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“Europe at the Crossroads: Leadership, Challenges and State of Play”

The conference will cover a broad range of issues. Submissions should be related to European Politics. Other topics on International Relations and Political Science will be also considered. The conference supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Action Campaign. Its topics touch upon the 17 UN SDGs.

Reflecting on the European political, economic and social state of play arises as a necessity, given that one of the most challenging decades in the years of the existence of the European Union is about to be completed soon. The global financial crisis started in 2008 made evident the structural weaknesses in Europe’s economy and intensified the division between the core and the periphery. At the same time, European societies were confronted with massive waves of refugee flows which were met with insufficient and often controversial political responses, frequently rooted in nationalist and protectionist ideas. Trump’s election and the Brexit turmoil became part of the plethora of challenges facing the European Union throughout this decade. Where does the European Union currently stand and how has the vision of an ever-growing Union changed/ been shaped through the developments of the past decade?

The completion of the final bailout program of Greece in August 2018 marked, for many people, the end of the Eurozone’s long financial crisis, raising questions about what comes next. Even though we can talk about prospects for economic improvement, economic pressures and socio-political changes created a large support basis for populist parties. Beyond the EU, more challenges arise through the current interplay between multilateralism and polarity in the international political scene. Examples of that interplay are the rapid way in which countries like Venezuela pose extreme challenges to the survival of their nationals, the future of the Korean Peninsula in light of the geopolitical developments between the US and North Korea and North and South Korea, the Yemen crisis, the longstanding civil war in Syria, the prolonged Ukrainian Crisis as well as President Erdogan’s governing policies. Discussions on such issues require a broader analysis that transcends the EU lens in an effort to shed light on the political and economic global challenges.

 

The long EU-US cooperation has now given its place to a change of focus on the extent to which Europe fits into US global priorities and vice versa. Trump’s “America First” approach has dominated the foreign policy agenda of this administration, triggering a clear change in   the EU –US relations. The isolationist policies of Trump arose as a big challenge to the European Global Strategy which is based on multilateral cooperation and largely different approaches to issues ranging from security in the Middle East to trade and environmental protection. In this context, questions regarding the importance, current state and prospects of the transatlantic relationship are more than relevant.

The completion of sixteen years since the establishment of the China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and the transformation of the purely trade-dominated relations of the two parties into a growing cooperation in almost all fields sparks interest in the state of the EU-China relations. In light of the growing Sino-American competition and the political measures of the Trump administration that indicate an obvious disfavor towards multilateral arrangements, interest in the EU-China relations grows larger. To what extent do the developments of EU-US relations strengthen China’s position as an EU partner, how much of a partner and how much of a strategic competitor is China for the EU, and how does the lack of a unified approach of the EU members towards China impact the EU-China relations?

     

Current discussions about development are inevitably linked to the 2030 SDGs Agenda adopted in 2015. The 2030 Agenda’s tool is the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that center on collectively addressing economic, social and environmental factors with the purpose of shaping more equal, inclusive and environmentally responsible societies. In 2016, the European Commission embraced the campaign for sustainable development announcing its plan to work towards the SDGs. This topic will focus on analyzing global progress towards the SDGs and the role of the EU in that effort to achieve inter alia zero poverty and hunger, inclusiveness and environmental protection.

Based on the developments that have taken place in the EU in terms of economics and social progress, Europe is reaching a point of transformation. The structural weaknesses that have been highlighted due to the crisis, both in the economic and social context, have created the need for a unanimous act of collective improvement. The EU2020 strategy sets out to achieve higher employment rates, productivity and social cohesion through collective action in the EU. The five measurable EU targets for 2020 that will steer the process require the cooperation of all the Member States in order to successfully reach national targets  create benefits and improvements across the EU.

