The University of Michigan's new European Union Center was inaugurated on October 17, 2001, with the help of some illustrious guests: Madeleine Albright (former Secretary of State and Distinguished Scholar at the William Davidson Institute), Jonathan Davidson (head of academic affairs and political advisor to the Delegation of the European Commission in Washington) and Lee Bollinger (U-M president). Jeffrey Lehman (dean of the Law School) presided, and over 100 U-M faculty, students and staff attended the panel discussion and reception at the Lawyers Club Lounge.

    This new center is the outcome of a joint effort involving the College of LS&A, the provost's office, the International Institute, the Center for European Studies, the William Davidson Institute, the Business School, the Rackham School of Graduate Studies, the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, the School of Public Health, the Ford School of Public Policy, the School of Information and the Law School.

    The EUC at Michigan is one of 15 American centers to benefit from a three-year grant awarded by the European Commission. This funding program implements some of the plans set forth in the Transatlantic Agenda, which aims to improve relations and understanding between the European Union and the United States. As described by the EUC's first director, Daniel Halberstam (law), the new center will support research, instruction and outreach programs on European integration. In the first three years it will focus on three broad themes: the EU as a multilayered polity, the EU as a partner in global governance and the past and future of European identities.

    The Center aims to focus the University's unique strengths and expertise in European integration, while fostering greater knowledge of the European Union in the region. Speaking to these strengths, Professor Halberstam pointed out that "the Law School has been a national center of European integration studies since 1955, when Professor Eric Stein joined the faculty. He published one of the first commentaries on cases before the EUC, and, with Michel Waelbroeck, co-authored European Community Law and Institutions in Perspective (1976)." Attention to European developments goes together with a keen interest in globalizing trends among legal scholars (as the strong Center for International and Comparative Law bears witness) and social scientists. The balancing of regional and international interests makes the University, together with the EUC, a unique partner for European institutions and for understanding the increasing role of the EU as a global actor-a role underscored by both Dr. Albright and Mr. Davidson.

    Dr. Albright reminded us all that warm relations between European and American citizens have not always meant smooth relations between the European Union and the United States. Ostensibly small issues like the dispute over banana quotas in European markets belie the increased difficulties springing from the presence of a new political actor, the EU, distinct from the individual European nation-states, which have long been the interlocutors of American foreign policy makers. But disagreements and misunderstandings in mundane areas can prove useful testing grounds for developing more effective action when more important issues are at stake, such as the crisis in the Balkans or the response to terrorist attacks.

    Mr. Davidson emphasized the positive developments in the collaboration between the US and the EU, which have become apparent in the aftermath of September 11. The need for a concerted effort in the security area made it even more urgent to share ideas and increase understanding between American and European societies. According to Davidson, the contribution of the academic world was essential to this exchange, which is why the European Commission was supporting the launch of European Union Centers in the United States.

    The success of centers founded in the first round has been impressive: 4,000 courses on European integration have been offered, reaching thousands of students, and surrounding communities have gained unprecedented access to first-hand, expert information on what is happening in Europe.

    In the smaller world we all live in after September 11, concluded Mr. Davidson, we need to devise and compare solutions to questions of ethnic, religious and social identity, and seek the proper balance between security and the protection of fundamental freedoms. The birth of a European Studies Center at Michigan can greatly help that endeavor.

    The pointed question-and-answer session that followed the panel discussion gave a foretaste of the keen interest and critical awareness that will accompany the life of the new EUC.