POLS 360-0001: Government and Politics of Western Europe

Fall Semester 2009


Instructor: Asst. Professor Michael Clark

Class Time: Mon/Wed, 3.30-4.45pm

Class Location: DuSable 461

Professor’s Office: Zulauf 416

Office Hours: Mon/Thurs, 10.00-11.30am

Office Phone: (815)-753-7058 

E-Mail: mclark12@niu.edu


Course Description:


The purpose of this class is to provide students with a broad introduction and understanding of European governing institutions, actors, and political processes.  Though this is primarily a Political Science class, it is impossible to discuss European politics without consideration of historical events, as well as social and economic development.  The course objectives are for students to learn:

1)      The background to, and development of, contemporary Western Europe

2)      How the formal and informal institutions of government in a number of major European countries work

3)      How those institutions, along with political actors, affect both decision- and policy-making

4)      What major issues are currently affecting citizens in Western Europe

While we will cover a number of different subjects in the course, a major focus will be the institutions of government, and the process of political representation.  Given that we will be covering current events, it is “highly” recommended that students spend a few minutes each day catching up on what’s going on in the news in Europe (politically speaking).  Given the rather “mixed” coverage of European politics offered by American TV news channels, I suggest you read the Washington Post, the New York Times, or The Economist, visit the BBC’s website (www.bbc.co.uk), watch BBC World News on BBC America), or listen to NPR.


Course Reading:


1. European Politics, eds. Colin Hay and Anand Menon (Oxford University Press, 2007)

2. The European Union: A Very Short Introduction 2nd edition, John Pinder (Oxford University Press, 2007)

3. The United States of Europe, T.R. Reid (Penguin, 2004)

4. Additional readings to be assigned (available online through Blackboard)

5. A quality news source such as The Washington Post, New York Times or The Economist (to keep up on current events in Europe)



Class Attendance:


Attending lecture is not compulsory, but is absolutely essential since we cover alot of material fairly quickly, and also because lecture will include discussion of material not found in the readings.  Lecture is an opportunity to expand on, and apply ideas from the readings, as well as for students to discuss the reading and to ask any questions.


Course Requirements:


1.      Students are expected to attend all classes.

2.      Students are required to have read the assigned readings prior to class and to be prepared for class discussion.

3.      There may be surprise quizzes throughout the course of the semester.

4.      Students will be required to submit an 8-10 page paper relating a news article to concepts from class. More details at the end of the syllabus. 

5.      There will be three exams – two midterms taking place during weeks 5 and 9 respectively, and a final exam.  Exams will consist of some combination of multiple-choice, short answer, and essay-style questions. 


Course Grading:


The breakdown of grading for each piece of work will be as follows:

Midterm 1 – 20%

Midterm 2 – 20%

Final Exam – 25%

Paper – 15%

Class Participation (Possible Quizzes) – 20%


Course Grades will be distributed as follows:


            Final Overall Percentage                                 Final Letter Grade

            90-100 %                                                         A

            80-89 %                                                           B

            70-79%                                                            C

            60-69%                                                            D

            Below 60%                                                     F


***Extra-credit assignments are not an option so please do not ask***








Course Policies (pay close attention!):


1.      Makeup Exams: Makeup exams will only be given in very special circumstances.  If such circumstances arise, please contact the instructor as soon as possible and before the scheduled exam. To keep the process fair for everyone in the course, students will be asked to support requests for makeup exams with appropriate documentation. A missed examination without prior notification and an approved reason will result in a zero.


2.      Late papers: Late papers will not be accepted.  Papers are due in class on the day that the paper is due. If you fail to turn in the paper on the appropriate day, you will receive no score for the paper.  E-mailed papers will not be accepted, not withstanding absolutely exceptional circumstances.


3.      Handouts: Handouts are a privilege for those students who attend class on a regular basis. No student is entitled to supplemental materials simply because they are registered for the course.


