The Jean Monnet Chair “Teaching, researching and debating contemporary European issues” (TRENDS) aims to revise, expand, and upgrade the EU studies to increase their popularity in Vilnius university and systematically integrate contemporary European issues into the study curriculum of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science (IIRPS VU). The Chair has been established in October 2020 and will continue activities until October 2023, supported by a grant from the EU’s Erasmus+ Programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport.
The underlying motivation for the proposed activities is based on the need to reinvigorate interest in the EU issues among young generation and to contribute to public debates on the contemporary European issues in Lithuania. The JM Chair activities are directed towards overcoming decline in the society’s interest in the EU matters, which recently became visible compared to the EU accession period more than fifteen years ago. This decline is manifested in fewer students opting to study EU subjects, reduction of the number of theses written on the EU subjects, fewer books published on EU–related subjects in Lithuanian, decline of high-quality debates on European issues and intellectual exchange between policy makers and academia.
The activities of Jean Monnet Chair are guided by the three main goals. First, to motivate bachelor students to pursue master level studies of the EU and choose professional carrier in Lithuanian and EU public institutions, working with European issues. Second, to strengthen attractiveness and widen access to European studies to students of other departments of Vilnius University. Third, to stimulate the evidence-based public debate on European issues, counter misleading narratives about the EU, and provide knowledge to non-academic audiences about the EU institutions, policies, and current issues.
Professor Ramūnas Vilpišauskas holds Jean Monnet Chair position in the IIRPS VU, which is one of the leading social sciences institutions in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic region as well as a community of prominent experts on national, European and international politics. The Chair supports IIRPS VU course offerings that includes three MA-level courses, focused on public policies, political economy, and institutional developments of the EU as well as a newly created BA-level selective course on Contemporary issues of the EU. Besides intensive teaching activities, professor Vilpišauskas also facilitates academic and public discussion events, provides opinion in Lithuanian and foreign media, and engages in research activities.
Taken together, the activities of Jean Monnet Chair contribute to bringing the EU issues to the spotlight in Lithuania, encouraging critical debates about the mutual relation between the EU and Lithuania as well as strengthening ties between society, students, scholars, and policymakers. The impact of TRENDS will be also relevant after the project lifetime due to active communication and wider dissemination of educational activities, extending beyond the students of the IIRPS and beyond traditional public commentaries.
Ramūnas Vilpišauskas is a professor at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University (IIRPS VU), where he has been teaching since 1996. Since October 2020, he holds a distinctive position of Jean Monnet Chair.
Between 2009 and 2019 prof. Vilpišauskas was the director of IIRPS VU. He developed relevant practical experience of policy advice working as a Chief Economic and Social Policy Advisor to the President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus during his second term in 2004-2009 (for three years in 2006-2009 also working as a Chief of staff of the President). In addition, professor was a member of consultative policy advisory bodies in Lithuania such as the Sunset Commission (2009-2016), the High Education Board (2010-2013), and the Progress Council (2010-2016).
The research and academic interests of prof. Vilpišauskas focuses on the EU-related fields, such as political economy of European integration, EU public policies (including transatlantic relations), effects of international agreements on public policies, public sector reforms and foreign economic policies. He has participated in both national and international research projects, such as Horizon 2020 project on reforms in Eastern partnership countries EU-STRAT (financed by European Commission; 2016-2019), “Negotiating Brexit” (financed by British Economic and Social Research Council; 2017-2019), “Navigating in the Storm” on security of small states (financed by European Commission, 2017-2020), small states in the EMU (coordinated by the Institute for European Integration Research, Austria), response to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Lithuania and other EU Member States (COPOVAL) (financed by the Lithuanian Research Council, 2020) and others. Prof. Vilpišauskas is also a country expert for Bertelsmann Foundation for the evaluation of Sustainable Governance Indicators.
Recent publications of prof. Vilpišauskas include articles in leading international journals on fiscal consolidation and structural reforms in Lithuania as well as analyses of Eurozone crisis, book chapters on the future of Europe, Lithuanian attitudes towards the EU, and changes happening in the country after the accession. List of prof. Vilpišauskas publications can be found here.
As Jean Monnet Chair, prof. Vilpišauskas aims to initiate public discussions on the EU affairs, strengthen the quality of current debates and encourage closer cooperation between society, academia, and decision makers. As a result, he actively reacts to the most relevant European issues while providing commentaries in media, writing articles, or sharing his views on TV. Public activities of Jean Monnet Chair are presented below:
One of the aims of Jean Monnet Chair TRENDS project is related with the development of new courses and continuous improvement of courses on the EU issues, taught by prof. Vilpišauskas. During the period of the project, following courses were introduced or renewed:
Contemporary EU Challenges (BA-level). It is a completely new optional course for students from various faculties of Vilnius University that launches in Autumn 2021. It seeks to provide students with an in-depth knowledge of the most relevant challenges of the EU domestic and foreign politics; to develop abilities to assess the EU events critically; to discuss and formulate argument-based suggestions for tackling the relevant issues. The topics of the course reflect the processes of internal and foreign politics and the role of various actors in this process, including discussions on the role of Lithuania in the EU and national interests of the country. During the lectures, contemporary EU challenges are presented, while in seminars they are analyzed from the perspective of Lithuanian national interests as well as supported by the latest (research) material that provides different points of view regarding the issues discussed.
EU Public Policies (MA-level). The course aims to provide students with an in-depth knowledge of the main EU institutions, stages of decision–making process, and relations of different institutions, their importance for different public policy areas, and the latest debates on institutional reforms. After a thorough revision in 2021, the course was strengthened by practical application of knowledge. It develops a broad range of students’ skills, ranging from the expansion of their theoretical knowledge on the EU public policies to its application in practice. A vivid mixture of lectures and seminars, combined with practical tasks, such as preparation of a policy brief encourages students to apply their knowledge on explaining as well as solving dilemmas of contemporary EU public policies. The best policy papers, written by the students, are disseminated through various media channels and contribute to societal discussions on the EU affairs.
Political Economy of European Integration (MA-level). Taught since 2001, the course was significantly improved to provide fundamental knowledge and develop a deeper understanding of political economy of European (dis)integration applied to most recent developments such as the exit of the UK from the EU and COVID-19 crisis. The course focuses on providing ability to evaluate the political economy of European integration primarily in functional terms (integration developments in key economic policies and their interpretations), as well as geographic (integration) approaches. Prof. Vilpišauskas revised the course with a focus on assessing recent processes of differentiation in Europe and the effects of different crises on the state of the EU.
One of the core pillars of TRENDS is research activities. By the end of the project, a monograph on the role of different EU, national and other actors in policy process of the EU, the main policy issues in the areas of regulatory, redistributive, and allocative policies, internal as well as external policy issues (enlargement, neighbourhood policies, international trade and relations with the US, China, and Russia), debates on EU institutional reforms, will be published. In each chapter cases relevant to Lithuania will be presented from different analytical perspectives to make the material more accessible to public and useful for educational purposes.
In addition, the Jean Monnet Chair is constantly involved in various research projects that overlap with his EU-related research interests.
To engage various groups of society into fruitful discussions on the EU issues, Jean Monnet Chair is initiating and actively participating in various events, related to the EU topics. One of his initiatives – Euro debates that will target policy makers and civic society by increasing awareness between political and public deliberations taking place on the EU level, and local issues, showing the links between governance on the EU level and the most important economic, social, demographic, environmental issues in Lithuania. To break dominant stereotypes about the EU and provide the basic information about its functioning, recent events and impact on the national development, prof. Vilpišauskas has also initiated open (online) lectures in various Lithuanian regions.