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The Utrecht Network is delighted to announce an:

INTERNATIONAL SUMMER SCHOOL 2017: EUROPEAN VALUES IN CRISIS?

Venue: Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences

9- 15 July 2017

The summer school is a joint initiative of Utrecht Network.

The European Union can be characterized as a community of values. But a consecutive series of crises, monetary, political, migratory and identity, makes one question what has become of the democratic values of solidarity, dignity and liberty on which the European Union has been built? Most strongly today, political discourse speaks of a ‘migratory crisis’ and even a ‘humanitarian crisis’. In this context, fundamental European values emerge again, such as established in the Treaty of Lisbon: ‘respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, and are asked to put in practice. 

Two questions present themselves in relation to the reappearance of the debate on European values. Are these values European, universal or national? How does this story of values reach the citizens and to what extent can we consider Europe still an engine of inspiration? At first sight, European values are indistinguishable of what has become universal values and in fact they should maybe not distinguish Europe from the rest of the world too strictly. What is typically European about these values is for sure the historical importance of countries who had just lived through two world wars recognizing shared values. Peace was a common denominator out of which desire for solidary, tolerance and justice was born. But today’s reality is different. Europe is only just recovering from an economic and financial crisis in the midst of which the values of tolerance and openness seem in decline. Hundreds of thousands of people are seeking to enter Europe – refugees and migrants – and the response of the majority of the European leadership is to let countries with external borders build fences or seek any other means of refusing them. Thus, while from one side efforts are made to close the borders and impose restrictive migratory policies, from the other side comes messages of unity and warnings about retreating into nationalist responses. Francois Holland can be heard quoting Francois Mitterand in the European Parliament, ‘Nationalism is war’, and adding ‘Sovereignty is decline’. Angela Merkel, in the same name sees the end of Europe in the return of national borders and lack of unity to fight the crisis: ‘More Europe, not less!’, she demanded.

For years, there has been talk of a ‘European identity crisis’ reproaching the European union for shirking its responsibility and accusing it of advancing the European construction while neglecting the citizens, thereby increasing disaffection. Nevertheless, it is Europe’s economic and financial crisis management policies with its strict austerity measurements, and the current ‘refugee and migratory crisis’ that fuels populist discourses. 

What gets through to us, the European citizens? Why does the refugee crisis and the free movement of people, a corner stone of the EU project, put the existence of European values to the test and produce warnings about national selfishness and intolerance? Brexit being it’s latest and most dramatic example. The financial crisis and strict austerity measures feed directly anti-European populist discourses. To this may be added the public alarm about Islamists. The dominant discourse in this time of crisis has been overwhelmed by the opinions of the populist leaders of xenophobic and anti-European parties. 

Europe has a historical challenge to provide a convincing response to a crisis where the paradigm of exclusion, xenophobia and nationalism are overriding the values of solidarity, inclusion, common safety and shared economic growth. Such a response concerns us all and is all about European values: it is our time to evaluate whether we can still believe in this Europe. 

The summer school sets out to investigate and discuss the historical, political, sociological, anthropological and human rights questions that come with the current crisis of European values.  How to safeguard fundamental European rights in times of crisis?