4.      Classroom Etiquette: Attendance at all class sessions is expected, and the instructor will check attendance.  Active and informed participation in class discussion will make for a better class, and can notably boost a student’s final grade since 20% is set aside for class participation and/or pop quizzes.  Participation can also significantly help students in borderline grade situations.  Students are expected to arrive at class on time. Late arrivals disrupt the class and will be treated as class absences.  Too many class absences may result in being dropped from the class.  Students are to remain for the entire session unless excused by the professor beforehand or confronted with a serious personal emergency.  It is not at all acceptable for students to walk in and out of class to answer cell phones, take casual bathroom and smoking breaks, or attend to other personal matters. Please silence your cell phone prior to the start of each lecture and leave it where it will not cause distraction to you or others.  It is absolutely unacceptable to sleep, use an iPod, read a newspaper, use a laptop for anything other than taking class notes, or engage in other behavior that distracts the instructor or other students from class once it has begun. No one should talk while someone else is talking; and this includes comments meant for a classmate rather than the entire group. Overall, classroom dialogue and behavior should always be courteous, respectful of others, and consistent with the expectations set forth by the university.


5.      Note taking: Although PowerPoint will be used for the purposes of presenting class material it is imperative that students take their own detailed notes during lectures.  The PowerPoint slides provide a broad outline of discussion topics but do not cover everything.  If you miss class for whatever reason, be sure to obtain the notes from someone else in class (making a friend in class is always a good idea).


6.      Incomplete Requests: Such petitions will be granted only in extraordinary circumstances. The instructor reserves the right to ask for documentation to verify the problem preventing completion of the course by the normal deadlines. If the student does not present documentation from a university office or official, the matter will be left to the instructor’s discretion.


7.      Academic Dishonesty: Any written work for this class will be checked electronically through on-line databases to assess the originality of the work.  Regarding plagiarism, the NIU Undergraduate Catalog states: "Students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university." The above statement encompasses a paper written in whole or in part by another; a paper copied word-for-word or with only minor changes from another source; a paper copied in part from one or more sources without proper identification and acknowledgment of the sources; a paper that is merely a paraphrase of one or more sources, using ideas and/or logic without credit even though the actual words may be changed; and a paper that quotes, summarizes or paraphrases, or cuts and pastes words, phrases, or images from an Internet source without identification and the address of the web site.


8.      Students with Disabilities: Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework for which they may require accommodations should notify the University's Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR). CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


9.      Department of Political Science website: Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, research career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities.  To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu



Reading Assignments (subject to change)


Week One (August 24th)


Monday: Introduction (no reading assigned)


Wednesday: Britain and France


- Chs. 2 and 4 in European Politics


Week Two (August 31st)


Monday: Britain and France


- Chs. 2 and 4 in European Politics


Wednesday: Germany and Italy


- Chs. 1 and 3 in European Politics


Week Three (September 7th)


Monday: No class – university closed for Labor Day observance

Reading: None assigned


Wednesday: Germany and Italy


- Chs. 1 and 3 in European Politics


Week Four (September 14th)


Monday: Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and The Netherlands


- Chs. 6 and 7 in European Politics


Wednesday: Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and The Netherlands


- Chs. 6 and 7 in European Politics


Week Five (September 21st)


Monday: Midterm 1

Reading: No reading assigned



Wednesday: The EU – Origins, What It Is, And How It Works


- Ch. 2 in The United States of Europe

- Chs. 1-3 in The European Union: A Very Short Introduction

- Ch. 11 in European Politics (suggested)


Week Six (September 28th)


Monday: The EU – Origins, What It Is, And How it Works


- Ch. 10 in European Politics

- Ch. 3 in The United States of Europe


Wednesday: Contemporary Challenges And Issues Facing The EU


- Chs. 9 and 11 in The European Union: A Very Short Introduction

- “Europe: Playing The Parliamentary Game”, The Economist, July 16th 2009


Week Seven (October 5th)


Monday: Contemporary Challenges And Issues Facing The EU


- Ch. 21 in European Politics

- “Victory for Britain’s Metric Martyrs as Eurocrats Give Up The Fight” from The Daily Mail, September 11th 2007

- “A Taoiseach in Trouble” from The Economist, November 27th 2008

- “Nice Project, Shame About the Voters” from The Economist, November 19th 2008

- “Ever Greater Union” from The Economist, November 19th 2008

- “Fit at 50? A Special Report on the European Union” from The Economist, March 17th 2007


Wednesday: Europe: Global Influence Or Weakness?


