Course Description

Course Name

The European Union Today

Session: VPRS1422

Hours & Credits

42 Contact Hours

Prerequisites & Language Level

Taught In English

  • There is no language prerequisite for courses at this language level.


The objective of this course is to give students grounding in the European Union institutional structures and to acquaint them with the various political, economic and social aspects of the EU as well as its external relations.
Through this course, students will gain a critical insight into the internal functioning of the EU along with the contradictions and the challenges that the EU has to face today such as the UK leaving the Union and the rise of populism. 
Students will learn how Europe interacts with countries in its neighborhood (Russia, Eastern Europe, Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa) and its ability to deal with the challenges linked to events in these areas. The course includes a look into policies directed towards the Global South through EU development policy. They will also study relations between the EU and the two major powers - the USA and China. 

Students are expected to read the relevant course materials for each class and to follow events in the news concerning the European Union and its external relations as active participation in class discussions is an essential requirement of the course. 
Students have to complete the given assignments: 

  • comment and personal assessment of the week’s topic based on the reading of the core texts. 
  • a 10-minute presentation in class on a topic related to the European Union and based on personal research. Students are free to choose the topic for the presentation within the scope of the course.
  • a term paper (7 - 9 type written pages in Times Roman or equivalent font with double spacing).  The topics for this paper will be distributed in class. Students are expected to research the topic and present a critical assessment and analysis with concrete references. A detailed bibliography of at least three additional sources to those used in class should be included. 

The majority of texts will be handed out in class and will consist of fact sheets and articles taken from newspapers, magazines, specialized reviews and appropriate websites. Audiovisual documents will also be used. 
Recommended reading: 
The European Union: A Very Short Introduction, Pinder, John & Usherwood, Simon, 2013, Oxford University Press 
Understanding the European Union, McCormick, John, 2017, Palgrave Macmillan, 7th edition

4/ Other references
The British media, particularly the Economist and the BBC, have good coverage of news concerning the EU as does the  International New York Times. A number of European newspapers and radio/television channels have English-versions of news on their web sites. 
The EU has its own website ( as do each of its individual institutions. 

5/ EVALUATION:  The final grade for the course will be based on student performance on the following tasks: 
Test on EU history, institutions and main policy areas (25%); A written term paper (25%); 
A presentation (25%); Attendance/Participation (25%) 
Students are required to be present for tests and to hand in their papers at the scheduled time. 
Late papers are penalized. 

6/ Attendance Policy
Attendance is essential and checked on a daily basis. Only three unjustified absences will be accepted and all ‘justified’ absences must be documented. The final evaluation will take both absences and repeated unpunctuality (three ‘lates’ count as one absence) into account. Students who are late (i.e. who show up during or after attendance is being checked) should see the instructor after class so that they are marked as present.

1. The historical context in the world and in Europe 
The major treaties and the waves of enlargement
Approaches to the European Union
2. The main EU institutions: the European Commission, the Council of Ministers, the European Council, the European Parliament and the Courts of the European Union 
3. Decision-making and legislation in the EU
The Single Market – the four freedoms
Economic and Monetary Union 
4. The Common Foreign and Security Policy 
The role and influence of the "big" member-states: Germany and France
The European Union, The United Kingdom and Brexit
5. In-class test.
Brexit continued
6. Europeanism: values and identity
Europe's democracy dilemma in Eastern Europe 
Politics and the rise of far-right parties
Student presentations
7. Schengen Agreement and Migration
The situation of minorities and refugees in the EU
The threat of terrorism in Europe 
Student presentations
8. European Neighborhood Policy
The EU Eastern Partnership and relations with Russia
Relations with Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa 
Student presentations
9. Europe and the Global South
The EU and the Association of  African, Caribbean and Pacific states
Student presentations
10. Relations between Europe and the United States 
Relations between the European Union and China
Student presentations
11. Can the EU exist as a single actor in a multipolar world?
What future for the EU?
Term Papers due

*Course content subject to change