges:
  • Frank Mattheis, University of Leipzig:
  • Fredrik Söderbaum, UNU-CRIS and University of Gothenberg:
  • Mario Telo, ULB:
  • Mary Farrell, University of Greenwich:
  • Mikkael Mattlin, University of Helsinki:
  • Nick Robinson, University of Leeds:
  • Stefan Gänzle, University of Agder:
  • Søren Dosenrode, University of Aalborg:
  • Timothy Shaw, University of the West Indies:
  • Wolf Grabendorff, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung:
  • Xinning Song, UNU-CRIS:  
  • Xuan Loc, Aston University:

Exploring the Kosovan Regulatory Space: the Relationship Between Ethnicity and Regulatory Developments in the Energy Sector

How are regulatory developments shaped by ethnic, political and economic issues? We are interested in interrogating this research question through examining a critical case- energy regulation in Kosovo.

The Kosovan case is critical since a) the energy sector is peculiarly affected by inter-communal issues, apparently more than other network industries within the territory; and b) attitudes towards core regulatory goals (e.g. liberalisation) appear in Kosovo to be strongly correlated with ethnicity, which is not common in other regulatory contexts. Furthermore, developing an operational system for energy regulation in Kosovo is essential not only for domestic economic stability, but also for Kosovan accession to the EU and, importantly, for the longer-term prosperity and stability of Europe as a whole. The Kosovan case would provide rich data which would, more broadly, contribute towards a better understanding of regulatory processes and challenges in contexts including post-conflict contested states where ethnic groups may contest the regulatory space.


  • To combine analytical perspectives drawn from studies of regulation with those from studies of ethnic conflict, to provide a more comprehensive theoretical framework for analyzing regulatory space
  • To apply this novel theoretical framework to the context and content of regulatory developments in the Kosovan energy sector
  • To generate a detailed understanding of the relationship between factors traditionally highlighted in studies of regulation (such as independence from economic interests) and those highlighted by studies of ethnic conflict (such as executive independence), when explaining regulatory developments
  • To explore the comparative potential of the Kosovan regulatory space.

We aim to achieve these objectives by, first, mapping out the key elements of regulatory space within the chosen critical case study, and considering how these interact: who are the most influential actors, and how does the regulatory agency interact with them? To what extent does Kosovo’s contested statehood challenge regulatory processes (including those focused on promoting energy security)? Secondly, we will attempt to identify the strategies used by different actors to influence the regulatory process and their impact. Thirdly, we will try to ascertain to what degree these influences can be understood within an economic framework, as opposed to within the framework of studies of ethnic conflict.

If you are interested in this research topic or would like further information, please contact us as follows:

  • Dr Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik 
  • Dr Anneliese Dodds
  • Dr Ahmed Badran

Jean Monnet Module

A Jean Monnet Module by Dr. Jens-Uwe Wunderlich

Funded with support from the European Commission (Grant Number 2011-3259).

All content reflects the views only of the authors and presenters, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

The module is an advanced level course comparing the EU with East Asian visions of regionalism and analysing the political, economic and social relations between the EU, its member-states with East Asia (here defined as the ASEAN 10 plus Japan, North and South Korea, China and Taiwan). It is an interdisciplinary module and students will be exposed to the wide and diverse perspectives on international and interregional relations. The module draws from history, area studies, international relations, sociology, business and economics and comparative regionalism. It also calls upon the participation of a variety of external experts.

Plenary Lectures

Interactive Guest Lectures

DAAD - German Academic Exchange Service

Professor Simon Green and Dr Ed Turner have won a grant from the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) to investigate the nature of contemporary Christian Democracy with the example of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU).  
In an increasingly secular country, and in a world where economies are increasingly interdependent, it is an timely question whether Christian Democrats continue to pursue a distinctive policy agenda in such areas as family policy, economic policy or European policy, or whether they have become a slightly more centrist version of mainstream conservative parties.

The project will engage with both politicians and academics and details of our academic and dissemination events, as well as draft outputs, will be made available on this page.

The project runs from 1 May 2010 until 31 December 2011.

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.

Aston Centre for Europe has secured another grant of XXXX from the European Comission to host and organise two more conferences.

