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The Battle for Europe


Disclaimer: due to the coronavirus pandemic, this course description might be subject to changes. For the latest updates regarding corona virus, please check this link.

Topics: European Union, Current Issues, Challenges, Opportunities, Current affairs.
Disciplines: TBA
Skills: TBA

Admission requirements:

This course is an (extracurricular) Honours Class: an elective course within the Honours College programme. Third year students who don’t participate in the Honours College, have the opportunity to apply for a Bachelor Honours Class. Students will be selected based on i.a. their motivation and average grade.


Europe once ruled the world, but now the continent is under attack from all sides, including from within. Chinese President Xi Jinping sees the continent as a win-win region. He has been buying influence in the Western Balkans for years and trying to tear the European Union apart. Russia feels threatened and President Putin conducts covert and now also military operations to disrupt NATO. President Trump, meanwhile, made it easy for the Russians and Chinese by turning away from his closest allies and opening the attack on Europe himself. President Biden seems again more involved in Europe, but still pursues an America first strategy and is aware that the future is all about the Asian region. Prime Minister Johnson thought he would be better off outside the European Union and the Hungarian and Polish leaders are undermining the democratic rule of law. They all believe that a strong European Union stands in the way of their ambitions. Political leaders struggle with an answer. The corona crisis, the war in Ukraine and many other issues have further increased the challenge. Can we win this battle for Europe? Can Biden Repair the Damage Trump has brought? What will the relationship between Germany and France bring? Will the EU remain a player in the world, or will the continent become the playground of world powers?

This course will explore current challenges and opportunities to and within the EU. This is done through different perspectives but is always focused on current affairs. With guest lectures from experts in different fields and practical exercises, students will explore the current challenges and opportunities. In a group assignment The Future of Europe, a Message to Europeans, students are challenged to debate and write a common perspective on what values, projects and ideals should hold together countries within the EU, facing current and future developments. In an individual assignment students tackle a challenge of their own choice and advice the EU on how to approach it. Finally, a short exam of 4 open questions will test the development of the knowledge of students throughout the course. The 4 open questions will relate to the current affairs topics that were discussed in the lectures.

The current affairs topics are not picked yet as these will focus on what is relevant at that point in time.

Course objectives:

  • Formulate a perspective on threats and opportunities for the European Union.

  • Develop a policy advice on a current issue in relation to the developments within or outside the European Union.

  • Analyse the functioning of the European Union.

  • Analyse current affairs and issues within and outside of the European Union, which have an impact on it.

  • Explain the major milestones and developments within the European Union.

  • Create a personal perspective on current and ongoing issues within and about the future of the EU.

Programme and timetable:

The sessions will take place on Thursdays from 19.15 - 22.00, with the exception of Tuesday, April 25 and Tuesday, May 16. Exam will take place on Thursday, June 1.

Session 1: Thursday, March 30 (19.15 - 22.00)
Preparatory session.

Session 2: Thursday, April 6 (19.15 - 22.00)
The history and workings of the EU. Two short lectures provide students with insights into the basics of how the EU works, how decisions are made, policies are developed and what the important departments and organisations are. In the second part, students create a timeline and mood board of the most important historical events, in their perspective, of the European Union and present this to their fellow classmates.

Session 3: Thursday, April 13 (19.15 - 22.00)
Current affairs topic 1. Rob de Wijk provides students with a thought-provoking lecture on a current challenge or opportunity of the European Union in relation to defence, security and foreign relations. In the second part, students work in small groups on providing policy advice on how to deal with this current topic.

Session 4: Thursday, April 20 (19.15 - 22.00)
EU Simulation on decision making within the EU..

Session 5: Tuesday, April 25 (19.15 - 22.00)
Current affairs topic 2. Mendeltje van Keulen provides students with a thought-provoking lecture on a current challenge or opportunity of the European Union in relation to its internal functioning and development of relations between local, regional and national governments and influence groups. In the second part, students will map the different levels of government, organizations and interest groups that try to influence EU decision making and provide advice on the best ways for these different groups to do so

Session 6: Thursday, May 4 (19.15 - 22.00)
Current affairs topic 3. Carolien de Gruyter provides students with a thought-provoking lecture on a current challenge or opportunity of the European Union compared to the Habsburg Empire. Through a debate with challenging statements, students will argue whether the EU awaits the same fate as the Habsburg empire and what the catalysts of this downfall will be.

Session 7: Thursday, May 11 (19.15 - 22.00)
Current affairs topic 4. Hans van den Berg provides students with a thought-provoking lecture on a current challenge or opportunity of the European Union in relation to Russia, Eastern Europe and EU expansion policy. In the second part, students analyse a topic, in relation to the EU, which is currently being reported in the media. In doing so they will have to check the facts and get different perspectives on the topic. After having done so, they will have to create a short podcast on the topic to explain it in such a way that anybody can understand it, record it and share it with their fellow students.

Session 8: Tuesday, May 16 (19.15 - 22.00)
EU simulation on the accession of candidate states for the European Union.

Session 9: Thursday, May 25 (19.15 - 22.00)
Presentations of the Future of Europe, a Message to Europeans.

Exam: Thursday, June 1 (19.15 - 22.00)

Wijnhaven in The Hague

Reading list:
To be detemined

Course load and teacnhing method:
This course is worth 5 ECTS, which means that the total course load equals 140 hours.

Contact hours: 26
Self-study: 114

26 hours of 8 lectures and one preparatory lecture.
70 hours of self-study on relevant literature.
21 hours on group essay the Future of Europe, a message to Europeans.
21 hours on individual essay A Policy Brief for the European Union.
2 hours short exam with 4 questions on the topics discussed during the lectures.

Assessment methods:
The assessment is made up of 2 essays and a short exam:

  1. Group essay the Future of Europe, a Message to Europeans. In a group of 15 students will have to develop a narrative on the question: What values, projects and ideals should hold together countries within the EU facing current and future developments? This must be developed and debated on three different sub-topics: Political, Socio-Economic, and Cultural. They will have to do so based on the knowledge gained during the classes, but more so on their personal perspectives. The outcome must be presented and defended in the final lecture to their fellow students and an expert panel.

  2. Individual policy paper. Students can pick a topic of their choice; however, it must be relevant and current. First, they will have to analyse the topic and identify the problem or challenge. Here they also discuss why this should be a concern of the EU and be given attention. Second, they will provide an overview of what has been done so far, or what has been done in comparable cases. Lastly, they will have to provide an advice on how to deal best with the situation and give practical tips on how to move forward.

3 Short exam. The exam will ask 4 open questions in relation to the topics discussed during the lectures which relate to current affairs and challenges in the EU. The students will have to provide a short essay type answer to these questions.

Brightspace and uSis:

Brightspace will be used in this course. Upon admission students will be enrolled in Brightspace by the teaching administration.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Bachelor Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Registration process:

Submitting an application for this course is possible from Monday 31 October 2022 up to and including Sunday 20 November 2022 23:59 through the link on the Honours Academy student website.

Note: students don’t have to register for the Bachelor Honours Classes in uSis. The registration is done centrally before the start of the class.

Course lecturer: Hans van den Berg: