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Research on Europe



Comprehensive comparative analysis of European media rights matters beyond national perspectives

with Mark Cole

The media in Europe no longer recognise geographical boundaries. Online content is available everywhere, the range of TV channels is international in every country. What has become “normal” for consumers is still very exciting for legal scholars. Who is responsible when it comes to regulatory issues, copyright or privacy? These are the questions – or at least the kinds of questions – that Professor Mark Cole of the University of Luxembourg is dealing with. There is a particular focus on the European Union (EU) Directive on Audio-visual Media Services and its implementation in all 28 EU Member States.

International team and network

Regarding the last question, Mark Cole is a true pioneer because the Darmstadt-born Briton, together with his team, broke new scientific ground a few years ago: “As a rule, the implementation of European directives has previously been studied by national experts. At best, individual countries were compared. In order to finally arrive at a comprehensive, meaningful vision, we have set the ambitious goal in Luxembourg of creating a small team to compare all Member States.”

Mark Cole and his colleagues have also initiated translations of all national legal acts into English. Furthermore, they compile data from all Member States, so that the Luxembourg law experts can rely on two sources of information: “On the one hand we have an international team at the University of Luxembourg who we can rely on when requesting information. On top of that, we are very well connected across Europe and beyond.” All of this means that the legal analysis can claim to be not only complete, but also largely untainted by national perspectives.

Pan-European perspective in demand

In this case, the national perspective would mean analysis based on the national legal tradition, as Mark Cole explains: “This is because each country has its own perspective. Our opportunity as researchers in an international and multilingual country lies in being able to delve into the issue in a European way, in the best sense of the word.” This European perspective is in demand. Mark Cole is co-editor of several publications, an initiator of conferences – and is established as a consultant. “We make the results of our work available not only for scientific discussion, but also for the political world.

More information available at: Audiovisual Media Services Directive


Promoting improved EU law making

with Herwig Hofmann

Anyone setting out to contribute to simpler, more responsible and more transparent law making procedures at European Union (EU) level has set themselves, without doubt an ambitious target. Professor Herwig Hofmann has done exactly that.

An expert in European law and transnational public law, he has been researching and teaching at the University of Luxembourg since 2004. As first professor of law at this University, he is part of the pioneering generation at this still young university. The ReNEUAL project (Research Network on EU Administrative Law) was also a pioneering achievement. As the name states, this project was designed to research how European lawmaking and acts of transposition could be better shaped in the future to ensure that the EU’s constitutional values are adhered to more consistently. Around 100 researchers from all over Europe – and beyond – worked on it together over a period of five years.

ReNEUAL: 100 international researchers working together for five years

Herwig Hofmann was the initiator of the network and is responsible for coordinating ReNEUAL. Together with his colleagues he presented the research findings in September 2014. The fact that far reaching and practically relevant results have been achieved is due to transnational collaboration of excellent researchers: “Working together over many years with distinguished experts in both European law and national lawmaking was a unique experience for all those involved. Thanks to this concentration of complementary skills we were able to achieve results which are bound to influence some political debates in the years to come.”

Concrete suggestions with a view to transparency and rapid implementation

In particular with regard to procedural law and governance it is to be expected that ReNEUAL will also be translated into common practice. Herwig Hofmann is currently advising the European Parliament about possibilities for appropriate European legislation. However, with other issues too the focus is firmly on practical application: “Our overriding objective was to develop models which can be used to quickly and transparently put into practice the rights and obligations of citizens and administrative bodies.” For the sake of transparency, the results of the project have been presented many times over recent months at conferences and to the European Parliament. Not only the European Ombudsman but national ombudsmen too have the concrete findings from ReNEUAL, already translated into several languages, designated as a benchmark for their future work controlling the Executive.


A banking union expert in demand across Europe

with David Howarth

David Howarth is an Anglo-Canadian – and yet his passion for research is Europe. As Professor of European Political Economy at the University of Luxembourg he deals, among other things, with a very hot topic: European banking union.

It quickly becomes apparent to whomever he is talking that David Howarth is essentially a product of the Anglo-Saxon academic tradition. His approach to his areas of interest is undogmatic and practical, his openness to other ways of thinking very noticeable. He talks about what will probably happen with fiscal policy in Europe – and not about what might possibly come about. His opinions are based as much on real events as on theoretical models, which means that David Howarth is an excellent fit for the University of Luxembourg where he has been teaching and conducting research since September 2012 after holding various posts in the United Kingdom, most recently at the University of Edinburgh. This is because in Luxembourg research does not take place in ivory towers – but rather in the real world.