ESRC Small Research Grant: £70,622
Principal Investigator:Dr Lucian Leustean
1 January 2010 – 30 June 2011


Religious lobbies? Lobbying for religion? Is ‘lobbying’ the right term to use in relation to religion? Reaching a consensus on the terminology concerning the role of churches in the European Union and their dialogue with European institutions is a contested issue. Most religious communities in contact with European institutions dissociate themselves from the process of traditional lobbying practiced by other groups, preferring instead to consider themselves in a different category. It is a key task of this project to analyse whether the activity of religious communities can be labelled as traditional lobbying in the European Union and to find the most appropriate term.

This project investigates the activities of religious communities in Brussels in the wider context of interest representation. There is an extensive literature on interest representation in the construction of the European Union and this project contextualises the dialogue of religious communities with European institutions within existing academic scholarship.

Project Abstract:

Political controversies on the ‘Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe’ and disputes over religious symbols in the public sphere show that religion has become more visible in the corridors of European institutions. Religious communities are part of the EU bureaucratic system, and their presence in Brussels has increased dramatically in the last decade. Sixty-seven groups have now officially entered into dialogue with the European Commission and many of them have opened offices in Brussels.

This project investigates the mechanisms and prospects of religious representation at EU decision-making level. Through a comparative analysis of religious communities in Brussels, the project addresses the following questions:

  1. How do (trans)national religious communities approach European institutions?
  2. What are the rationale and the mechanisms of religious interest representation?
  3. How are religious values transposed into political strategies?
  4. And, how has the construction of the European Union been influenced by religious communities?

The project challenges the predominant perception that religious communities have had little impact on the process of European integration. It investigates the role of religious communities in the construction of the European Union by focusing on relations between religious policy practitioners and EU technocrats from the Second World War until today.

It draws on qualitative and quantitative data; interviews with religious policy practitioners and EU technocrats; unpublished archival material; official declarations of religious and EU bodies; national legislation on religion; codes of conduct; and the European Values Survey and the European Social Survey.


The project will support a conference on ‘Does God Matter? Representing Religion in the European Union and the United States’ which will bring together academics and religious policy practitioners from both sides of the Atlantic. The conference has two aims:

  1. Firstly, it will investigate the ways in which various religious communities perceive the idea of a United Europe (from historical, sociological, political science and juridical perspectives).
  2. Secondly, it will examine the ways in which religious communities present their positions and influence political strategies in the European Union and the United States. 

A call for papers will be distributed soon and further details will be available on this website.


Dr Lucian Leustean welcomes enquires on this project by email at or by post.

ESRC Details:

This project is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the UK’s leading research and training agency in social sciences. ESRC Small Research Grant (RES-000-22-3821): £70,622 (Indexed Total Costs).

European Commission Grant

Aston Centre for Europe  (ACE) has been awarded two sets of grants to the value of approximately €35 000 by the European Commission.The grants will be used to run four conferences over the next twelve months on the EU's policy agenda. 

Soft Power, Hard Choices: Where next for the EU's Neighbourhood Policy?

The first of these, entitled 'Soft Power, Hard Choices: Where next for the EU's Neighbourhood Policy?' will focus on the the EU's relations with its eastern neighbours. 

It will be held at the Aston Business School, in association with the Wider Europe Network  and Media Contracta.

Others will follow in 2010 on green growth, the European Parliament elections of 2009 and the 20th anniversary of democratic change in Eastern Europe. Dr Nathaniel Copsey  is the grant holder.

A project by Dr Nathaniel Copsey.

Poland is the largest of the Member States that joined the European Union in the enlargements of 2004 and 2007. With half the total population and economic weight of the accession countries, in some respects the eastern enlargement of the EU was a ‘Polish enlargement’. The expansion of the Union from a predominantly west European club of 15 Member States to a pan-European Union of 27 diverse Member States was expected to have a major impact on the governance, politics, policies and overall agenda of the EU – a core aim of CEELBAS is to investigate these changes. As the largest of the new Member States, much of the pressure for change was expected to come from Poland.

In consequence, the time is ripe for an in-depth consideration of the European aspect of Poland’s foreign policy, with a particular emphasis on Poland’s impact on the making of EU policy towards its eastern neighbours – identified as a major priority on the Polish government’s EU agenda.

Nathaniel Copsey's ESRC grant has been awarded for research focusing on the capacity of Member States to exercise power and influence in the EU by uploading their national policy preferences to the EU agenda. This project looks at the case of Poland and its eastern policy.

Funded by an Economic & Social Research Council grant of £22,464 (2007)