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Interview with Susumu Yamauchi, Vice-President, Hitotsubashi University / Sending EU Experts Out into Society

――How do you explain the reason why EU education is necessary now in order to promote widespread understanding?

At Hitotsubashi University, we believe EU education is very important, and our project was launched within this context. We have been focusing on EU related education and research initiatives for several years.

The EU is hugely important in many ways. Practically speaking, its GDP has grown and surpassed even that of the US. In politics as well, its influence has grown to rival that of the US that has long defined the world as sole hegemon.

Furthermore, the EU has come to demonstrate cultural power or normative power, in other words, European standards. It transmits its ideas in a manner different from that of the US, for example, putting human rights at the centre of arguments or highlighting an environmental problem. Also, with consumers’ interests in mind, the EU puts a lot of effort in the field of Competition Law as we can see in the recent Microsoft case where a large fine was imposed on the company.

Naturally, even with the issue of Competition Law, the EU cannot pursue its own policies if it lacks influence. However, it has sufficient influence to exercise. Moreover, there exists an ideal. That is, the EU maintains its own vision, in a sense, a progressive and innovative philosophy that goes ahead of the time.

Such ideals themselves have power and could hold great meaning in various areas, whether it is in the economic or political field. It is difficult for Japan or even for the rest of the world to continue to ignore such circumstances, and we should realise that.

――In that case, what are the risks for Japan of not learning about the EU?

Susumu Yamauchi

The risk of not understanding the EU may be connected to the risk of only knowing the US. For example, currently, the US dollar is the key currency. On the other hand, the only other currency that competes with the US dollar is the Euro for the time being. Therefore, it becomes all the more crucial to learn about the Euro.

From now on, if Japan strives to stay balanced in the world, to remain ignorant of, or to choose to ignore, the influence of Europe will be a huge disadvantage that could lead to a great loss when conflicts arise with other parties.

If businesses decide to operate in Europe without knowledge about the EU, they may be fined in some cases or fail to enter into the European market. For example, if the EU passes a bill for environmental regulation laws without the knowledge of Japanese businesses, Japanese businesses and consequently Japan could suffer great losses.

Additionally, when Asian countries discuss the possibility of creating an East Asian Community, the EU will provide an extremely relevant reference. At present, the EU is made up of 27 member states. This means 27 different countries make up “one” community. Furthermore, within the majority of its region, generally you are allowed to move about freely, without a passport. As this involves complex issues, the EU will be able to provide a great amount of guidance when Eastern Asian countries develop a similar plan for themselves.

 

――Japan should learn from both the US and the EU in a balanced manner. Is my understanding correct?

Yes, it is. Even though the American standard will continue to dominate for the time being, only looking at it will not ensure success. Rather, there are visible movements away from it.

In such circumstances, we must consider how best to develop an Asian Community. It is important to realise how unique the EU’s position is in the world. It is indeed highly interesting, and may point the way for our future. The significance lies there.

――Do you mean a kind of hope to escape from the shadow cast by the US?

Yes, I suppose it is unspoken prayer. Let's talk about another point we can learn from the EU. It is true that the First World War and the Second World War began in Europe. Yet, Germany and France, the previous sworn enemies, have now come together to agree to cooperate and create a new community. I believe that keeping peace for nearly 60 years without war is an extremely difficult achievement. Such an achievement will be very helpful when we consider concrete steps to build peace.

――What images come to your mind when considering, for example, research topics for the graduate school?

Graduate school research topics are endless, but to name a few, currency union and financial problems, internal and external politics of the EU, and Competition Law, which I mentioned earlier, are the examples of topics.

Also, it is necessary to look into the issues and significance of Europe’s ongoing enlargement, or the possibility of an EU-led global standard, especially with regards to issues concerning environment and human rights. One cannot forget educational policy for universities as well.

In short, since the EU has been making progress in many diverse ways, we need to follow and analyse them in order to decide, for example, whether we are going to utilise them as references or to criticise them. Therefore, I think that graduate students of this co-graduate school will make ideal EU experts through EU studies as a main focus, and economics, law, and politics as part of EU studies, not EU studies as part of other disciplines.

Eventually, they have to decide their main discipline, whether it is law, economics, politics, or culture. However, it is crucial that they place the EU as their core focus when conducting their studies.

――What kind of careers do you think the graduates will follow after they receive degrees from this graduate school?

For example, the graduates with the Master’s program will have a lot of options. They may work in the business world or work as international, national or regional public servants. Research, of course, is one of their options. Others may choose to be journalists.

What is distinctive is that they will study one of the disciplines as their specialty, that is to say, economics, political science or law as their specialty, and at the same time they will learn about the EU. Although we expect them to work in the divisions or on the initiatives related to the EU or Europe once they are hired, this will not always be the case. For Master’s graduates, whatever their specialties are, it is not guaranteed that they will work within the confines of their expertise for their entire careers.

Essentially, through the proper education, even if they get jobs in the US or are transferred there, for example, they will have a completely different perspective and experience as they will have a basis to which they can refer for justification. The same could be said for China. In possessing the skill to recognise the two different measures taken towards the EU and the US, they should be able to build an improved and balanced relationship with China.

Interviewed by: Madoka Akaike (Gram Design)

 
 

Exploring the EU

The Multi-disciplinary Nature of EU Studies

What to Learn from Higher Education Reform in the EU

The Challenges of studying the EU in Southeast Asia

Why We Celebrate the Birth of the EU on May 9th

Sending EU Experts Out into Society

EU Standards

Why the EU Now?