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Professor Richard Whitman
Professor Richard Whitman

Press Release - 26 September 2005

UK to challenge problems at heart of Europe, says new Bath Professor

The UK’s Presidency of the European Union (EU) will focus on the long-standing problems and sources of tension that have troubled Europe, according to Richard Whitman, the University of Bath’s new professor of politics.

This means that the six-month Presidency of the EU, which started on 1 July 2005, is unlikely to result in a stream of concrete policy initiatives, but will instead try to tackle key issues at the heart of Europe such as the future of the Constitutional Treaty, Future Financing and Enlargement.

Speaking at a special lecture to a group of international students on the ‘Euromasters’ course tomorrow (Tuesday 27 September), Professor Whitman will outline what he sees as the key issues facing the UK Government through the Presidency of the EU.

“The UK assumed Presidency of the European Union in a volatile political atmosphere with the EU at an important crossroads,” said Professor Whitman, who has joined the Department of European Studies and Modern Languages after heading the European Programme at Chatham House (formerly the Royal Institute of International Affairs).

“Whereas the official agenda focuses largely on continuing economic reform as well as on external matters, the UK government faces an unavoidable agenda which has largely written itself.

“The July terrorist attacks in London are likely to result in an increased focus on EU-wide co-operation in combating international terrorism, in particular with respect to retention of telecommunications data.

“The most controversial issue facing the UK presidency will be the opening of accession talks with Turkey, but the scheduled enlargement of the EU, with the accession of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007, is not under threat.

“Recent UK government rhetoric has stressed the need for Europe to reconnect with its citizens. One benchmark by which to judge the UK EU presidency will be the extent to which the government can trigger and sustain a debate on the core questions of European integration.”

The Euromasters degree is a postgraduate course in comparative European and EU-US studies taught by the University of Bath in collaboration with, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Freie Universität Berlin, Università degli Studi di Siena, Sciences Po, Paris, University of Washington (Seattle), Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and Charles University, Prague.


Professor Whitman is currently Head of the European Programme at Chatham House (formerly the Royal Institute of International Affairs). Previously, he was Professor of European Studies at the University of Westminster where he also served as Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy between 2001-2003. He is a contributor to leading journals, and has presented many papers and keynote addresses. His current research interests include the external relations and foreign and security and defence policies of the EU, and the governance and future priorities of the EU.

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