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2012: The Pursuit of Europe

In Greek mythology, Europa was the Phoenicean princess whom Zeus pursued and raped while dressed as a white bull. But if Europe was once a Greek dream, she has inspired several subsequent dreams in the aftermath of war and disaster – of unity, peace, national cooperation, a single market and latterly a single currency – which now seem to haunt the present. Will the modern European project be derailed by the sheer ambitions of those dreams?

But what is Europe? Is it merely a continent, a geographical entity? And when did it come to have any sense of identity or political unity?

Did Europe become a rallying cry to stave off the bellicose nature of Europeans as a misplaced peace initiative? The pursuit of the idea of Europe has been a story in itself.

This conference will seek to probe Europe’s historical antecedents, and to establish the self-perceptions of Europeans across a wide range of its past. When did Europeans start to identify as European? Why has European unity been so elusive in history? And as the French historian of the 19th century, François Guizot, once remarked, that Europe’s strength and creativity is in its very lack of unity. Something, after all, needs to explain the sheer dimension of Europe’s creativity in the arts, music, painting, sculpture, literature, sciences, physics, philosophy, political ideas and so much more: indeed it invented most of these spheres of learning and human expression. As the birthplace of Western civilisation, Europe invented much of the modern world.

But the term Europe has in fact meant different things at different times. Herodotus spoke of the world being divided into three parts: Europe, Asia and Libya, with the Nile and the River Phasis forming their boundaries. By the 1st century, the geographer, Strabo, stated that the eastern frontier was at the River Don.

A definition of Europe as the lands of Western Christianity arose in the 8th century, signifying the contrast with Byzantium and Islam. Europa often figures in the letters of Charlemagne’s cultural minister, Alcuin. In 1730, the Swedish geographer and cartographer von Strahlenberg proposed the Ural Mountains as the most significant eastern boundary (instead of waterways), a suggestion that found favour throughout Europe.

Today, the word Europe is often used in a geopolitically limiting way, to refer only to the European Union, or even more exclusively, a particular culturally defined core. However, the Council of Europe has 47 member states and only 27 are in the EU. Also, people living in outlying areas or islands such as Ireland, the United Kingdom, the North Atlantic and Mediterranean islands as well as Scandinavians may refer to “Continental Europe” or Europe simply as “the continent”.

What were the intentions of the early founding fathers of the European Community? And what of Europe’s future in this respect? Will Europe stick together or will we once again be hearing the eerie cry evoking the spirit of British weather forecasts from the 1930s: “Fog in Channel; Continent Cut Off.”


Peter Alter: The Concert of Europe 1780–1830: Europe in an Age of Nationalism

Professor of European History, University of Duisburg- Essen, Germany

Ariane Chebel d’Appollonia: United in Adversity? European Identity in Times of Crisis

Associate Professor and Senior Researcher, School of Public Administration, Rutgers University, USA

José M. de Areilza: The Challenges of European Integration

Professor of European Union Law and Jean Monnet Chair at IE Law School, Madrid, Spain, Secretary General of Aspen Institute

Patricia Clavin: Economic Crises and the Making of Europe

Professor of International History, Jesus College, University of Oxford, UK

Robert Cooper: EU Foreign Policy in Times of Peace: Power Without Statehood

European External Action Service, Brussels, UK

Argita Daudze: Expansion East and the Erosion of Memory

Latvian Ambassador to the Ukraine, Latvia

Konstantin von Eggert: The View From Russia

Commentator and Host, Kommersant FM radio Moscow, Russia

John Elliott: The Difficulties of Unity 1500–1750

Regius Professor Emeritus of Modern History, University of Oxford, UK

Ahmet Evin: Muslims in Europe: Integration or Isolation?

Jean Monnet Professor of European Policy Studies at Sabanci University, Turkey

Pierre Hassner: The Paradoxes of European Identity

Senior Research Fellow Emeritus, Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales (CERI), Paris, France

Hans-Olaf Henkel: The Mistakes of Euromantics

Professor of International Management at the University of Mannheim, Germany, former President of German Federation of Business (BDI)

Gunnar Hökmark: The Spirit of Europe

Swedish Member of the European Parliament, Vice-President of the EPP Group, Sweden

Peter Jay: Europe’s Association of Democracies: Third French Empire or Fourth Reich?

Former Economics Editor of The Times, London, UK, and of the BBC, former British Ambassador to the USA

Josef Joffe: The Euro: Too Soon, Too Much, Too Bad

Editor of Die Zeit, Germany. Senior Fellow, Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University and Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University

Oliver Kamm: Creating Europe: The Achievements of Integration

Leader Writer and Columnist, The Times, London, UK

Eric Kaufmann: The Return of Religion

Professor, Department of Politics, Birkbeck College, London, UK

Nigel Lawson: The Disaster of European Monetary Union

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer, UK and Member of the Economic Affairs Committee of the House of Lords, UK

Philippe Legrain: Prospects for the Euro

Economic Adviser to the President of the European Commission, UK

Mark Leonard: Make or Break: A New Europe?

Director, European Council on Foreign Relations, UK

Jan-Werner Müller: Democratic Exclusion and Europe’s Political Identity

Professor of Politics University of Princeton, USA

Anthony Pagden: The Idea of Europe: From the Great Republic to the European Union

Professor of Political Science and History, UCLA, USA

George Pagoulatos: The Eurozone Crisis: A View From Greece

Senior Adviser to the Greek Prime Minister and Professor of European Politics and Economy at the Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece

Kiran Klaus: Foes into Friends: Germany’s Role in Postwar European Integration

Patel Professor of European and Global History, Maastricht University, Belgium

Agnès C. Poirier: Victor Hugo and Greater Europe

Political Commentator, Writer and Broadcaster, France

Alan Posener: Germany’s Burden: Kohl, Thatcher and the Future of the Euro

Columnist, for Die Welt and Welt am Sonntag, Berlin, Germany

David Rennie: Three Threats to Europe’s Internal Market

Political Editor, the Economist, London, UK

Giulia Sissa: Rediscovering Europe and Inventing Eutopia

Professor of Political Science and Classics, UCLA, USA

Pär Stenbäck: Will Europe Prevail on the World Scene?

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Finland, ExCom Board member, International Crisis Group (ICG), Chairman, European Cultural Parliament, Finland

Bruce Stokes: The View from the US

Director Global Economic Attitudes, Pew Research Centre, former Senior Translantic Fellow for Economics at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, USA

David Voas: The Future of Europe: Secular but not Secularist; Diverse not Divided

Professor of Population Studies, University of Essex, UK

Yu Yongding: The View from China

Academician of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and former member of Monetary Policy Committee of the People’s Bank of China (Central Bank of PRC), China

Jan Zielonka: Europe: The Model Power?

Professor of European Politics, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, UK