Prof. Thomas Conzelmann and prof. Ellen Vos Prof. Thomas Conzelmann and prof. Ellen Vos Paul van der Veer

CERiM provides interdisciplinary platform for research on European themes

In Society
Written by  Graziella Runchina Wednesday, 20 January 2016 15:01

It’s no modest mission: providing a platform for collaboration, fostering the exchange of ideas between researchers from different disciplines and facilitating research on European politics, law and history. The recently established Centre for European Research in Maastricht (CERiM) brings together researchers from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS) and the Faculty of Law (FL) to conduct collaborative research connected to recent global developments.



CERiM is led by the professors Thomas Conzelmann and Ellen Vos, with two postdoc researchers responsible for its daily affairs. Officially launched in mid-2015, the centre is already making good progress: in September it was awarded the prestigious Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence label. In addition to being an important quality marker, this label will boost future research by providing additional funding for the organisation of conferences and workshops.

Logical step
“CERiM provides a formal structure that replaces the previous ad hoc collaboration between various faculties, particularly FASoS and the FL”, says Vos, professor of European Union Law. “We had political theorists, historians, legal scholars and social scientists already working together on many Europe-related topics. There’s an urgent need to find answers to questions the disciplines are unable to solve in isolation, so the logical step was to found a centre that would allow us to cross disciplinary boundaries.”

“CERiM now forms an umbrella for over a hundred UM researchers”, says Conzelmann, professor of International Relations. “The research programme is called Reshaping Europe in a Globalising World, in which we’ll develop different research projects and organise international workshops with renowned speakers from the various disciplines. The aim is to contribute to the discussion on EU-related topics, not just within UM but also beyond the walls of the university.”

Four main themes
The research programme is divided into four main themes: Differentiation & Flexible Integration, Constitutionalising Europe, European Governance & Market Integration and, lastly, Europe & the World. A very broad remit, the directors concede. “There are so many hot topics in Europe that we’re keen to study”, explains Conzelmann. “Refugees, food safety, terrorism. Or take the rise of far-right parties in Europe. What’s the role of citizens here? How do the populations of the various member states deal with it, not to mention the politicians? These are matters on which not just the individual states, but also Europe itself must take a position. And we as a centre would like to provide the answers.”

Integration process
“What about the question of how the law can contribute to the process of European integration?”, Vos continues. “It might make sense to approach a legal scholar about this, but a political theorist or another social scientist can provide a completely different perspective. Rather than focusing solely on the technical legal aspects, they take political motives and other issues into account. That’s the kind of research CERiM would like to stimulate.”

Food safety
Research is well underway at CERiM on various topics. Vos herself is a legal expert in the area of food safety. “This theme also falls perfectly within the scope of CERiM. For example, there’s fierce debate at the moment on whether genetically modified organisms [GMOs] and genetically modified food should be allowed in member states. Although it’s been agreed on a European level that certain GMOs must be allowed if permits have been issued for them, 19 member states have refused to go along with this decision for political reasons. What’s interesting is that European legislation has had to change to accommodate their refusal. So does this mean European legislation should also accommodate member states refusing to allow genetically modified food?” Conzelmann chimes in: “At the same time, this is an enormously controversial topic in political terms. If we want to get to grips with the debate on GMOs, we need to understand the concerns coming from society but also the stance among experts on what constitutes an acceptable risk.”

Increasing visibility
The goal in the next few years is to increase the visibility of CERiM by organising workshops, conferences and seminars. The overview on CERiM’s website ( of ongoing research and research fields highlights the impressive range of expertise the centre has in house on European themes. Conzelmann: “We also hope to benefit from cooperation with the Maastricht city council when it comes to organising joint events, such as talks and lectures. We’ve already had the European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström here, talking to CERiM researchers and UM students about TTIP, the trade agreement currently being negotiated between the EU and the US. We plan to organise these kinds of activities more often. We’re keen, too, to further increase the dialogue between CERiM researchers and policymakers in Brussels and the various capitals.” 

Ellen Vos (1965) is professor of European Union Law at the Maastricht University Faculty of Law. She is also co-director of the Maastricht Centre for European Law and the Centre for European Research in Maastricht.

Thomas Conzelmann (1966) is professor of International Relations at Maastricht University and co-director of the Centre for European Research in Maastricht. He served as Research Director and Associate Dean for Research at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences from 2009 to 2013. Before coming to Maastricht, he held various positions at the University of Darmstadt and the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research.

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