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  • Writer's pictureEuropean Waves

Europaeum Summer School

The city of Munich, and specifically Ludwig Maximilian University, hosted, alongside the Europaeum, the latter’s yearly Postgraduate Summer School. Second-year EPS students Brais Freire and Luísa Moratelli took part in the event, thus reporting it as European Waves writers and editors.

Luísa Moratelli & Brais Freire

The Europaeum, a network of leading European universities, focuses its activities on universities’ engagement with society, international collaboration, and interdisciplinarity. Their mission is to give students from member universities opportunities to develop qualities that will help shape the future of Europe, building on the foundations of European values. Being one of the EPS partners, the Europaeum – besides organising the Oxford Spring School – offers the students the opportunity to participate in several events, including their annual Summer School. This year, the topic of the School in Munich was “Crisis? What Crisis? The Dialectics of European Integration”, in which we participated together with two EPS colleagues, Stoycho Velev and Carl Schüppel, and twenty other students from Europaeum’s member universities.

The event, co-organised by the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU), happened from the 11th to the 15th of September, and it covered a range of debates about Crises and European Integration. The first day commenced with Dr. Anne-Isabelle Richards providing an analysis of "Project Europe" from a long-term and global perspective, with a focus on transnational views of European identity. After that, Professor Juliane Prade-Weiss, Dr Moritz Weiss, and Martin Dimitrov participated in a discussion panel about the rhetoric of crisis. The last activity was a student workshop about “Living European”.

The second day started with a public viewing of the State of the Union Address by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, followed by a roundtable discussion between Dr Renke Deckarm, Karoline Beisel, and Danai Ellina. After the panel, Professor Kiran Klaus Patel proceeded to discuss the multiple faces of the concept of crisis and the history of European integration. On the third day, there were two discussion panels. The first was with Dr Thomas Rohringer, Dr Emilia Palonen, and Professor Philipp Müller about pro-European Euroscepticism, followed by a student workshop on the EU as the only (or overly focused) vehicle of European Integration. The day ended with the second panel with Dr Stefan Jagdhuber, Professor Tanja Börzel, Dr Alexandra Oanca, and Dylan Macchiarini-Crosson about Security, Integration, and Differentiation.

We want to focus on a few discussions that got our attention, which we think are extremely important when dealing with European crises.

Professor Anne-Isabelle Richard showed the two sides of integration often overshadowed by the post-WWII narrative on the EU’s development: the roots of the ideas of a United Europe in the interwar period and its imbrication with European Imperialism. The interwar period, the crisis of all crises, was the “start of the end” of the European influence in the world order (which would be intensified in the Cold War), and the concern with the loss of its leadership is what brought intellectuals to discuss the possibilities of a “Pan Europa”. The most remarkable aspect of the keynote was, however, the non-European role and dimension in the integration. At that time, a United Europe also meant, for these intellectuals, stronger cooperation between European countries in (and with) the colonies – a Eurafrica project. A certain amnesia, as put by Professor Richards, about this dimension can be the root of many issues present in today's European Project: current policies and thinkers insist on ignoring Europe’s colonial legacy and the non-European role in the integration process.

On a different note, the panel about the rhetoric of crisis drew our attention to how framing urgent states of affairs as a crisis contributes to how the general public processes that information. Essentially, the crisis is a narrative that influences how people respond to facts. On the one hand, it can make complex issues a public concern. Still, it can, on the other hand, create an image of the inevitability of a given fate and delete the possibility of agency. This issue has become even more pressing in today’s scenario of fast-travelling information dominated by social media.

The enlargement process was another pressing issue in the current “dialectics of European Integration” discussed. To address that issue from a different theoretical perspective, Professor Alexandra Oanca’s note brought the decolonial and post-colonial approach to European Studies. Therefore, her speech was connected to Professor Richards’ mention of the colonial legacies of European history, but this time focusing on the “Other” within Europe – on the continent's Eastern side. Oanca brought to our attention the “other side” of the conditionality policy and differentiated integration and the endless “catching up position” in which Eastern European countries and their citizens are put. Moreover, in her perspective, the colonial legacy and its ideas of civilisation and superiority affect not only the non-European experience but also the non-Western Europeans. In our opinion, the note was a very critical yet extremely relevant and relatively new analysis of the integration process, focusing on its dimension of violence and marginalisation.

Yet, one of the most important realizations we had regarding the Europaeum is how they resort to distinct and interactive educational formats beyond the more classic roundtable top-down approach. Two examples of this are the different group workshops, as well as the live viewing of the Speech on the State of the Union of 2023. The State of the European Union (SOTEU) address is an annual speech by the President of the European Commission to the European Parliament. It serves to inform EU citizens and institutions about the Union's achievements, challenges, and priorities while setting the agenda for the future, which has also usually been put forward as a symbol of transparency and accountability regarding the Commission and, more broadly, European policymaking. After listening to President Von der Leyen's speech, a group of panelists discussed both its form and content. Thus, the summer school generated a link to current EU politics. While this was happening, the students themselves decided to complement the session by playing the already traditional Politico SOTEU Bingo, a game created by this television station, which is shown below. Despite the fact that it is intended as a kind of comic relief piece, the topics it covers and the analysis of the Bingo's outcome after the speech greatly enriched the debate amongst students and panelists.

As pointed out, the Summer School also put forward several workshops on the matter. After being arranged into smaller groups, we were faced with a big cardboard, some markers, and tasks such as “mapping your own Europe” or collectively “building a European citizen and a European life” through storytelling. These exercises helped us portray the diversity of languages, backgrounds, heritage, and personal experiences of not only the participants but rather the EU as whole. For instance, one group built a European life by imagining a second generation Palestinian-Danish whose parents moved to Copenhagen due to the situation in Gaza. She was a dental assistant, and worked in Malmö, across the border to Sweden, whilst holding long distance friendships across the EU due to university and her Erasmus experience in Italy. We thus see that whilst the concept of Europeanness differs, some core elements may remain still across countries and lived experiences.

Moreover, participants were later put into two larger groups to discuss statements in an academic-debate style short format. This exercise encouraged students to argue quickly, constructing logical mechanisms that are well explained and contrasted with those of the opposing debater. Short but direct and well-constructed sentences started travelling around the room in a pendulum-like fashion. In addition, it also involved assuming positions that in some cases varied greatly from one's ideals. However, therein lies the crux of the matter. Understanding the different positions on an issue and, specifically, the argumentation that these positions draw upon when constructing narratives of crisis in the EU.

As a final assessment, students put forward presentations in a concluding session on the EU, the concept of crisis, and on whether the former is inherently built upon crises or, rather, that it has worked as a crisis manager for the continent. Again, different and enriching takes and perspectives rose. Some focused on the role of the EU as an international actor. Others rather chose to explain the phenomena of EU integration as a direct consequence of historical crises -from World War II to COVID-19, from cyclical economic crises to the Russian war on Ukraine. Be that as it may, this event provided interdisciplinary academic insight into an issue that, in one way or another, has been omnipresent in the history of EU institutions: the role that the EU plays in political and social conflict, and whether these have come to call it into question or, on the contrary, have cemented its scope and power.



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