Our colleague Elena Dimitrova Jileva passed away on 10 December 2013 in Sofia. She obtained her doctoral degree in Contemporary European Studies at the Sussex European Institute, University of Sussex, under the supervision of Helen Wallace after a MA degree in European Studies from the Central European University in Budapest. She was a Jean Monnet Fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre at the European University Institute in Florence, a Research Associate at the Centre for Migration Studies in Sofia, a Visiting Researcher at the European Institute for Security Studies in Paris, a Public Policy Fellow at the East European Programme at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars in Washington, D.C., an International Policy Fellow at the Open Society Institute in Budapest, and a García Pelayo Researcher at the Centre for Political and Constitutional Studies in Madrid.
She was extremely funny and sharp, thanks to growing up in the Communist Balkans while reading Jane Austen and watching British classic series. She was also a tremendously generous friend. I dare not say how many times we laughed until our stomachs hurt while enjoying her stuffed peppers and Bulgarian spinach rice. Very few academics do not take themselves seriously but she was one of them!
I mainly spent time with her in Florence when she was a Jean Monnet (2005-6). She was also the coordinator of the summer school that I organized on the sociology and politics of immigration in summer 2006. Many of the students are now accomplished scholars who often attend CES conferences.
Her work mainly focused on the Schengen acquis in the context of Eastern enlargement, with a focus on the implementation of visa policy and its impact of local populations. On this issue, she published “Larger than the European Union: The Emerging EU Migration Regime and Enlargement”, in Sandra Lavenex and Emek Uçarer, (eds.) Migration and the Externalities of European Integration (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2002), “Visa and Free Movement of Labor: the Uneven Imposition of the EU Acquis on the Accession States,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 28 (4), October 2002, and “Insiders and Outsiders in Central and Eastern Europe: The Case of Bulgaria”, in Elspeth Guild and Kees Groenendijk (eds), In Search of Europe’s Borders (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2002). She also published in French a great piece entitled “La mise en oeuvre de Schengen: la délivrance des visas en Bulgarie” in Cultures & Conflits (49-50, fall 2003). Her work is quite relevant to understand current enlargement fatigue and the ways in which Bulgarian and Rumanian nationals are treated in the rest of the EU. Nominally a political scientist, I would call her a sociologist of international law, a scholar seeking to understand how EU laws are applied in practice by street-level bureaucrats, a research agenda that is still very much at the forefront of EU and IR studies.
Elena Jileva EU and migration scholar got tired of migrating within Europe and went back to her home town Sofia. Although her colleagues understood that she had had enough of postdoctoral nomadism, none of us were happy to see her go back to Bulgaria. And while she continued for a while to participate in EUI projects such as EUDO citizenship, attend international conferences, or visit us in Paris, we knew it was not a sustainable option, given her revenues in Bulgaria. I miss her dearly and wanted to let the many people of the CES IRG know what had happened.