In the real world: Coping with compromise

An ivory tower would also, without doubt, be the wrong arena for David Howarth’s academic areas of specialisation. European financial and banking governance in general and banking union in particular are topics that are of obvious practical relevance – and are areas in which, across Europe, David Howarth is acknowledged to be a leading expert with publications in leading journals in his field and books with top academic publishers. In his work he has commented on the role of the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) as “watchdog” for European banks and on the prospects for banking union. And how does he view bank regulatory and supervisory developments? Whenever David Howarth answers this question, the words most frequently used are “suboptimal” and “compromise”.

His research: A topic with potential

Nevertheless, he does not want his appraisal of the future to be seen as being negative; instead he sees a process that is naturally difficult and in constant flux: “Europe is still strongly characterised by national perspectives and peculiarities. For example, the Luxembourg banking system is dominated by foreign institutions, whereas the presence of foreign banks in Germany and France is comparatively limited. Bank funding and bank activities also vary markedly across the European Union (EU).  This makes common EU policy making difficult – and it makes it a continually fascinating subject.” In a regulatory and supervisory situation in flux, David Howarth is reinforcing his academic networks in Luxembourg and internationally to undertake cutting edge interdisciplinary research better to understand developments and to make recommendations on institutional and policy design.


C Kemper

PISA Survey 2018: The University of Luxembourg contributes to practical excellence

with Christoph Kemper

The PISA survey was first conducted in 2000 and it constantly evolves in line with society’s expectations of its school leavers. To make this possible, research expertise is needed – and this is being provided by the University of Luxembourg at the Education, Culture, Cognition and Society (ECCS) Research Unit and at the LUCET (Luxembourg Centre for Educational Testing).

At the campus in Belval, Christoph Kemper is leading three teams with a total of 13 experts who are developing and optimising the tests for the PISA 2018 survey. As a Doctor of Psychology, he is working with his teams on the practical component of the international survey comparing educational performance: “The OECD, which organizes the PISA survey every three years, works in conjunction with leading global institutions. The renowned Educational Testing Service (ETS) in America is responsible for coordinating the development of the 2018 assessment and it in turn works with selected partners. We were chosen to be a practice partner.” The Luxembourg experts, who include academics with lengthy experience of working on PISA such as Professors Romain Martin and Samuel Greiff, have now been tasked with developing and optimising the 2018 assessment tests.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is becoming increasingly important

“When developing the assessment tests we follow a theoretical framework that has been decided by a group of experts from the London-based company Pearson. Of course in addition to this changes in the pupils’ learning conditions also serve as guidelines for us”, says Christoph Kemper. Most importantly the increasingly important impact of modern information technology is set to play an even bigger role here. Already with PISA 2015 most pupils will complete the assessment tests using a computer, and no longer with pen and paper: “Not only does this fit with what real life is about for the target group of fifteen-year-olds, but it also provides us with insights into the pupils’ learning ability.”

A new PISA element: Global Competence – a key to success in a diversified world

Something else that makes the task for the University teams of experts particularly fascinating is the field of “Global Competence” – a new element in the PISA survey. Christoph Kemper explains: “Alongside the main focus on reading ability, for the first time the construct of Global Competence will also be measured in PISA 2018. With this skill the survey should show whether pupils can find their way in a globalised and increasingly culturally diverse world and whether they can deal with it effectively and appropriately. This is precisely where we can make a contribution.” The University’s internationally acclaimed excellence in the field of psychological diagnostics and assessment test development is available for both the computer-based tests and usability testing. A further characteristic of the University and its location will also be of benefit to the project: “Our team is multilingual and multicultural, as is the country in general. Precisely when developing assessment tests for Global Competence this opens the way for many points of view.”


Europe and its citizens and their distant relationship

with Raphaël Kies

Raphaël Kies has written a book about the “distant relationship” between Europe and its citizens. A political scientist at the University of Luxembourg, Kies purports that the main thing wrecking the “marriage” between the EU and its citizens is their poor communication. In 2013, together with Patrizia Nanz, his colleague from Bremen, Raphaël Kies published an investigation into this relationship entitled “Is Europe Listening to us?”. A title which is to be understood at least in part as a rhetorical question, while of course the answers to it are multilayered.

Citizens who are only indirectly represented are disinterested

Raphaël Kies, who is carrying out research into involvement in politics in Luxembourg, believes that it is the lack of any direct communication that is in fact mostly responsible for this distance. However, he thinks that actual and virtual armchair politics in the vein of “them in Brussels” totally misses the point. Instead the relations between the EU and its citizens are far more like a relationship where the two partners have just drifted apart. On the one side is Europe wanting to communicate, while on the other are its citizens who are quite unaware of this desire.

