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SEI Co-Director visits Croatia ahead of EU referendum
A Sussex specialist on European referendums and East European politics visited Croatia last week just days before Croatians voted to join the European Union.
During his two-day visit from 19-20 January, Professor Aleks Szczerbiak - Professor of Politics and Contemporary European Studies and Co-Director of the Sussex European Institute (SEI) - was involved in a number of meetings with academics, policy makers, journalists and business leaders to present and discuss his research on EU referendums.
With his SEI colleague Professor Paul Taggart, in 2009 Professor Szczerbiak co-authored a book on EU Enlargement and Referendums, analysing the outcomes of the 2003 referendums in the former communist states of central and eastern Europe on whether to join the EU.
The two Sussex scholars also co-convene the European Parties Elections and Referendums Network (EPERN), which was set up in 2000 originally to research Euroscepticism but subsequently expanded its brief to look at European referendums and the impact of the European issue on electoral and party politics
Commenting on his visit, Professor Szczerbiak said: “This was a tremendously exciting time to be visiting Croatia and an excellent opportunity for me to share the findings of the research that Paul and I carried out on EU referendums.
“I’ve learnt a great deal that I can put to good use both in further research on this topic but also in the Sussex courses that I teach on East European politics.”
Professor Szczerbiak gave the keynote address at a major academic conference hosted by the Zagreb University Political Science Institute and attended by the Croatian foreign minister.
He also spoke to 60 young professionals (including more than 20 SEI graduates) at a meeting sponsored by the British Council in Croatia.
Since 1999 the Croatian government has been sending young people to Sussex to take the SEI’s MA in Contemporary European Studies - in return for working for them for up to five years after returning home. As a result, SEI has now trained nearly 100 Croatian graduates.
Professor Szczerbiak said: “I was particularly pleased to meet up with so many SEI alumni who are now having a huge, positive impact on public life in their country. It was really gratifying to hear them talk about their positive experiences at Sussex and how helpful this has been to them in their professional careers.”
Professor Szczerbiak’s visit was organised by the Academy of Political Development, a Croatian NGO aimed at developing democratic political culture and promoting dialogue and co-operation among future leaders in Croatia.
The Academy is headed by Ana Brncic, who graduated from the MA in Contemporary European Studies in 2002 and is now head of communications in the EU delegation in Croatia, having previously been a senior official in the Croatian ministries of foreign affairs and European integration.