- Ch. 23 in European Politics

- Chs. 4 and 7 in The United States of Europe (Ch. 5 suggested)

- “Britain And America: Special Friends”, The Economist, July 30th 2007

- “Switzerland: Splendid Isolation”, The Economist, February 12th 2004

- “EU Warns of Legal Action Over Gas”, to be found online at:



Week Eight (October 12th)


Monday: Europe: Global Influence Or Weakness?


- Ch. 10 in The European Union: A Very Short Introduction

- Robert Kagan, “Power And Weakness”, Policy Review, June/July (2002)

Wednesday: European Social Policy


- Ch. 6 in The United States of Europe

- Ch. 17 in European Politics

- “Public Holidays: An Idle Proposal”, The Economist, August 30th 2007


Week Nine (October 19th)


Monday: European Social Policy


- Robert Kuttner, “The Copenhagen Consensus”, Foreign Affairs (March/April 2008)

- “Pricing Drugs: A New Prescription”, The Economist, February 22nd 2007

- “Drug Strategy Review: Prescription Renewal”, The Economist, July 26th 2007


Wednesday: Midterm 2 (all material since 1st midterm)

Reading: No reading assigned


Week Ten (October 26th)


Monday: Parties And Party Systems In Europe: A Socio-Historical Perspective


- Ch. 12 in European Politics (don’t worry about the discussion of post-communist countries so much though its useful info for comparing and contrasting purposes)


Wednesday: Parties And Party Systems In Europe: A Socio-Historical Perspective


- Ch. 7 in Citizen Politics (to be posted to BBoard or handed out)


Week Eleven (November 2nd)


Monday: A Changing Electorate


- Ch. 5 in Citizen Politics (to be posted to BBoard or handed out)


Wednesday: A Changing Electorate & A Discussion of Elections


- Ch. 10 in Representative Government in Modern Europe 4th Edition (to be posted to BBoard or handed out)


Week Twelve (November 9th)


Monday: Migration, Immigration, and Identity Politics


- Ch. 19 in European Politics

- Terri Givens, “Immigrant Integration in Europe: Empirical Research”, Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 10, (2007)


Wednesday: Migration, Immigration, and Identity Politics


- Ch. 8 in The United States of Europe

- Markus Thiel, “Constraints on the Development of a European Identity: Territorial and Demographic Challenges”, EUMA, Vol. 4, No. 11 (2007)

- “Minorities in Germany: The Integration Dilemma”, July 19th 2007

- “Migration From Eastern Europe: Shutting The Door”, The Economist, October 26th 2006

- “Spain: Huddled Against The Masses”, The Economist, October 12th 2006

- “France: Sound And Fury”, The Economist, October 12th 2006

- “Italy and Immigration: Sing A Song of Xenophobia”, The Economist, August 31st, 2006


Week Thirteen (November 16th)


Monday: Muslims in Europe


- Timothy Savage, “Europe and Islam: Crescent Waxing, Cultures Clashing” from The Washington Quarterly, Summer 2004. This article can be found online at: http://www.twq.com/04summer/docs/04summer_savage.pdf

- “France’s Ethnic Minorities: To Count or Not To Count”, The Economist, March 26th 2009

- “Special Report – Islam, America, and Europe”, The Economist, June 24th, 2006


Wednesday: Muslims in Europe


- Stephanie Giry, “France and Its Muslims”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 85, No. 5 (2006)

- “France: No Cover Up”, The Economist, June 25th 2009

- “Living With Islam: The New Dutch Model”, The Economist, May 31st 2005

- “Few Signs of Backlash From Western Europeans”, National Pew Global Attitudes Survey, No. 13, July 6th 2006 (opening 16 pages recommended)


Week Fourteen (November 23rd)


Monday: The Extreme Right in Europe – A Minor Irritant Or Major Problem?


