The background of ECSA World project

Interview to Belén Bernaldo de Quirós

Belén Bernaldo de Quirós started working for the European Commission in 1987. On 1994 she worked for the Commissioner Marcelino Oreja. Upon finishing her work at the Cabinet (shortly before the resignation of the Commission in 1999) she moved to the Directorate General that was responsible for the contacts to the world of higher education, including the Jean Monnet professors and ECSAs.

There were very difficult years for the Commission following the fall of the Commission headed by Jacques Santer on March 15, 1999. Much more transparency, accountability and a clear legal basis were then required for all actions supported by the European Commission. The alternative being to cease them. In this context, the General Director, Mr Spyros Pappas, entrusted Belén Bernaldo de Quirós to find the right approaches to aligning the Jean Monnet Action with the Commission‟s legal and financial requirements. Until then, the support to the Jean Monnet Action and ECSA Associations was based solely on article 235 of the Treaty (in the version of those years), that was foreseen for actions undertaken by initiative of the Commission itself.

In this context, Belén Bernaldo de Quirós started by expressing her vision about the future of the Jean Monnet Action and the ECSA‟s by writing a report on this subject. In 2000, she became responsible for the Jean Monnet Action. Even if the pressure on the European Commission was strong, the Director General Nikolaus Van der Pas, underlined the great importance that he attached to maintaining the Jean Monnet and ECSA networks alive, that he considered vital to explain the European Integration process to the EU citizens. In order to do so, he acknowledged that it was necessary to adapt the entire Jean Monnet Action to the new "rules of the game" as actions based on article 235 had to be abandoned. Therefore, appropriate legal and financial procedures had to be identified and put in place for continuing and strengthening the support to university professors and Associations.

Belén says: "Nikolaus Van der Pas was the best Director General possible, a person who had great confidence in the quality and usefulness of the work provided by the ECSA network and the Jean Monnet professors, but also was absolutely determined to support them in the right way, by putting in place good and sound management and by making every effort in order to guarantee their sustainability". The option given by the Financial Control to Nikolaus Van der Pas was rather simple: the Action had to be aligned with the rules or it would disappear. And indeed, the head of the budgetary unit in the Education and Culture Directorate General was ready to this final solution and therefore introduced in 2000 a liquidation plan to be finalized in 2005.

Thanks to the endless quality work and commitment of a very few, the Action survived. To these ends two subsequent legal bases in 2004 and 2006 were necessary, to finally transform the Action into an EU programme as solid and relevant as Leonardo, Comenius or Erasmus.

Nowadays, the Jean Monnet Programme has become again an action within the Erasmus+ Programme which claims “that has brought all university projects together”. Belén says, “My mission to save and strengthen the Jean Monnet Action was accomplished and well beyond by the opening of the programme to universities world-wide. The difference was striking between 2000 and 2011. In 2000 there was nothing in place: no budget, even for the European University Council that would not survive, when the situation was so tight that Director General Van der Pas had to give his word personally to the Director General of the Financial Control that this Council would be regulated in order to get the salaries paid of colleagues working there for a few more months. 2000, was a time of void, with nothing stable implemented: neither budget nor legal basis. It was a difficult period but finally rewarding, when everything had to be reformed to preserve the Chairs, the Modules, the Centers of Excellence, and also the University Council which had to be transformed into a BAT (Bureau d‟Assistance Technique).

Anyhow, saving the Action and the ECSA‟s was only the initial step. Between 2000 and 2006, it took place the substantial part of the reform to strengthen both the Jean Monnet Action and the ECSAs and to reach a critical mass to transform them into an EU programme.” Indeed, the rescue plan was in 2000 the main challenge for the unit directed by Belén Bernaldo de Quirós. In this context, she found essential support in Professor Marc Maresceau, president at the time of ECSA World, who also had the job to explain to the ECSAs the need for important changes, which take -for example- that they could no longer be directly funded, but only through participation in the "call for applications" of the Jean Monnet Programme. "With Marc [Maresceau] we were constantly discussing on how to preserve everything”. “After Marc, the leading role of José María Gil-Robles, President of the European University Council and the endless support from Iñigo Mendez de Vigo and the establishment of a Group of Friends of the Jean Monnet Action in the European Parliament were instrumental to give a new political impetus to the programme”. It is worth noting that the Jean Monnet programme encompasses as well the support to well-known designated institutions such as the College of Europe, the European University Institute, CIFE and others.