    

The public policy of the EU ranges from the promotion of employment and improvement of working and living conditions, to the protection and fulfillment of social rights, in line with that of the its member states. Assessing the implementation of the EU decisions regarding public administration and civil society at the national level has recently led to an ongoing academic and political discussion about the Europeanization of public policies. At the same time, domestic actors often use the European rhetoric as a way of ensuring legitimacy for their own measures at the national level. It has also been observed that certain member states’ policy makers refuse to refer to the EU social policy framework to generate legitimacy. This topic examines these dynamics while discussing practical aspects of the European Public Policy (regulations, directives and recommendations) and the challenges that characterize it.

Citizenship in the EU has been a topic of many discussions, since its conception through the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. Citizenship remains a complex, intangible, and multidimensional concept in a national setting, let alone in a context of discussing European citizenship and issues around identity.

Even though it is the responsibility of member states as a policy area, education is of high importance in EU public policy priorities. Aiming to achieve greater quality and encourage interaction among members and the exchange of good practices, the EU facilitates a variety of exchange opportunities and supports mobility for educational purposes. In this context, the vision for a European identity is cultivated, creating opportunities for EU citizens to create shared points of reference.  Education in the EU has been closely linked to the concept of European citizenship and the ways in which the two interact are of great interest.

Over the past few years, the labour market has observed rapid changes that have highlighted the decisive role that skills, qualifications and work experience can play in the process of finding employment. These changes can be attributed to various reasons such as technological advances, the increasing demand for expertise and specialization in the working field, or the economic crisis which led to remarkably high unemployment rates in certain areas. Keeping these factors in mind, and with brain drain being an acute problem for many European countries, it is important to understand the European and global approaches to addressing unemployment.

     

The ideology of Euroscepticism which rests on a criticism towards European integration and the existence and role of the EU, has witnessed a rise in popularity. Even though the concept of Euroscepticism is relatively new, criticism towards the European Project is not a recent phenomenon. Going as far back as the creation of the EU, a debate of opposing views has been present. One supporting the Union and even envisioning the creation of a European federation, and the other believing that the concept of a united Europe was fundamentally problematic and a dangerous challenge to state sovereignty. The once called“British disease” has now spread across the continent,further intensifying Eurosceptic perspectives with important consequences for European and Global Affairs.

The exit of the United Kingdom from the EU as a result of the 2016 referendum has led to a spiral of support, opposition, backstops and uncertainty for the future of both the UK and the EU. The main cause of uncertainty surrounding the subject stems from the plethora of possible outcomes of an EU without the UK as well as the uncertainty surrounding the time, nature terms of the exit. Terms such as “soft”, “hard” or “deal” and “no-deal” Brexit have been used to describe different ways in which the situation could develop, creating a complex web of interest and possibilities that invite further analysis.

The unprecedented refugee flows that the EU has experienced since 2015 have highlighted the imperative need for a balanced approach to migration. The European Union through funding, policy reform, and provision of aid has tried to regulate the influx of refugees and respond to illegal activities such as trafficking and smuggling. Taking in refugees became an issue which met considerable resistance from many EU countries, many of which have seen the rise in of extreme ideologies. At the same, with refugee flows still being present and with thousands of refugees living in inhumane conditions, many questions arise as to the prospects for integration of refugees in the host countries and what a potential solution that will respect human right and will be built on EU values could look like.

Fighting inequalities is at the center of the EU and global agenda for development with the goal of creating more inclusive societies. Seeing that social cohesion is a core and controversial component of the EU2020 agenda, it is worth considering what social cohesion means in an increasingly globalized world and diverse societies. Is social cohesion a helpful concept that we should be striving for or do we need to rethink how we talk about our societies and what goals we should be setting in order to create equitable, just and peaceful societies for all citizens? Is it even possible to have social cohesion in the increasingly globalized world and diverse societies? All these are challenging questions that can be answered in the context of the topic.

     

Further topics that will be considered:

  • e-governance
  • Digital Transformation
  • Blockchain and crypto-currency
  • Effectiveness of policy reforms
  • Health care policy
  • Health care reforms
  • Urban policy
  • Rural policy
  • Youth Policy
  • Methodological issues and theoretical frameworks
  • Public policy from a comparative perspective
  • Public policy from a historical perspective