For example, very few indeed will have heard of the Europolis, IdealEU or Citizen’s Agora projects, and this is precisely where the problem in this relationship lies. As Raphaël Kies explains: “The EU is trying to make its citizens part of the Europe Project with initiatives of this sort. This is done with local events or via online dialogue.” However, because of the process of estrangement on both sides that has been going on for ages such opportunities are generally not taken up. “It would be all too easy to lay the blame only at Brussels’ door, we also have to face up to the fact that citizens know very little about politics and what’s more they show very little interest in politics.”

Helping to find a solution through practical research

Admittedly Europe suffered from a lack of legitimacy from the outset, which meant that for a long time the European Parliament led a shadowy existence, exerting little influence before it then came into its own – but this only happened very late on. Thereafter there were attempts to get citizens indirectly involved with Europe via dialogue with interest groups. Only when this attempt ran out of steam too were the said opportunities for dialogue initiated. The long-term challenge for Raphaël Kies is to continue analysing this process. As a researcher who looks at issues from a practical angle, he is hoping that he can help find a solution for this relationship crisis.


An economist with strong opinions about the Greek crisis

with Christos Koulovatianos

Christos Koulovatianos is in demand at the moment. There are two reasons why: firstly he is a Greek and secondly he is an economist.

In fact, Christos Koulovatianos is a Professor of Macroeconomics and has been working in this role at the University of Luxembourg for the last 3 years. However, at a time when Europe is in crisis, an economist born in Thessaloniki becomes an expert on Greece – and a sought-after contact for the press. It is true that Christos Koulovatianos has spent the last 20 years abroad, studying, teaching and researching. He spent time in the United States, Germany, Austria and the United Kingdom before coming to the Grand Duchy in 2012.

All credibility has been lost

Despite his long time away, this man in his forties has very strong opinions about what is happening in his homeland. He believes that the credibility and image of Greece have been permanently affected, for two reasons. "After everything that has happened in the last few months, it will be very hard to find short-, medium- or long-term investors who want to put their money into Greece. In fact, the shortage of investors has been a problem for years. Furthermore, the majority of the citizens feel that they have been treated unfairly because a minority belong to a class that is corrupt. And internationally, the perception of Greek politics has now suffered another major setback." Christos Koulovatianos does admit that previous governments made mistakes too, but with Aléxis Tsipras' cabinet, the last shreds of credibility have been lost, he says.

Catastrophic situation in Greece

Aléxis Tsipras and his Finance Minister Yánis Varoufakis followed a "catastrophic strategy" in the negotiations in Brussels, says Christos Koulovatianos. "They went for a head-on collision with the European Commission, overlooking the fact that the Commission is a juggernaut and Greece a pushbike." This resulted in a situation which proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back: "The current crisis is ultimately the result of many years of moving in the wrong direction. That is why Europe had time to prepare itself for various different scenarios. Greece, on the other hand, is now in a catastrophic situation in which, if things do not change quickly, even civil war cannot be ruled out. Avoiding that will require radical and transparent reforms, really fast."


A lawyer with a passion for Europe

with Eleftheria Neframi

Eleftheria Neframi is a lawyer. Her professional passion is for Europe. As the holder of a Jean Monnet Chair, she has been teaching and researching at the University of Luxembourg since 2012, including on the subject of "The objectives of the European unification process".

Europe is a many-faceted project, and Eleftheria Neframi's publications on the subject are equally diverse. The list encompasses articles on the interaction of legislative systems, legal disputes within Europe and the European Union's (EU) foreign relations, to name but a few. She supervises doctoral students working on European topics, and the team representing the University at the European Law Moot Court – a legal submissions competition for the whole continent – also comes under her aegis. Last but not least, Neframi, who was born in Greece, runs the legal research department at the University with Johan van der Walt and organises conferences on "her" subject.

European excellence: Jean Monnet Chair

It is really no surprise that Eleftheria Neframi is currently occupying a Jean Monnet Chair. These posts are awarded by the European Commission to scientists who have shown particular dedication to the theme of European integration. She brought the professorship with her from Paris, where she had held it from 2009-2012. The closely related subject of her research is "The objectives of European integration", to which she dedicates 120 teaching hours a year – divided between Bachelor's and Master's courses. She also engages in numerous other related research activities, funded by the National Research Fund and other European institutions.

Hands-on experience: the Court of Justice of the European Union

These research projects cover a wide range, from economic questions about the domestic market to fundamental rights. The same thematic breadth applies to her work with other universities, explains Eleftheria Neframi: "European issues are given a privileged position here, with regard to both teaching and research. We take a very interdisciplinary approach and work also with political scientists, for example. And there are opportunities for hands-on experience here in Luxembourg, where the geographical proximity of the Court of Justice of the European Union means that staff from there can be actively involved in our teaching and seminar work."


Photo of Mark Cole: © Éric Chenal