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Federal visions for an integrated Europe – an interview with Vibeke Sørensen Grant holder Gerard Casas Soler

Posted on 04 September 2020

Gerard Casas Soler, PhD candidate in Political and Social Sciences at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, spent one month on research stay at the HAEU as Vibeke Sørensen grant holder. His PhD project, supervised by Prof. Klaus-Jürgen Nagel, studies the evolution of the federal ideas for an integrated Europe through the study of the European Commission Presidents’ speeches. In this article, he tells us more about his research project and stay at the HAEU.

What is your research about?

My research links European integration with federal intellectual tradition. I am trying to explain the importance of the federal intellectual tradition for European integration. In order to do it, I study the federal projects for Europe of the 1940s – those of Altiero Spinelli, Denis de Rougemont and Jean Monnet – and then find out whether and how the European Commission, as the institution representing the European general interest, tried to implement it.

How did you come up with this topic?

I did a master in European integration at the University of Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium. I spent some time in Brussels working there before I went back to Spain, where I worked as a Teacher. Although teaching fulfilled me, I missed research. For this reason, I did another master in political philosophy and I came up with federalism. Federalism has always interested me, both because of the possibilities it offers for Spain as well as for Europe. Once I finished my master in political philosophy and decided to do a PhD, I had the idea of putting together my two main topics, European integration and Political Philosophy and, after some reflection, the project came to my mind.

Why do you think it is relevant, socially and academically, to conduct such research?

Academically, from my point of view, the federal tradition is sometimes a bit forgotten. And it is important for the academic community to remember that, although the current state of affairs of European integration has not followed a federal path in the last years, federalism has always been there as an option. From an academic point of view, it brings back on the table something that was at the heart of the very beginning of European integration. This also links to the social relevance of the topic; if the topic is being discussed in academia, at some point it might also reach other circles, so that those who are in a position to decide might put it again on the table.

What did you expect to find at the HAEU for your research?

There were more or less three things that I needed and was expecting to find. It is difficult for me to have at hand all the material that I need. The first thing that I needed was thus to have plenty of books on European integration at hand and to be able to use it without any restraints for three weeks. Then I expected to find archival documents on the intellectuals and political activists of European integration on which I am working. Then, for the last part of the project, which is to find out whether the Commission tried to implement those ideas, the methodology is to focus on speeches of the Presidents of the European Commission. And here at the HAEU you have the archives of most Presidents. The HAEU are in this context my dream!

To what extent does reality meet your expectations?

Definitely, it met all my expectations. I hoped to find the environment that I needed to work and I found it: plenty of archival material and books, colleagues working on related topics and a calm environment with all the facilities at hand. My supervisor was the one who told me about the grant and the research opportunity at the Archives. I am very happy to be here.

The Vibeke Sørensen Grant scheme for visiting scholars was set up in 1993 by Emile Noël, President of the European University Institute (EUI) with support of the European Commission. It aims to encourage research on the history of European integration based on primary sources held at the Historical Archives of the European Union.

Find more information on the Vibeke Sørensen Grant scheme.