Interview with Dr. Christina Schneider – Jean Monnet Chair at the University of California in San Diego

Categories: Meet the researchers

Christina Schneider is an Associate Professor and Jean Monnet Chair at the University of California, San Diego. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Konstanz in 2006, and worked at the Max Planck Institute of Economics in Jena (2006-2007), the University of Oxford (2007-2008), and the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance in Princeton (2008-2009). Her research focuses on the domestic politics of cooperation and bargaining in international organizations with a focus on the European Union and international development organizations. She has published a book on European enlargement with Cambridge University Press, and has articles published in journals including American Journal of Political Science, British Journal of Political Science, International Organizations, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Public Choice, and World Development. Currently, she is on sabbatical leave as an Alexander-von-Humboldt Experienced Research Fellow at the University of Konstanz, Germany.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am an Associate Professor of International Political Economy at the Department of Political Science at the University of California in San Diego (UCSD). Before moving to the United States in 2008, I researched and taught in a number of countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom. My research focuses on the domestic politics of international cooperation. I have written extensively on governance issues in the European Union and international development institutions. In 2013, I was awarded the Jean Monnet Chair of the European Union to foster the knowledge and competence of European affairs at UCSD and other universities in the region.  

Dr. Schneider, would you please tell our readers about your connection to the USA?

Starting in 2001, I lived in Denton, Texas for two years to study for a Master of Arts in Political Science at the University of North Texas. The unique academic environment in the United States motivated me to pursue a Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Konstanz. I returned to the United States in 2008 to pursue a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance in Princeton. In 2009, I was offered a tenure-track assistant professorship in the political science department at the University of California in San Diego to research and teach about governance issues in international organizations with a focus on the European Union.

You were awarded the Jean Monnet Chair at the University of California San Diego. What has been the focus of your (research) work while Chair?

My work as the Jean Monnet Chair at UCSD has focused on European cooperation and integration in the broader global governance context. One strand of my research analyzes the European Union as a foreign policy actor in international development. The European Union is by now the largest multilateral aid donor in the world, providing more foreign development aid than the World Bank. Despite its importance, we know very little about the EU’s role in international development. My research aims to shed more light about how foreign aid policies are decided within the European Union. Another strand of my research centers around the domestic electoral politics of European cooperation. The EU currently faces a number of important crises, including the

European debt crisis, the Ukrainian crisis, the refugee crisis, or the British referendum to leave the EU. These crises have not only contributed to a rise of populism across Europe, but also to a worsening of the EU’s legitimacy crisis. For many Europeans, the EU is run by distant and unaccountable political elites who make decision behind closed doors. My research analyzes the extent to which EU member governments are democratically responsive to their constituents when they negotiate at the European level. To date we know little whether and how electoral politics have influenced governments at the EU level and with what consequences for European cooperation and domestic politics. My research demonstrates that electoral politics play an important role in European cooperation. The research culminated in a number of journal publications as well as a book manuscript.

What has been most rewarding about the Jean Monnet Chair experience?

The Jean Monnet Chair provided me with the opportunity to deepen my research and teaching about European politics significantly, and to stimulate interests of UCSD faculty and students in issues of European affairs. Although the EU has emerged as leading power in global governance (for example, by becoming the largest foreign aid donor in the world), the EU is oftentimes poorly taught and poorly understood in the United States, and particularly at the West Coast of the United States. Courses on topics relevant to the EU have been reduced, arguing that the EU has become a political system in itself that is too specific to allow for a more general application that would be of interest to an US audience. The Jean Monnet Chair activities raised the profile of the European Union on campus and in the region, and enhanced the awareness and knowledge among academics, students, and US citizens about issues relating to European integration.

In what ways have the Jean Monnet Chair improved/benefited the EU-US collaboration in STI (Science, Technology and Innovation)?

Global governance is a central component for the EU-US collaboration in STI. One important example are the challenges governments face when addressing the problem of global warming. After more than two decades of diplomacy, the process established last year in Paris is widely seen as an important step in that direction. But even though Paris was a watershed event, this does not mean that governments will actually do what is needed to cut emissions and manage the impacts of climate change. At UCSD, we brought together a group of scholars from various disciplines, including both natural and social scientists, who are working on a proposal on how to make Paris work. Our unique dual approach incorporates both the expertise of natural sciences to enhance the effectiveness of climate policies (i.e. by providing guidance as to what policies work, and by designing a new system to verify global emissions) and the expertise of social science to monitor and incentivize governments to implement and facilitate such policies. As a Jean Monnet Chair, I provide guidance on the governance challenges of the project. We hope that our proposal will ultimately enhance the cooperation between the EU, the US, and some other central countries in the fight against climate change.