Belén underlines the role of the ECSAs, currently chaired by Enrique Banús, in those difficult years and also the invaluable cooperation of collaborators within the team of the European University Council: Beatrice Miège and Luciano di Fonzo. From her point of view, the ECSA Associations have been somehow the guarantors of the continuity of the relation with and between universities. She says: “The existence of the word-wide ECSA Associations played a key role while obtaining the necessary hierarchical agreements to internationalize the Jean Monnet Action. I opened it to the world in 2000 after succeeding in persuading those that were not particularly in favor of the continuation of Jean Monnet, or ECSA. As we were in a critical situation, I only obtained a transitional period and it was firmly stated: „Well, if this goes wrong, it's the end‟ and, due to lack of funds, a pause of one year in the regular funding to projects coming from the Member States had to be made. It was a total bet not knowing for sure whether the world would be interested in the Jean Monnet Actions or even in spreading the number of ECSA Associations. Fortunately, the interest was there and it was a success, thanks also to the multiplier effect of the ECSA‟s. Consequently, we moved from 3 Chairs outside the European Union to Chairs, Modules and Centers of Excellence in 73 countries in 2011, along with many more ECSA associations implanted all over, teaching the European integration model as a unique model of regional development. Their vitality helped immensely to spreading the programme.”

Belén Bernaldo de Quirós worked as head of the Jean Monnet Unit till mid-2011. In those years many other improvements were introduced, such as ambitious Jean Monnet and ECSA Conferences gathering academia, political representatives at the highest level and renowned journalists to analyze together the European Integration process and its developments; therefore, accompanying from an academic perspective the EU decision making process. The Jean Monnet Prize also was created and the role of University Council was redefined. Notably, the conferences devoted to the European Constitution or those to the Intercultural Dialogue were a milestone for the programme, but this is another story. . .

 


 

Interview to Jacqueline Lastenouse

The woman who got the “Action Universitaire” of the ground

Mrs. Jacqueline Lastenouse started working at the Commission in the early sixties, with Jacques-René Rabier, the first Director responsible for the Informati

on policy of the Commission. Jacques Rabier was previously, for some years Chef de Cabinet of Jean Monnet at the French Commissariat au Plan and followed him in Luxembourg at the High Authority of the Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1952.

As head of the Information Policy of the Commission in 1960, Rabier saw the opportunity for realizing one of Jean Monnet’s main ideas: the European Integration could not be achieved without

close contacts with the public opinion in particular the trade unions and the universities. In his view, the universities should become a privilege interlocutor of the European Institutions.

It is in this context that Rabier developed a specific University Information Policy, which became soon Jacqueline Lastenouse’s domain. That is why she sees the Jean Monnet Project and the ECSAs, as the continuation of an effort that was present since the beginnings. In a certain sense, it is the realization of a priority established by one of the founding fathers of the European Communities.

Regarding more concrete to the establishment of the ECSAs, she underlines that they were established as an initiative of the academics themselves. This was the case in 1965, in France with the CEDECE (Commission pour l’Etude des Communautés européennes) and in Germany with the AEI (Arbeitskreis Europäische Integration) founded by professor Müller-Armack and the support of the President of the Commission, professor Walter Hallstein. Same initiatives were taken in all member states. Twice a year all these national associations were invited to meet in the framework of the University Information Policy. This approach was also supported by Emile Noël, at that time and for many years Secretary General of the Commission. With his authority and prestige, Noël was a decisive personality enhancing the cooperation with universities convincing for instance, the others European Institutions to provide universities with a free service of their publications and documents, as well as convincing also relevant politicians or high civil servants.

During more than 30 years, the Commission gave supports to universities, scholars and researchers involved in European integration studies and to the national “Associations”,- providing them at the end, - in 1987 with a common frame by creating the ECSA. This is when ECSA was born; as first president prof. Malcolm Anderson from Scotland was appointed. ECSA became then the partner of the Commission and the Universities in the launching of the Jean Monnet Project in 1989. A few years later, the Bureau d’assistance technique, (BAT), in the Rue de Trèves was established to handle the Jean Monnet Project,- in which very soon, also Luciano di Fonzo started working .

At that time, ECSA was seen as ECSA-Europe open only to member states, -although same ECSA’s were already existing in several countries outside: in Japan, in China under Dai Bingran, etc. Consequently, at the Conference organized in February 1992, by the Commission with all existing national associations, ECSA-WORLD was created open to ECSA’s from all over the world.

Since Jacqueline Lastenouse retired in 2001, major changes had occurred: the University Information Unit, was transferred to the Directorate Education and Culture and the Jean Monnet Programme, became as such, part of the university program ERASMUS.

Jacqueline Lastenouse always insists that the “Information Universitaire” was more than a policy or an addition of programs during almost 40 years; it was an approach to establish a dialogue between academics and the European actors inside the Commission and the other Institutions. The scientific research efforts and the aca-demic reflection on European and Community affairs were consider as major contributions for political decisions. Since the beginnings, the doctoral theses on European and Community matters were useful material for the services of the Commission. Moreover, this was the first task Jacques-René Rabier gave to Jacqueline Lastenouse: examining the content of the numerous PHD Theses sent by academics and forwarding them to the relevant Services and colleagues inside the Commission. In a certain sense, this was the start of a fruitful collaboration leading in a long term perspective to the Jean Monnet Action and to ECSA-WORLD.