Historical Archives of the European Union - European University Institute

Jakub Szabó: an economist looking for answers

Thanks to an International Visegrad Fund Research Grant, the University of Bratislava doctoral candidate is spending three months conducting dissertation research at the Historical Archives.

22/07/2021 | News

In 2009, EU member state Slovakia joined the European Monetary Union, while its peer countries, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, did not. Why did these countries choose to remain outside of the Eurozone?

An interdisciplinary approach

Jakub Szabó, a doctoral candidate in economics at the University of Bratislava, is interested in finding the answer to this question. To do so, however, he felt compelled to look beyond the standard methodologies of his discipline.

‘In economics, we have multiple sophisticated econometric models to examine the pros and cons of entering a common currency union […] What these models tend to omit, however, is that entering a common currency union is a political as much as economic decision, and that these decisions tend to be historically embedded.’

Jakub’s interdisciplinary outlook has brought him to the Historical Archives of the European Union, where, supported by the International Visegrad Fund Research Grant, he is spending the summer digging deep into the decisions of other states that, in one way or another, opted out of European monetary integration.

Lessons from the history of European integration

Jakub’s research is related to his doctoral dissertation, which deals specifically with post-1989 economic development in the V4 countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia). According to Jakub, the decision to join the euro or not is the biggest issue among these four countries. While it is what distinguishes Czechia, Hungary and Poland from Slovakia, explaining why they diverged is no easy task.

‘It crossed my mind that it would be interesting to look at the history of European integration and assess the political and economic circumstances shaping decisions to either join or opt out of the European monetary integration project.’ […] ‘When it comes to monetary questions,’ he explains, ‘we all have a lot to learn from the history of European economic and monetary integration.’

At the HAEU, Jakub has delved specifically into the fonds concerning the EFTA countries, who ultimately decided to opt out of fixing their currencies to the ECU.

‘I am hoping to find out what economic and political circumstances influenced their decisions and what lessons there are to be learnt for economies like Poland, Hungary or Czech Republic in terms of the monetary and exchange rate policy conduct.’

A new research experience

Being new to archival research, Jakub’s experience at the HAEU has been eye-opening. ‘Since I have never worked in archives before, my perception of the archival research was somewhat shallow and naïve,’ he said.

With a month’s work under his belt, however, his experience at the HAEU has ‘exceeded’ his expectations.

'The staff has been flawless, very helpful', he says. 'I managed to find a great deal of important documents relevant for my research, which I had not been aware of before.'

The Visegrad Grant

The International Visegrad Fund Research Grant at the HAEU was established in 2021, and Jakub is the first scholar to take advantage of the opportunity.

‘I would highly recommend that any researcher from the V4 countries interested in the history of European integration apply for this grant. It is a splendid opportunity for everyone, not only in the field of economics, but also in the fields of history, European studies, political science and law,’ he says.

Fellows for the Visegrad Research Grants at the HAEU are selected each year in April and October. Complete information about the grant is available on the HAEU website.


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