Embarking on My Research Fieldwork with the Support of the UACES Travel Scholarship: The Role of the Commission in the EU’s Decision-Making on Global Climate Strategies

Julia Vassileva |

Yuetong Guo | 13 June 2024

I am honored to have received the UACES Travel Scholarship, which has advanced my research into the European Union’s global environmental and climate strategies. As a PhD candidate at King’s College London, this funding has enabled me to enrich my research by facilitating essential fieldwork in Brussels as a visiting researcher at UC Louvain through the Circle U. European University Alliance.

 

Purpose of the Research Trip

My research investigates the intricacies of the EU’s decision-making processes and the strategic role of the Commission within the framework of the European Green Deal on the international stage. The UACES Travel Scholarship has made it possible for me to travel to Brussels, where I have been able to conduct fieldwork and gather crucial data through interviews. This trip is instrumental in understanding how the European Commission, alongside other EU bodies, harmonises its stance on the EU’s external climate policy.

 

Conducting Interviews and Networking

During my two-month stay in Brussels, the UACES scholarship allowed me to engage with key figures involved in EU policy making. I spent considerable time meeting researchers and officials who are not easily accessible in London. This access enriched my research by providing the precious opportunity to meet and speak with these individuals face-to-face.

I am grateful to have interviewed officials from the Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV), Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA), and the Directorate-General for Energy (DG ENER). These conversations provided profound insights into the EU’s strategies and the complexities of international environmental and climate negotiations. One particularly enlightening interview was with a high-ranking Commission official, who shared his experiences coordinating the EU’s involvement in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF). He detailed both the challenges and successes of these efforts. These discussions have been invaluable, enhancing my understanding of the EU’s internal coordination and its global influence in environmental and climate governance.

 

Reflecting on the Experience

As I conclude my fieldwork in Brussels, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunities and insights gained. Living in Brussels has also enabled me to immerse myself in the context surrounding my research. I love this city very much. Here, I visited institutions like the European Commission and EEAS, participated in public events such as the Open Day, and presented at workshops at ISPOLE Research Day in UC Louvain. These activities broadened my perspective and helped me to reflect on my current research. This immersion is crucial for contextualising my findings, enriching my theoretical framework, and understanding the practical implications of EU policies by witnessing them firsthand. The knowledge and experiences garnered will significantly shape my future academic work and contribute to my PhD thesis.

I am deeply thankful to UACES for supporting my research journey. As a Chinese female scholar, this scholarship has been crucial in endorsing the quality of my research, providing me with strong support when communicating with potential interviewees from the Union. Additionally, being the first PhD candidate to transition from King’s College London to UC Louvain through the Circle U. European University Alliance, this funding has successfully facilitated this visit, significantly promoting internal exchanges within Circle U. From my perspective, the scholarship has not only facilitated data collection but also undoubtedly fostered my future academic development.