- Reinhard Heinisch, “Success in Opposition, Failure in Government: Explaining the Performance of Right-Wing Populist Parties in Public Office”, West European Politics, Vol. 26, No. 3, July 2003 (pages to be read will be announced in class)



Wednesday: No class. Thanksgiving break. Happy holidays!! Travel safely.

Reading: No reading assigned


Week Fifteen (November 30th)


Monday: The Extreme Right in Europe – A Minor Irritant Or Major Problem?


- “Scandinavia’s Far Right: Nordic Nasties”, The Economist, December 13th 2006

- “Belgium: Right On”, The Economist, October 12th 2006

- “German Neo-Nazis: Welcome To No-Go Land”, The Economist, May 25th 2006

- “Anti-Semitism in France: The Terrible Tale of Ilan Halimi”, The Economist, March 2nd 2006

- “British National Party: Nasty, Brutish, and Short-Lived”, The Economist, August 5th 2004

- Jean-Marie Le Pen “The Wily Old Trooper Won’t Go Away” from The Economist, August 10th 2006


Wednesday: Terrorism in Europe – A Pre-9/11 Problem


- George Kassimeris, “Europe’s Last Red Terrorists: The Revolutionary Organisation 17 November, 1975-2000”, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 13, No. 2 (2001)

- U.S. Institute of Peace, “The Basque Conflict: New Ideas and Prospects for Peace”, Special Report, No. 161 (2006)

- “ETA Separatists Down But Not Out” to be found online at:


- “Timeline: ETA Campaign” online at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/545452.stm




Final exam is scheduled for Monday, December 7th, 4.00-5.50pm

The paper assignment


For the paper, you are required to write an original paper of 8-10 pages on one of the topics listed below these instructions.  The paper should address the following points, all of which will be considered when determining the paper’s grade:

Thesis – Does the paper start with a clear thesis statement outlining the author’s argument? What will the author ultimately conclude?

Argumentation – Does the paper present balanced arguments recognising other sides of the debate?

Evidence – Does the paper make use of relevant/appropriate evidence from class lectures and readings?

Conclusion – Does the paper reach a clear and logical conclusion given the author’s thesis and the arguments and evidence presented?

Implications – Does the paper make a compelling case for the larger implications of the topic they address and the argument they make? Are there other topics, themes, or concepts from class to which this topic relates?  If so, how?

Clarity – Is the paper well written and organised?

Presentation – Has the paper been spell-checked? Are there grammatical mistakes?


Please choose one of the following paper topics to write on (alternatively students may formulate their own specific question to address and can check with the professor if they want to be sure their question is appropriate):

1)      The pros and cons of developing the European Union

2)      Expansion/Limitations of EU power

3)      Does the EU erode state sovereignty?

4)      Comparing the powers of different executives (French President, British PM, German Chancellor etc)

5)      Political participation in Europe

6)      The effect of different electoral laws on representation and participation

7)      Relevance of political parties in West European politics (what functions they serve, where their influence has declined)

8)      Focus on a specific issue affecting western Europe i.e. the growth of the Muslim population, the immigration debate, the rise of the far-right in West Europe

9)      Movements for self-autonomy in Europe (ETA in Spain for example)


Given the relative shortness of the paper, part of the challenge here is to write clearly and concisely. Get to the point. Additionally, your paper should make use of relevant readings from class.  Once you’ve used relevant class readings, you may do some outside research if you feel it necessary.  All papers should draw on a minimum of four sources/readings, and wherever possible, students should use assigned class readings. Lectures can also be cited, but not counted, as one of the four sources.  Readings should be cited/footnoted (i.e. after mentioning comments made in a class reading on which you are drawing), and a bibliography should also be included as the last page. This page will not count towards the total page count.  Any papers over 10 pages will be penalised, as will late papers at one third of a grade per day.  Papers will be due December 2nd.  Students are personally responsible for getting a hard copy of their paper to the professor. Papers MUST be submitted via SafeAssign also.